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Moving abroad – whether for 6 months or forever – is a big decision and SO EXCITING! If you are reading this and considering moving to a new country I seriously could not encourage you more to make the leap as it was the best decision I ever made. But before you go, there are quite a few things to get in order and consider to make sure you are prepared and that the process is as seamless as possible.
Disclaimer: The Uncommon Pursuit is not responsible for any financial or health decisions that you make upon reading this article. The person writing this is not a certified financial or healthcare professional and you should always consult a professional before making any major decisions in regards to your health, finances, or livelihood.
Now this list is pretty extensive so it is not meant to overwhelm you, but more meant for those who have already decided to move abroad and are trying to get their ducks in a row before the big day. Depending on how long you are planning to move abroad for, some items on this list are more important than others, but I believe all are important factors to bring to your attention.
With that being said, the months leading up to moving abroad can be the hardest. Life is a bit crazy and up in the air as you tie up loose ends and the anticipation builds for this new life journey. Just remember to be patient and make sure you take the time to do things right before you leave so that you don’t come crawling back home because of issues that could have been prevented. It’s worth the wait I promise. Endless adventure is ahead of you!
Make sure to download the CHECKLIST as well for a more simplified corresponding checklist. You can print it off or fill it our digitally to keep track as you accomplish each task.
Most of us have student loans and this can be a huge fear when moving abroad and having to budget to continue paying them off. Both Zach and I still have student loans as we are writing this and have managed to keep paying them off, making money online and traveling the world. It’s all a balance.
However, make sure you check on your loans before leaving. I recommend setting up reminders or turning on autopay and make sure to calculate this into your budget when estimating your cost of living. Make sure you have any passwords, links, and/or paperwork saved for easy account access should you need it.
If you have your own car, make a plan to either sell or store your car. Unless you are planning on only moving abroad for a short amount of time, or plan on coming home regularly, I recommend selling your car, especially if you have car payments each month. If you decide to keep your car, think about where you are going to store it and how much will it cost you.
Most people moving abroad end their lease so that they are not paying rent in multiple places. However, if you own a home or apartment and do not want to get rid of it, consider renting it out long term or on Airbnb.
Phone plans can be crazy expensive and there is no need for you to pay while living overseas. You will most likely need to get a new sim card for the country you move to – which is a very easy and normal process. Sim cards in many Southeast Asian countries cost about $10-25/month for unlimited data access! Data is all you need to be able to call home and talk to all your loved ones or really anyone in the whole world.
Plus, if you are really attached to you phone number (like we were) there is a super easy and cheap way to “freeze” your phone number without paying for any phone service provider.
We all have quite a few subscriptions that build up over time from Netflix to FabFitFun. Whether you think these are essential or not, I’m here to go ahead and tell you THEY ARE NOT! And you most likely will not be using these subscriptions overseas anyways so you might as well save yourself the money now and find some new hobbies. Before moving abroad we cancelled cable, Netflix, Hulu, magazine subscriptions, just to give you a few ideas.
Easiest Way To Cancel ALL Your Hidden Subscriptions:
Print out your your credit card statement from last month (I know how dare I force you to look at all the things you wanted to forget that you spent money on) and highlight any unknown charges or any subscriptions and then decide if you can live without them. Then cancel them. Give yourself a deadline to cancel by.
Insurance is a huge monthly cost and most insurance that you have now will either be irrelevant or unnecessary once you move abroad. Make sure to cancel or freeze the following:
Now health insurance is the one that you should look into most closely and determine if your current plan will cover you abroad. If not, you may want to look are more expat/traveler friendly worldwise insurance plans such as:
What bank or banks do you have? Do they have overseas branches or ATMS? Do they have international fees? Should you consolidate your money? Is there a better bank you should transfer your money too? These are all important questions to ask in order to make your life abroad as easy as possible.
Here are some of the top banks for expats and digital nomads that have low/no fees and good international support.
If you are moving abroad, I personally think it is very important to get a travel focused credit card. You will undoubtedly have to use a credit card or debit card to purchase flights and hotel often. I personally think a credit card is a lot safer for these sorts of things (and all purchases really) because the credit card company has your back if you encounter a discrepancy in a foreign country and don’t speak the language to settle it, or if you purchase something over some sketchy wifi and your information gets stolen. Plus, you rack up travel points.
Here are my top travel credit cards to consider:
No one wants to think about this because well, taxes suck. But you should, because there are ways to save you not only future headaches but also money if you think about this on the front end.
At the very least, you need to consider how you are making money abroad and if you need to put aside some of this money to save for taxes as this can affect your budget.
Also, if you are a digital nomad working for yourself, you should make an excel sheet to keep track of business expenses. Can you say, hello tax free?!
Based on how long you are overseas and how often you frequent the states, you may be eligible to file “expat taxes” based on the Physical Presence Test, which essentially means you are excluded from paying Federal Income tax up to a certain amount. By qualifying for this tax exclusion, I was able to save almost THOUSANDS of dollars in taxes last year.
Make sure you have a savings account with enough money for a plane ticket home incase of an emergency. Being far away from your family and your country of citizenship can be tough for many reasons, especially when unexpected things happen, so it pays – or more literally, saves – to be prepared.
Beyond having an emergency fund, I highly recommend everyone doing research on the cost of living for where you are moving to and breaking down a budget that is realistic for you including your own specific expenses such as insurance and student loans.
Download the FREE Budget Estimator excel sheet + PDF
for how much money you need to save before moving abroad.
“Sooooooo how much should I have saved before moving abroad?” You will get many answers from different people, and I know plenty of people who have made it on an amount that would have given me a heart attack. But my answer is generally $3,000 or at least enough to live on for 3 months depending on the cost of living in your new country.
Eating pizza on a moving box in our old apartment in Philly after selling our kitchen table.
When moving abroad you can typically only bring a small amount of your things with you. Even if it is a long term move, the cost and trouble of lugging things overseas is generally not worth it. We have lived abroad for a year now and only have one 65L backpack and one 20-30L backpack. Needless the say we honestly have more than we need. So you will probably need to sell anything that you are not bringing with you, or store it.
Selling most your things is also a great way to make some extra cash before moving.
Anything that you have left such as keepsakes or clothes that you may need for another season ect, you need to figure out where you are going to store them and again, make sure to factor in any storage costs to your budget.
Visas are unfortunately a constant process that you will have to deal with while living abroad and traveling. They are also extremely important so that you don’t end up in a Thai prison or being deported. (JK… kind of) Make sure to research the visa requirements for the country you are moving to and/or any countries you plan on going to in the near future.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure your passport is not expiring soon. With the American passport, many countries will not let you in if your passport expires within 6 months.
If you are lucky enough to have supportive family or parents who still live in the States and have a permanent address you might want to ask if you can use their address for your mail, credit cards, taxes ect.
Although most things nowadays are digital, I would highly recommend re-routing your mail and changing your address with the IRS to someone’s address who you trust to keep an eye out for any important papers for you. (NOTE: changing your address with the IRS does change your legal residency for state tax purposes if the address you change to is in another state)
If you can’t use a family members address, you can get a P.O. box as well to use as least for the purpose of forms.
I’m all for figuring things out on the ground for many countries but when you have all your belongings with you and have just gotten off an overseas flight, it is not the time to cut corners and “figure it out.” I recommend coordinating pick up and your first few nights accommodation at the very least, as well as having some local currency with you.
It’s time to Marie Kondo your virtual life. Moving abroad means relying on the internet and virtual storage even more than ever.
How to Clean your Virtual Life
When you cringe at the thought of doing all this, just think about standing in line at immigration after losing your passport and begging to get on your flight but not being able to find a copy of your passport. Or imagine if you got hurt and end up going to a foreign hospital and needing a copy of your medications or insurance.
Basic planning can make your life A MILLION times easier abroad.
Speaking of “sketchy wifi” or even just normal public wifi, you’ll quickly find that a VPN is an essential tool for both protection and entertainment. You can turn it on when you are on a public wifi and need to enter credit card information. It essentially makes you untraceable from the local public wifi address. You can also use a VPN to bounce your IP address to the States in order to access sites like Netflix that are only accessible in America.
Our favorite VPN is Nord VPN. We have used it for a year and it has been super reliable and such a life saver! We are able to connect 4 devices at once too, so this is a great tool to split if you are a couple.
READ MORE: Why you need a VPN + Our Favorite VPN
This goes without being said, but obviously research what it’s like to live in your new country, the cost of living, the seasons, the culture and religion, the healthcare, the language barrier, and just talk to people who live there. Mostly to be prepared, but also to get freakin’ excited!!!
Even if you already have a good suitcase or backpack you may want to consider upgrading as you will be using it 10x more than you normally would. It’s 100% worth the investment to have a reliable, sturdy backpack that fits your body and needs. We swear by Osprey and every single bag we own is Osprey. They are top notch quality and even come with a lifetime guarantee.
Here are the 3 main Osprey bags we carry:
Research the climate and seasons for where you will be living and make sure to pack weather essential clothing first. If you don’t have what you need, before you go on a shopping spree, research what kind of stores and malls you can find overseas as you may be able to just buy what you need there and save yourself the trouble of packing it.
Every country has a specific outlets and voltage. Although some are the same, if you are traveling often it’s a good idea to have a world wide adapter or at least an adapter for the specific country your going to be living in. Many digital nomads move around a lot so for us we like to use this world travel adapter.
If you have any allergies or medications make sure to make a plan for how to get your medications or stock up on it. Don’t let these things stop you from traveling! If you can’t find the specific information you are looking for, turn to travel centric Facebook groups and try to ask if any fellow travelers in those countries have experience with your medication or situation.
Although healthcare is generally accessible in most countries, you either have to deal with language barriers or insurance issues and it’s generally much easier to just go to you existing doctors and dentists at home before you leave to do one final check up before you leave. This will not only give you peace of mind but also time to find doctors abroad before you should need anything else.
Vaccines are very important to keep track of and stay up to date with for every country you visit. Luckily many countries in similar areas require similar vaccines but we recommend always checking the CDC website and consulting with your doctor before traveling.
It is sooooo easy to stay in touch with people all over the world including your friends and family back home. Our favorite apps to stay in touch are Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, WhatsApp, and Facetime.
Also, you can easily keep your existing phone number and still be able to text and call everyone back home just like normal. You will need to cancel your phone plan and then port your number to Google Voice. READ MORE.
Before moving abroad, understand that you are going into another country where other languages and cultural aspects ARE the norm. Just because you speak English does not mean you should expect everyone else to. Now, most places you can get by without learning the local language, but even learning hello and goodbye can go a long way and show a lot of respect to the people whose country you are coming into.
So consider, do you know the language or need to learn it? If so, we LOVE using DuoLingo. We are currently learning French for fun. You can add us as friends too to track each others daily progress and keep each other accountable. (Don’t worry, we definitely miss quite a few days of practice)
Facebook groups are by far my number one tool for digital nomads moving abroad. They are such an amazing way to connect with different like minded communities whether based on interest or location. We even use Facebook groups to find housing or to find new friends in a certain city!
Join our Facebook group for digital nomads to get connected, get access to free trainings, find jobs and make some new besties!
Download our FREE guide for top list of Facebook Groups for Entrepreneurs as well for more way to use Facebook groups for business.
We are a couple that travels the world full time while running our own online businesses. We want to be your one stop shop for a location independent lifestyle full of travel inspiration and useful tools and knowledge to grow your own online business.