Rent is getting higher and higher in the United States and more than ever US citizens are looking for housing outside of the US borders. Many young people are adopting to the “van life” model, traveling abroad, or searching for digital nomad jobs online that give them the freedom to live anywhere they want. The old “American Dream” of owning a house and having kids is being replaced with the new dream of being an entrepreneur, not being tied down to a 9-5 job and traveling the world. I am on that journey myself and I am continually scouting for new places to call “home”.
Why should I move abroad?
There are multiple reasons why people decide to move abroad. Some could be related to a job. Sometimes we just need a life changing experience to shake things up a little bit. Or some of us are just born wanderers and can never stay tied down to one place. If you have been thinking about moving abroad for a few weeks, months or years, it can be an overwhelming experience. There are a lot of things that play a part in moving abroad. From figuring out where to move to, finding an apartment, getting your stuff there to finding ways to generate an income…these are just a few of the things that you have to think about before moving to another country. But don’t worry, there are many other people going through the same journey. According to The Association Of Americans Residents Overseas (AARO), more than 8 MILLION Americans live abroad, and the number is still rising. Hey, so you’re not alone!
What’s a good place to live abroad?
There are TONS of resources online about living abroad and how to make money online, but the overload of information can be overwhelming and often discourage people to look any further. Too much information can lead to no good information. If you are thinking about moving to live abroad, one of the best-organized websites that can give you a good idea of affordable cities to live abroad is Nomad List.
The website is made easy for its users. All you need to do is select categories that fit your needs like “Cheap” and “Beach”, click “Show Cities” and voila. All the suggested countries and cities are listed below in your selected categories. It also has very helpful lists, like “The WORST cities to live in the world”, because sometimes knowing where not to go is just as important as knowing where to go.
Since I am also looking for a new country to move to as well, I have been doing extensive research on the best countries to live for expats. The choices are limitless so it really depends on what you are looking for. In general, some of the top destinations for expats to move to are:
Singapore is usually listed as one of the best places for expats to live abroad in most resources online. My sister has been living in Singapore for over 3 years now and absolutely loves it! Singapore has one of the best economies in the world and most jobs pay really well. Almost 40% of the population living in Singapore are from other countries so you are very likely to find other people to hang out with after work and socialize with. The huge downside is that Singapore is very expensive and people tend to work long hours. It is a very small country so you might feel limited to the places to see and go after a while, but it is located near other major Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand so you can always visit other countries on the weekends.
Nicaragua is a hidden gem located in the Central America region. In the last few years more and more expats are moving to Nicaragua because of its cheap housing and awesome surf. If you are into “going off the grid” and surfing, this is the place for you. My friends recently spent 3 months living in Nicaragua renting a shack on the beach and loved it so much that they decided to build a house there. The tourism has not yet fully developed in Nicaragua so the prices are unbelievably cheap and there is a lot of growth room to build a property or open a small tourism business. Many people compare Nicaragua today to Costa Rica in the 90’s – stunning with undisturbed nature at amazing prices.
For years, many people have stayed away from traveling or moving to China however China has been rising as one of the world leaders and its economy is doing well. Many expats are moving to China for job opportunities because the companies are willing to pay competitive salaries and the housing is cheap. Areas like Sanlitun are accommodating expats with fun restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. On the downside settling in China can be hard because of the language barrier because most locals don’t speak English and many American websites like Facebook are blocked from usage.
Many young people that work in the digital space are flocking to Germany to work for startup companies. According to Bloomberg, Berlin is becoming the new Silicon Valley of Europe. The living standards in Germany provide a high quality of life, low crime, and fun nightlife. Germany has a strong economy, excellent healthcare, and education. On the downside, the winters can be cold, rainy and gloomy.
Thailand has everything young travelers and expats are looking for- it’s unbelievably cheap, beautiful, it always has the perfect weather and let’s not forget the baby blue beaches. It’s a fun place to live if you’re into the island life. Countries like Thailand revolve around tourism so there is always something fun to do and new people to meet. But one of the most attractive reasons why so many people travel and move to Thailand is because the cost of living is very low. The US dollar can go a long way in a country like Thailand.
New Zealand does not fall short on outdoors activities and beauty. Many of the popular travel bloggers like The Young Adventuress have settled in this country for a reason. New Zealand is very welcoming to expats and it’s a great place to raise kids. On the downside, although New Zealand’s economy is doing well, the wages are relatively low.
No, it’s not all covered in ice and not everyone lives in wooden huts in the middle of the forest. I recently had the pleasure to visit Canada myself and it blew me away. It was clean, safe, friendly, and the outdoors are gorgeous. And the internet works amazing even when you are camping in the mountains! There is a reason why more expats are moving to Canada – it’s a great place to raise kids with all the outdoors activities, but on the downside the winters are cold and the cost of living is high.
The above list is just a few examples of amazing places to live abroad. Everyone’s list will be different depending on what you are looking for. Some people want to find a cheap beach city and live a relaxed beach life, and other people want to find a major city where they can find a great office job and good schools for their kids. The hardest part of moving abroad is choosing the country and city. Once you’ve done that, everything else will fall into its place.
How do I make income abroad?
If you don’t have a job yet, no worries. There are many ways that people have made a living while traveling abroad. Some of the most popular and well-known jobs are as an English teacher, working in tourism for a hotel, tour company, restaurant, or working on a farm in exchange for food and shelter. Each one comes with its own set of pros and cons, such as minimal income or long hours.
Here’s a general tip: If you’re heading to a country where living is cheap, it’s best to find a job that pays in US dollars. With all the mentioned jobs, you’ll be getting paid local wages which can be fine if you travel to a country with high wages but not so much in cheaper countries.
So what’s the easiest way to live abroad and make a decent living? Become a “Digital Nomad”! The term stands for people who work online and use their work-from-home freedom to travel the world.
Head to the website Remote OK, which lists thousands of location independent jobs for many different disciplines such as finance, marketing, and social media management. It should come as no surprise, however, that the most sought after skills are related to computer science. For example, did you know that there is a huge shortage right now of website developers? The typical requirements to become a web developer is a simple certification plus some practice and experience developing websites. With an average salary of $70,000, that can go a long way when living in another country where rent costs $500/month.
How long can I stay in a country?
So you have picked your dream country and found a way to make income online. What’s next? Before you can move abroad, make sure to check the Visa requirements for how long you are allowed to stay there and if a travel Visa is required ahead of time. Unless you have secured a work Visa, most countries restrict visitors to a few months. A great resource to check this data is Travel.State.gov . Here you can type in a country you are looking to move to, ex. “Argentina”, click “Go” and within seconds it will tell you that Americans are allowed to stay in Argentina for up to 90 days with no Visa. Many countries have workarounds, such as leaving for a day and coming right back to restart your 90 day period, but this website is a good place to start. Travel.State.gov website also lists US Embassy addresses and emergency contact phone numbers for each country.
How do I find a place to rent abroad?
The idea of moving abroad itself can be pretty scary so many people often reduce the fear by visiting the country before moving there or finding a place to live in ahead of time. But finding a place to live without being there, seeing it or meeting the owner can be pretty hard. Another option is just getting there first and renting an apartment temporarily while you are scavenging for a permanent place to live. Websites like Airbnb make it easy to find a short term apartment or a house for cheap that you can rent directly from apartment and house owners. HomeAway and VRBO are also great websites to find short term apartment and house rentals from owners and property managers. Once you get to your country of choice, one option is making friends with some locals to find the best deals on apartments in town or looking out for “Rental” signs. You can always go with a local rental agency as well, but there is typically a finders cost associated with this option.
Craigslist also has many listings in English for apartment and housing rentals in other countries. For example, if I was to search for places to live in Nicaragua, I would simply google “apartments Nicaragua craigslist” and the search results will provide a list of links to postings in English for apartments in Nicaragua. The downside of Craigslist listings in other countries is that they are targeting Americans and other English speakers so the prices will always be higher than going to the country and finding a deal through a local.
What do I do with my stuff before I move abroad?
When moving abroad, you typically have to downsize your belongings because there’s only so much stuff you can bring. But how do you choose what makes the cut, what gets sold, and what goes into storage? Here’s some tips:
-Many places abroad come fully furnished anyway, so at least you don’t have to worry about bringing along your housewares – it’s safe to get rid of that.
-Traveling with less baggage makes things much easier: It’s easier to find a place that fits everything, it’s easier to get around, and there’s less worries about damaged, lost, or stolen items.
-Airline fees are so outrageous now that it’s probably cheaper to buy new clothes than pay baggage fees
-If you bring too many things, you might have to pay customs duties on your imports when you get there
-It’ll be harder to sell immigration officers on the idea you’re only visiting short term if you have too much baggage
-Clothing styles can be vastly different in other countries, so you’ll probably want to upgrade your wardrobe anyway
-Things are often much cheaper in other countries so it could be more economical to sell everything you have in the US and use that money to purchase new items in the new country
-Finding a storage locker for your stuff might seem like a good idea, but what if you decide to stay in that country longer than expected? Keeping that couch would become much more expensive
-The same possessions in your storage may not mean the same to you after all the new experiences
-You might never want to come back, and your stuff will probably be lost when you stop paying storage fees
-When/if you decide to come back but you’ve sold all your stuff, you’ll have more room for new stuff you’ve acquired during your travels!
How do I make new friends abroad?
So you have found your dream place, moved abroad and settled in. You love your job and things are going great. But it doesn’t stop there. One of the hardest things about moving to another country is finding new friends and people to hang out with. I know from my own experience that is one of the main reasons why I was resistant to moving abroad. Things like “I can’t leave my friends and family”, “I don’t know anyone there” or “How will I make friends” are all normal thoughts that run through our heads when thinking of moving abroad. When I moved from a small country Latvia in East Europe to the big city of Los Angeles that has a population of 13 million people, I never thought I would have trouble finding friends. But I did. And that is perfectly normal when moving abroad. But luckily there are many people who are in the same situation as you.
There are many meetup groups and Facebook groups devoted to people traveling and moving to other countries. For example, some Facebook groups that I have joined like Girls Love Travel, We Are Travel Girls or Women Who Hike who constantly have posts about meetups and group hikes. These groups are also great for asking travel tips, sharing your pictures, experiences or just venting about the troubles that you are experiencing abroad. Just remember, you are not alone. So many people are going through the same journey, but it’s up to you to reach out and find them.
No matter where you go, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of expats living in the same place as you that will make it very easy to make new friends. It’s not very hard to find the local expat bar, hear English being spoken in public or at a café, or find other expats when going on a guided adventure.
Is there a company that will just plan everything for me?
Yes, there is! A company called Remote Year takes care of everything for you so you just show up and start having fun living abroad with a group of like-minded people. Remote Year takes care of all travel, accommodations, work space, and group events. The caveat: it is a program intended for digital nomads who have a remote job, but if you have a traditional 9-5 job, they’ll help you sell the idea to your boss!
What else do I need to know before moving abroad?
Learning the basics of the local language is very important before moving abroad, especially if the locals in the country that you are moving to do not speak English. Getting around without knowing the local language can be very difficult and frustrating, especially in emergency situations. Knowing the basics of the local language can help you call an Uber, use an ATM machine, purchase food, find a hospital, and get around easier. Knowing the language will help you gain more independence and feel more comfortable settling in as you get to know the new country and its culture. There are many great free apps that can help you learn new languages. My favorite is Duolingo, available for iPhones, Androids, and PC. It provides short daily lessons and reasonable goals so you can learn the basics of a new language in no time. And best of all, it lets you compete with your friends which helps you stay motivated.
Don’t be scared, there’s an entire world out there waiting for you to explore it!
There is a big world out there and moving abroad even for just a few weeks or months can open up our eyes to so many different experiences and ways of life. If you have been thinking of moving to another country for a while, I hope these resources have helped you find answers to some of your questions. Everyone’s experience about moving abroad is different so if you have some tips or experiences you would like to share, we would love to hear them! Leave us a comment below.
Written by Laura Sausina
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”