1. Why do I want to move abroad?
Maybe you have watched too many travel movies and the idea of moving seems wonderful. Was is romanticized? To be very honest, if you want to move abroad and fall in love, then you might want to have another game plan. I’m not saying that you can’t move abroad and fall in love, but it may not happen like in the movies. You may have way more problems trying to find the true you before you ever find true love. Therefore, I’d really ask myself, “What do I want from this experience?” before I would go packing my bags. Traveling is great, and living abroad is even greater, but the best advice I can give you is, know what you want before you trekking across the globe, unless your sole purpose is to find yourself, in that case, pack lightly.
2. Is my fear of the unknown real?
Often times we make up in our heads what is going to happen before we make any decision one way or the other, and in most cases those things never occur. Your mind can be your worse enemy when it’s time to do something that you have never done before. If you really want to live abroad and you have some fears, then it’s best to stay positive and stay away from anyone who would discourage you. It’s ok to read about other people’s experiences, but it best to really get quiet and ask yourself some questions about where your fear is coming from. Most of the time your fear is imaginary, I like to use the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real, because more often than not, your fears are coming from what you heard from someone else, what you think based off the past, or something that you read. However, you won’t know until you decide to go and see for yourself. You have to remember that what other people may want, need, or enjoy is for them. So, their experience is based off what they deem important, you could miss out on a great opportunity paying attention to someone’s bad advice based on what they experienced. You owe it to yourself to step out of your fears and live your own experience. If you too have a bad experience, then you know that it wasn’t for you, but you eliminated your fear based of your own knowing and not someone else’s experience.
3. Do I really want to move or do I want to take pictures and travel?
I know that you have been looking at pictures of those people you know or have come across currently living abroad. And the photos are amazing! You too want to go to Malaysia and trek up 240 something odd steps, while feeding crazy monkeys just to enter the Bantu Cave, or climb the Great Wall of China and get lost in the endless maze of wall that seems to disappear in forever. However, it is important to know that once you move abroad that game changes. You aren’t a traveler anymore, and although you can still travel and go sightseeing, for the most part, you are a resident. Meaning, you will be immersed in the culture, customs, and day-to-day living within that country. It’s exciting at first, but the nostalgic does wear off eventually. Especially, after a little cultural incident or two occurs and you begin questioning, “Why am I here?” It happens! However, if you really, really, really want to live abroad, then those moments don’t discourage you, they actually add to your experience and strength your journey. So, I am not trying to scare you, but it is import to realize that there is a vast difference between traveling abroad than it is to live abroad.
4. Do I have an exit strategy?
Let’s face it. Bad things can happen. It’s not that you want them to happen, and it’s not that they will happen. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So, have you thought about what happens if you get sick, your plan doesn’t work as you thought it would, or if you need to evacuate due to some confrontation among countries? Things outside of your control can occur and the best thing to do is have a contingency plan in place in case of an emergency. I would advise having travel insurance, connecting to the Embassy and enrolling in STEP (Smart Travelers Enrollment Program), this will allow you to get travel alerts while you are traveling, allow the Embassy to contact you in case of a disaster or civil unrest or emergency, and/or help your family and friends get in contact with you in case of an emergency. I also think keeping enough money within reach that will allow you to leave if there is an issue in country or at home is a great way to stay proactive vs being reactive in a time of disruption. You never know you could get sick and need surgery or have a family emergency at home. You want to make sure that you have a plan in place where it won’t leave you desperate and stuck.
5. Do I have a network of people supporting my dream?
It’s great to be excited about your new venture to live in another country, but do you have other people cheering for you? You don’t have to have a bunch of people with signs and banners yelling your name, but I would encourage you to have a few great people that you can call on when things get tough, or you start to doubt yourself. Moving away from everything that you have always known isn’t always a cake walk, sometimes it gets lonely. However, when you do have your bad days or moments, it is great to have someone or a group of people who either understand your journey, or they support you in it. So, I would encourage you to have a network of other expats who you can connect with and ask questions, meet occasionally, or you can call upon day or night that will be there for you and provide good reinforcement and positively. Living abroad is very exciting and enriching, but there are moments when you find yourself missing home or feel alone, and you want to connect with someone who will encourage you. If you are on Facebook there are plenty of groups and I have one for women living abroad, where you can connect and ask questions. Feel free to visit us at either Women of Color Living Abroad or Expat Women of Color, these are closed groups, but they are open to women of all races and nationalities.
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What are some other questions that you would ask yourself before moving abroad? Are you in the process of moving and need assistance? If, so I would love to assist you. I am an expat and transition coach and I work with individuals who are going through change, and I primarily work with those relocating abroad. Don’t try to defeat the world alone, if you need help planning, overcoming your fears, or simply need to create a strategy for finding the right place and work, then I can assist you.
Cha is the president of Global Bound Consulting where she coaches’ individuals in transition, provides intercultural training, and speaks to schools, groups, and organizations. She is also the founder of Expat Women of Color which is a 501C3 organization that helps connect women who desire to live, work, study and/or travel abroad with other women and resources to live abroad successfully. In here spear time, she loves to travel and see the world. You can contact and learn more about Cha through her personal website www.chajones.com or through her blog www.thenomadicchick.com.