Moving abroad is such an exciting chapter of life. It’s a dream of many to live in a different part of the world getting to know different cultures and broadening one’s horizons. It’s a life-changing event that will truly transform your life! But how to move abroad and where do you start?
Moving overseas is not only sparkle moments, it brings a lot of new challenges that won’t always be easy, but definitely worth to face!
I put together an easy 15- Step Guide on how to move abroad, guiding you through the process from the beginning and showing which preparations to make to help you get ready to change your life!
My story with moving abroad
When I was first thinking about moving abroad I was only 18 years old and still in highschool. I’ve always wanted to live nearby the Pacific Ocean, a place that was completely different than my home country Germany.
That’s why I chose New Zealand as my first second home away from home. I left right after finishing school and dived into a new life that I would have never expected to bring me where I am today.
Well, it has really changed my life upside down and a temporary move turned into already four years of globetrotting.
The day of my departure: off to New Zealand, my new home for 6 months.
As soon as I stepped out of my plane in New Zealand, I fell in love with exploring the world. Ever since that day in 2016 I’m living and loving my life around the globe exploring different places.
However, the beginning of that new life was quite scary! New Zealand was not only the furthest place away from my family but I was feeling quite overwhelmed with all the preparations to make as I had no idea on how to move abroad.
Now, after having moved to 3 different countries, I finally feel able to create this 15- Step Guide for you to give you the first head starts with planning, organizing or simply inspiring you to maybe start taking your decision of moving abroad. So, let’s get started!
How to move abroad: First Steps & Mindset
The first steps to moving abroad are all about mindset and research.
The first thing you have to understand is that you are moving abroad. This means leaving your comfort zone, diving into new adventures and new surroundings. You are leaving behind your old life to start a new one and with that facing some new challenges.
1. Decide on the country
The biggest and first question of all: which country do you want to move to?
Many factors play an important role in that question but the most important is your heart! Where do you truly see yourself living? What’s your dream place and what does your intuition tell you? Is it somewhere nearby the ocean? Or are you more of a city lover?
After that, you should do some research on the country to see if the circumstances fit your expectations. This includes:
- Weather: Are you a winter or summer person? If you love the beach, then Australia might be a better option than Canada for example.
- Language: Do you speak the language? Are you able to learn the language in a realistic time window? Will you be able to communicate?
- Visa opportunities: Which visa opportunities do you have in that country? What is your purpose of moving abroad? Do you want to stay long-term and which visa do you need for that? Are you able to get that visa?
- Culture: What’s the culture like? Do you feel comfortable with the lifestyle over there (also consider religion, human rights etc.)?
➳ Choose a country that you feel excited about!
2. Save up money
Most people think you need to have saved up thousands of dollars to go travelling or moving abroad. From experience, I can tell you: that’s not true!
Well yes, you need to save up money beforehand but it’s not an unreachable amount. If you know how to use your money wisely, you will be able to save up for your adventure within a few months.
I left with around 4,000 USD on my account which gave me enough time abroad to find a job and settle down until I could make new money.
➳ How much you should save up depends on your purpose of moving abroad. If you’re planning to find a job overseas you should save enough to be able to pay for flight tickets, accommodation and living expenses for 3 months. Meanwhile you can search for a job.
Believe in it!
The most important of all: believe in yourself and your dream of living abroad!
Nothing is impossible and even though it seems complicated and overwhelming in the beginning, you will quickly see that it’s way less organization than it seems. Especially when you know what you are working towards!
Your most important person is you: as long as you believe in your dream, everything is possible!
Get your documents ready
When preparing necessary documents, always remember to make enough copies! Carry some with you in your luggage (e.g USB drive) and leave some safe at home, so you always have a backup.
The next step is to check your passport. When does it expire? Do you need a new one? If yes, get a brand new passport for a brand new chapter of your life!
➳ Good to know: It takes many weeks for the new passport to be ready. That’s why you should organize this first (as you also need it to apply for the visa.)
4. Apply for the visa
Things start to get real! Applying for the visa is the most important step: it turns your dream to move abroad into reality!
If you are going to countries for non-touristic reason (e.g living & working) you need a visa that gives you the right to stay long-term.
There are so many different visa possibilities for each country that it’s impossible to list them here. Your visa choice should be based on your main purpose of moving abroad (working, studying, volunteering etc.)
The most common visas that are used for living and working abroad are:
- Working Holiday Visas: Allows you to work, live and travel for 1 year in the country.
- Student Visas: Allows you to study and gives limited work rights in the country.
- Sponsored Work Visas: Visa sponsored by a company or state. Allows you to work and live abroad for long-term (usually 3-4 years). Your job position has to be confirmed before applying for the visa.
Note that every country has different regulations and visa options for each passport! It’s on you to make detailed research on visa rights and restrictions.
➳ Tip: There are many organizations out there offering free services to help you organize.
➳ For all germans out there: Travelworks has really helped me with my preparations for New Zealand!
Also, consider these aspects before applying:
- Who can go with you? Is your partner allowed to stay on that visa?
- Are you allowed to work?
- What are the costs?
5. Get your travel tickets
It’s time to decide on the specific date and invest in your ticket! Usually flights are the cheapest about 3 months before departure, so it’s good to book after you have applied for the visa (visa takes up to 1 month or more to get approved).
6. Don’t forget travel insurance
Never go abroad without travel insurance! I always have one wherever I go to be covered in case something happens, so I don’t have to come up for huge amount of costs.
➳ Good to know: Some visas require a travel insurance when applying, so depending on the visa you might have to get insurance before the application.
Preparations for leaving
After you made a decision on your new home country and got the necessary documents you need, it’s time to prepare for leaving.
7. Vaccinations, doctor appointments & prescriptions
Research which vaccinations are required for entering the country you’re moving to. Also, refresh old ones that need a booster and do your last check ups with your doctors like dentist, general doctor, skin doctor and gynecologist.
Remember that it will be the last time you can check in with your trusted doctors. Try to check in with all of them to leave with peace of mind.
➳ Tip: Take all necessary prescriptions that you use in big amounts with you. For example the pill (I always have enough for one year with me).
8. International Driver’s License
Another tip of mine: apply for your international driver’s license before your departure! This license has made my life abroad so much easier as I am allowed to drive anywhere with it.
You don’t have to pass another test or exam (at least that’s how it works in Germany), it’s simply just applying for the document that allows you to drive worldwide.
➳ Don’t forget: Check all your credit cards at that point! Are they still valid? How do they work abroad? Do you need to apply for one?
9. Book accommodation for the first weeks
It’s always best when you book at least your first nights of accommodation until you find something else. Depending on your purpose of moving abroad it might make sense to look for something long-term, for example, if you’re going to be a student or have a location-dependent job already.
If you go without concrete plans, booking for the first couple of weeks should be enough for you to figure out what to do next.
➳ Tip: I love to stay in hostels! If you need space for yourself and are not up for sharing a bedroom, you can still book a private room. Hostels are simply the best places to make first connections, friends and give support if you need help with starting up things!
10. Join Social Groups & Connect
Moving abroad might feel scary because you’re leaving your friends and family behind but I can tell you: you will quickly find new friends and there are so many ways to connect to other travellers and expats in the same situation like you.
One option is to connect via social groups on Facebook. When I moved to São Paulo, I joined a Facebook group with other expats from Germany living there right now- it’s an awesome way to get to know others and find help with any questions you have or tips that you need.
11. Start selling things you don’t need & prepare your house
This step on how to move abroad is probably one of the most exhausting ones (at least it always is for me :D).
Selling things and reducing only to the most necessary is hard, which is why you should start early enough!
Start selling or donating your furniture & clothes you don’t need anymore, quit your lease and all other necessary contracts you have running. Don’t underestimate the workload and get things done on time.
2 weeks before departure
Time to pack your bags and say goodbye! At this point, you should have organized all documents, money issues and be mentally prepare to move abroad.
12. Pack up your things
Even after moving abroad several times by now, I still struggle to plan enough time for packing up… (yes, really! Haha)
I like to push that step in front of me and start packing my bags max. 3 days before departure. Let me tell you: starting earlier will make your life way more relaxed and easier! 😀
Start to plan your luggage at least 2 weeks before departure (prepare a packing list!) so you have enough time to repack if necessary. Does everything fit into your bags? What’s still missing? What has to be washed?
You’re going to have way more peace of mind if you do the packing with enough time.
➳ Tip: Also think about products you might not find overseas, like your favourite cosmetic brand, body care products etc. so you can bring a little storage with you abroad.
13. Say Goodbye
The hardest part of all is by far saying goodbye to your loved ones. It will be sad and heartbreaking but never forget that you will always be able to return to your family!
They are with you in your heart and once you’re on the road you will see that wanderlust outweighs homesickness most of the time.
Nowadays, there are so many options to connect and stay in touch with your family regularly like Whatsapp, Facetime, Skype and Instagram so you never actually have the feeling of being far from them. 🙂
Also, don’t worry about your friendships. Those who really care about and your happiness and are your true friends will always stick around. After being on the road for 4 years I have lost many friendships and gained many new ones. But the most important and true ones have always stayed!
The world is magical!
To move abroad might seem scary and out of our comfort zone, but if you are open to new experience and life outside, you will quickly see that there is so much more magic that you never knew about. Life is full of it!
Day of Leaving
14. Double Check Luggage & Passport
There will be many emotions on your leaving day: excitement, nervosity, happiness, insecurity and so much more.
Wake up early, take enough time to recheck your things: do you have all your luggage, passport, documents & visa and credit cards? Documents are usually the most important, you can replace all other material stuff if you should forget something.
➳ Tip: Your packing list helps ticking off !
15. Take a moment for yourself
Before you’re leaving to the airport, take a moment for yourself: truly realize that the big day has come! Be proud of yourself and the big step you are taking in your life, soak up the last moments in your old home for the last time and be excited about everything that’s about to come.
You will always remember this day and it’s a precious moment that you should immerse yourself in!!
How do you know if moving abroad is the right decision for you?
Leaving your home country for good is not an easy decision. You are leaving your comfort zone, friends, family and all that you are used to behind. There come many doubts and challenges with it and there might be moments when you feel scared about this chapter of your life.
BUT I can tell you that it’s so worth it to take all the risks! You will grow, get to know yourself better, experience the world and widen your horizons.
And never forget: you can ALWAYS come back home when things really shouldn’t work out for you abroad. But unless you take the step of moving abroad, you will always keep wondering how it would have been to go. And you don’t want to regret not even trying!
That’s why I’m telling you: go for it! To move abroad is not for everyone but in any way it will be one of your most shaping experiences in life.
➳ Must read: How to volunteer around the world for free.
I hope this post on how to move abroad was helpful and inspiring to you! What do you think about moving abroad? Have you ever lived abroad or would you like to try? What’s your dream place to live? Leave your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear about them!!