You’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug. Instead of scrolling through Instagram after Instagram being jealous of everyone else globetrotting you’ve decided to bite the bullet and go for it yourself. Moving abroad is one of the most nerve wracking and exciting adventures you’ll ever take!
I will happily admit to being a glass half empty – worst case scenario – over-thinker, so moving abroad excited and terrified me in (mostly) equal amounts! I can honestly say that in the months leading up to actually moving that I read everything that was ever posted on the internet about moving abroad, getting a job, what to pack,– you name it, I read it! The first step in the big move – deciding where you’re going to go.
I moved from Ireland to New Zealand in September 2018 and haven’t looked back. My boyfriend and I had talked about moving for what seemed like the entirety of our relationship and for a long time that’s all it was. Talk. We initially decided on moving to Canada and started looking into visas, jobs, reaching out to people that lived there – the whole shebang. There was only one problem – we weren’t getting excited about it.
Then January 2017 we spent three weeks travelling around the east coast of Australia. It was absolutely incredible and one of the greatest trips I’ve been on (I have a monster blog post about that trip here). It got me thinking about New Zealand. Richie had lived in Wellington on a study abroad and was ALWAYS singing its praise. Suddenly it seemed so obvious – we should move to New Zealand!
It is important to take your time figuring out where you want to go. Every country will offer you a completely different experience and there are a lot of factors you need to consider when choosing a place to live:
Distance from home
Are you a homebird? Do you want to be able to easily get home at a moment’s notice? You may not think being far away will bother you but it isn’t always easy. By moving to New Zealand we’ve missed out on weddings, new babies, people buying their first homes and milestone birthdays. It can be tough to watch from afar however if we lived someone nearer Ireland we could get home with more ease and for less money. On the other hand, by moving so far away anywhere else we travel to we’ll always be getting closer to home.
I am useless at languages. I have tried to learn French, Irish and Dutch and failed miserably every time. For me I already knew I would be scared enough moving abroad for the first time without the added factor of not speaking the language so I wanted to move to a predominantly English speaking country. As someone who gets really stressed and anxious over little things, knowing I could easily go into a phone shop or a bank to get everything set up was big piece of mind.
On the other hand if you’ve a flair for languages this could be the perfect opportunity to fully immerse yourself in it. With apps like Duolingo and tutorials on YouTube it’s getting easier and easier to start learning the basics of any language. It is also worth looking at the difficulty of learning a new language. For instance Spanish, French and Italian require about 20 weeks to become proficient, Thai, Russian and Finnish take around 44 weeks while Japanese, Chinese and Korea take over 88 weeks (1.7 years). In my experience however even just having the basics – the alphabet, directions, hello/ goodbye and please/ thank you is a solid start.
Are you going to just travel, travel and then work, or, work and then travel. We decided to settle down right away, work for a couple months, travel for a couple months and then work again. This gave us time to adjust to a new country and find our feet. It also gave us the opportunity to save more money so that we didn’t have to dip into our savings right away. There’s no right or wrong way to do this and it’s a really personal decision. For me I knew I felt calmer when I was settled in a place. Working first also helped me get to know people to go on trips with, plan future trips and pick up loads of tips for places to see!
Thinking about what type of work you would be interested in doing. Do you want to stay in the same type of work you’re doing at home? Is this a career move? Do you want to try something completely new like TEFL? In countries like New Zealand and Australia you can complete farm work. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I reached out to several agencies once I arrived in Wellington. They were great and within 3 weeks of landing I had a fulltime administration job for the Ministry. There are also plenty of jobs in hospitality and construction. Be sure to look up what the minimum wage in the country you’re moving to is. In many cases you won’t be on much more than this and may need to adjust your cost of living to factor this in, particularly when looking at accommodation you can afford.
As scary as moving from Ireland all the way to New Zealand seemed, once I got here I realised how similar it is to home. You’ll find this a lot if you move to a country with a similar culture to your own. Here they celebrate the same holidays and have similar shops and food. I’ve spoken to some people who moved away from home to live in countries like Vietnam or China and they experienced a massive culture shock for the first couple of weeks. Be prepared to feel out of your depth initially and ready to embrace the country’s lifestyle, food and traditions.
Money makes the world go around and travelling is no exception. Your funds will dictate your plans to a degree. Be realistic about how much money you’ll have saved before you leave. If you’re going around Asia or South America you’ll be able to travel longer and eat out more on a smaller budget however if you’re planning on moving to North America, Europe or Australia then your money won’t stretch as far. Take some time to read up on the average cost of living in a country so you know what to expect to pay for food, clothes and rent. This will all help you in your saving in the lead up to moving.
Ask yourself what do you want to get out of your time living abroad? Do you want to focus on your career and do some travelling on your weekends and holidays? Do you want to move to a country where there’s loads of winter sports? Somewhere that’s active and there’s a big focus on hiking and being outdoors? Are you an adrenaline junkie and want to do as many extreme sports as you can find? Figure out exactly what you want to spend the next few months doing and it’ll help narrow your search.
When you ask most people to tell you about their time living abroad they’ll rave about what a great decision it was and how much they loved it. It can be easy to forget how daunting and scary moving is (anyone who says they weren’t freaking out at some point is lying). Moving is scary, lonely, intimidating and overwhelming and even though it may not feel like it, you are not the only one going through those emotions. You will get homesick, you’ll ask yourself whether you made the right decision and you’ll probably have a cry every now and then but that’s ok because every single other traveller you meet is feeling the same things. You’ll arrive without a job or a home and realise that you’ve no idea how to make new friends as an adult (drinking, work and the meet-up app). Suddenly though, without realising how or when, you’ll have a job, you’ll stop getting lost, you’ll have a house and a phone full of people who want to hang out with you. Then in years to come when someone asks you about your time living abroad you won’t remember being scared or lost, you’ll just remember the friends, memories and the incredible things you got to experience.