How to move out of the country, pt 2
Find your inspiration
Why are you doing this? What’s your inspiration? It could be a book, a blog, or someone you know. Maybe your life is in a rut. Or maybe your life is going swimmingly and you want to see what else is out there before you settle. Maybe this is something you’ve always wanted to do and you’ve decided it’s now or never. Whatever your situation, find something persistent that inspires change in your life.
Ideas for finding your inspiration:
- Browse Amazon for books/memoirs about traveling & exploration, motivational self-help, or personal transformation. I personally really like Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.
- Watch documentaries– either travel or social/cultural ones. I find these really fire up my curiosity about different people and places.
- Talk to someone who has done something similar to what you want to do! Hearing advice or stories from someone you know always helps more than reading about a stranger’s experiences online, and chances are they loved their experiences and will be encouraging you!
- Practice self-reflection to discover your true intentions and motivations. This has to come from within and be persistent. It’s easy to declare moving out of the country after a one-off major event, but following through is the difficult part. Just remember that if you truly want to make it happen, you will find a way.
Figure out everything money-related
This is so important. Here are the questions I had to figure out:
How will I sustain myself while abroad?
If you’re quitting your job (like I did), it’s important to budget and figure out how long you can keep afloat without working. Alternatively, if you’re switching jobs or freelancing, be sure to research on the cost of living and make sure the numbers work well in your favour. Also make sure you understand the tax laws and treaties of your origin and destination countries.
Alter plans if you need to. I originally planned to live in Hong Kong for 3 months, but after researching apartments and sublets, I decided to just swing by for a few days/weeks at a time instead. Hong Kong’s rental market is far worse than San Francisco’s. Simply, the range of rent prices and associated square footage of the apartments illustrates quite well the wealth gap. You can rent literally a closet with a “bed” that’s smaller than twin size and reaches wall-to-wall for US$500 or a fully-serviced studio reminiscent of the Hyatt for US$4000 per month. The sad part is the smaller rooms are still hard to come by. No thanks!
Where should I keep my cash?
Will I keep them in my existing bank account, or do I want to move all my cash overseas back home? Or to the country I’m heading to? This is a very personal decision to make. You may choose to open a bank account abroad, then you need to figure out how much to transfer. The rule of thumb, if you won’t be working, is to keep 1 year’s worth of living expenses in a chequing/savings account.
Can I keep my investments in America as a non-resident alien?
As far as I can tell, yes. Woohoo!
Will my main banks allow me to continue being a customer even if I’m not physically in America?*
American Express didn’t allow me to change my address to a Canadian address. First Republic Bank was fine with it.
What credit card can I reliably use wherever I am traveling?
Generally, the credit cards with an annual fee will not have foreign transaction fees. My cards of choice will be United MileagePlus Explorer and the Chase Hyatt one.
How will I get cash?
Getting one of those no foreign transaction fees and reimbursed ATM fee bank cards is a good idea! First Republic Bank and Charles Schwab are popular options.
Do I have any outstanding debt I need to clear?
Don’t escape the US if you have debt unless you’re deliberately trying to dodge it. My personal advice would be that it’s better to pay off any loans before moving so you can truly have a clean slate.
Give your notice
If you’re also quitting your job, you’ll definitely need think about when to give your notice of leave for work.
You also need to “give your notice” to your friends and loved ones! I told my parents very early on, but neglected to tell a lot of my friends until ~1.5 months before. Telling your friends you’re leaving is not easy and you have to be prepared for all different types of reactions.
Based on my own experiences, I’ve categorized different types of friends by their reactions:
- The one who suddenly feels inspired: This is my favorite type of reaction! Once you tell them about your grand plans, you can see their eyes widen and mind running about with ideas of their own. You can tell this is something they’ve always wanted to do, and once they hear that you’ll be doing it, they suddenly feel it’s within reach. I have the most inspiring conversations with these people.
- The one who’s happy because you’re happy: I feel grateful that the majority of my friends fall in this category. They just want you to be happy!
- The one who doesn’t quite understand: They usually don’t have much of a reaction, just a million questions in rapid-fire. After answering all the questions, I’m still not quite sure what their thoughts are– it feels like a job interview!
- The one who wonders why you won’t just get married already: These are more than likely relatives and older folks. Hi mom!
Figure out your phone situation
It might be useful to keep a US-based phone number (an example use case is so you can keep getting those 2-factor authentication SMS’s). I use Google Voice which gives you a free number from which you can send and receive text messages and voice calls. The rates to call outside the US are very reasonable as well.
If you want to keep your current number, you can port it over to Google Voice. It costs a one-time fee of $20. With that, you can access your existing phone number from the Google Voice interface. Check here for more information.
Lastly, make sure your phone is unlocked! Instructions on how to do this depends on your carrier or where you got your phone from.
Get your international driver’s license
This is useful to have and some countries require this document over your country’s driver’s license to rent a car (we anticipated this in South Korea). It costs $20 and you can get it done at ACC. You’ll need to get passport-sized photos but the ACC branch we went to offered this service for a small fee. Note that the international driver’s license is only valid for 1 year.
Get your passport renewed
If you can, get your passport renewed! Depending on your situation (how long you’ll be gone for or if you’re applying for a working holiday visa), your passport needs to be valid for a certain length of time past your expected return date.
I also went ahead and got Global Entry for Canada.
Figure out your visa situation
Depending on where you’re going, make sure you’re aware of any visas you’ll need. It’s useful to know how long you can stay somewhere on a tourist visa and whether or not that’s extendable. If you’re thinking of applying for a Working Holiday Visa, be sure to plan accordingly!
Prepare yourself mentally
It’s happening! Get in the transition mindset early to make things easier and alleviate stress in the weeks leading up to the big move.