So here I am, sitting in a cafe in Buenos Aires, coincidentally called Gratitude when I’m feeling full of it today. You might be wondering what brought me here. Well, let me rewind and share with you how I made the dream of living abroad a reality.
The feeling of being stuck has become all too familiar to me. So familiar that the second I get the feeling, I know I’m not in the right place and need to take action. I learned this two years ago when I took the first leap, leaving my stable 9-5 job, moving out of my cute Marina apartment, and packing a backpack to travel through Central America. Hands down the BEST decision I’ve made…along with deciding to move here. The biggest mistake was taking too long to make it happen and feeling stuck for years before going for it.
However, I no longer believe in mistakes; let’s call it the biggest lesson.
I had returned from an incredible 3-month backpacking trip, moved to the beautiful city of San Diego and started a new role at a well-known tech company. How could I not be happy with a great job living near some of the most beautiful beaches in California? Well, it was just two months in when I felt that stuck feeling again. It was like I had relapsed with an illness, but this time, I knew the cure. I knew the first step was finding the root cause of the stuck feeling.
Surprise surprise, I quickly discovered it was my work situation. It couldn’t be the sunshine and beaches, right?! I wasn’t learning or growing in the role, the project wasn’t going as expected, and I wasn’t doing much of anything because the project was basically on hold. I was spending the work days on Duolingo and Lynda courses so I could continue learning despite the slow environment. My hope that the job would improve was fading fast and I was tired of wasting my days trapped in a windowless room, waiting for challenging work to come my way. I knew I had to make a change; it was just a matter of what and when. I needed a plan.
Just after moving to San Diego, a friend had asked, “If there is one thing you could do right now (if nothing was holding you back), what would you do?!” It took me a minute to think on this, but I knew the answer:
“I’d move abroad for a few years to work and travel.” I quickly followed with “That’s ridiculous though, I can’t do that! I just moved here and started a new job.”
Fast forward to a month or so later and the conversation continued to echo in my mind. Living abroad had always been a dream, and I finally realized I had been calming it with stints of extended travel. Every one-way ticket booked ended with an eventual return, which would leave me itching for a new destination shortly after. I knew I was the happiest traveling and experiencing a day-to-day outside of my comfort zone. My fear had me making excuses for years on why I couldn’t make a move.
Thankfully, my 3-month backpacking experience really brought this to light. I’d learned how rewarding it is to work past excuses and that the best way to conquer fear is through action. So the dream that I had brushed off to a friend became a goal.
A goal that I was determined to make a reality.
I started to visualize living and working in a new city, immersing into the culture, sitting in cafes and listening to the Spanish language surrounding me. The way it lit me up confirmed it was right. So one morning, I woke up and decided there was no more time to waste and I needed to make moves. I started researching Spanish speaking countries that I could live comfortably in with nearby locations that I had wanted to travel. I knew I wanted to live in a larger city, with a great public transportation system where I could more or less maintain my standard of living.
My research narrowed it down to two target cities: Medellin, Colombia and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I then drafted one of the easiest inmails I’ve ever written; a very genuine email about my passion for travel, desire to grow and get out of my comfort zone by living and working abroad. I used Glassdoor to find companies of interest in each country and then LinkedIn to find Recruiters or contacts.
Finally, I sent my inmail off to Recruiters and prayed for them to respond. To my shock almost every single one of them replied. Four video interviews, a few challenging offer negotiation calls, and a confusing work VISA process later… I was set to start at the Buenos Aires office of a global HR Tech company.
That brief recap may sound like the job search and interview process were quick and easy, but they were far from it. Interviews were weeks apart and challenging. I spent two weeks prepping for a logic interview because I was terrified of this unfamiliar interview format. I closed myself off to meeting new people to prevent anything from holding me back from making the move. And I didn’t plan anything more than a month out due to the uncertainty of a potential move date. I was being contacted for new opportunities in San Diego that could be a great fit, but I ignored them all. I was being tested in every way possible, but I fought against it.
As Paulo Coelho says, “Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way.”
It does this not because it’s evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream.” Thankfully, the lessons were guiding me to my dreams. Today I write this sitting in the cutest cafe, surrounded by people speaking Spanish and feeling full of gratitude. The dream to live abroad has come full circle to reality. Isn’t it amazing how the Universe works?
So my question for you is, “If there is one thing you could do right now (if nothing was holding you back), what would you do?!” If it’s making a move abroad, I’m here to help! Here are my tips for bringing this dream to life.
Moving Abroad Guide:
1. Make An Action Plan
Write down your personal goals for making the move abroad. What are you looking to achieve from relocating? Whether it is learning a new language, exploring a specific country, or making the move by a certain deadline, focus in on what you’re looking to accomplish with your move.
Create a list of non-negotiables. Use your personal goals to help create a list of must-haves in your future home abroad. Does a specific language need to be spoken? Does it need to have excellent public transportation? Are you looking for a large city or a small rural town? A move abroad is a huge change so think about what will bring you the greatest happiness and help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself.
Narrow it down to a few locations – once you have your list of must-haves, start doing your research! Research each city to narrow your list down to 1-3 locations for your abroad job search.
Here are a few helpful tools to help guide your research:
- Internations.org is a global expat network that provides several resources for aspiring and existing expats. This includes practical online guides with useful information on what to expect and an inside look into moving to a new country.
- Expat Arrivals is a source of country and city information for expats including city/country guides and relocation advice.
- Expat groups on Facebook are a great way to get an inside look on life in your future country. You can join these groups and post your questions to get info from existing expats. We have a group called Buenos Aires Expat Hub where expats share helpful information and guidance to upcoming or existing expats. This has been a great resource for me.
- Finally, create an action plan with detailed steps of how you will hold yourself accountable to make this move a reality. When I manifested my move, I created daily action steps to ensure I was working towards my goal. Ex: Spend one hour daily to research opportunities abroad. Apply to three roles abroad each week. Use Duolingo daily to start practicing the language of my destination country etc.
Visualize, Visualize, Visualize.
- Start to visualize yourself in your new country and life abroad! (Ie. sitting in a cafe working on your laptop listening to the language surrounding you, or sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine and the delicious meal of the cuisine from your future country.)
- Not familiar with how to visualize? Check out this Forbes article on how to get started.
2. Search for opportunities!
Finding opportunities abroad
- LinkedIn is an excellent resource for researching opportunities abroad and getting in contact with Recruiters. Inmailing Recruiters was crucial to my job search. Don’t be afraid to reach out; you have nothing to lose! An honest, genuine inmail of why you’re excited about the opportunity and what you have to offer can go a long way!
- Glassdoor is another helpful resource for researching companies of interest in your destination country. You can find detailed background on the company size, mission and get a feel for the company culture by reading employee reviews. It also provides common interview questions and salary data.
- As with any interview, prepare beforehand and do your research! Keep in mind that these will likely be virtual interviews unless the company has a local office near you where you can go onsite. If necessary, look into the culture of the office in your desired country (if they have multiple locations). Be sure you have a stable internet connection and to still dress to impress for the video interview!
- Be sure to do your research before having the conversation.
- Use Glassdoor salaries to check if any salaries are listed for the role you’re applying to in your destination country.
- Payscale offers a calculator to research your salary abroad.
- Use this helpful article from The Muse for more detailed info on negotiating a salary abroad.
3. Plan for the big move!
Breaking the news
- Telling family and friends might seem terrifying but they can be a great support system. I suggest breaking the news after you have a detailed action plan and your goals in mind. It helps to reassure family and friends that you have done your research, and calm any nerves they have about where you’re going, safety in the new location, and why you’re looking to make this huge change.
- Travel/Accommodations – many companies will relocate employees and provide flights/accommodations. However, this is not always the case. I had to plan my relocation logistics myself. Here are some helpful tips if you’re in the same situation.
- Ask the Recruiter/company contact to connect you with a few internal employees (extra bonus if they’re also expats). They can be a great resource for advice on housing, what to pack, and any inside info on the company culture or life in your destination country.
- Reserve an Airbnb for the first few weeks so you can do your due diligence with in-person housing shopping. AirBnb is a reliable service with photos and reviews to use for temporary housing in a new city until you can use your local resources to find a more permanent place.
- Flight booking – use apps like Hopper, Skyscanner, and Google Flights to find the best deal possible to book the one-way ticket to your new home.
- It can be challenging to create a budget when you’re working with a new income and currency. I struggled with this and resorted to a good old-fashioned excel worksheet. Here are some helpful tools for preparing a budget to live abroad:
- Check out this Bankrate article on how to prepare your finances for living abroad.
- Expat.com shares tips here on how to budget your money when living abroad.
- Use one of the budgeting tools presented here that best meets your needs to create and track your budget abroad.
- My two personal favorite credit cards for moving abroad:
- Chase Sapphire preferred – for $450 annually ($95 waived in the first year) you can gain 2x the earnings on travel and dining. The card also has no foreign transaction fees and you have the ability to redeem these points with travel partners. I have used my points to book most of my travel abroad to date including my flight to relocate!
- Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account & VISA platinum debit card- this account has no foreign-exchange transaction fees, ATM fees are rebated on a monthly basis, and there is no minimum balance requirement.
- Find more tips here from The Points Guy about the best credit cards and awards programs for expats.
Then last, but most definitely not least, enjoy living out your dreams as it comes full circle into reality! Did you miss the beginning of Kristin’s story? Check out the first edition here. Click here to read the second!