[advice from an American expat]
In case you need to escape plan. For any reason. Like after a certain election in November.
Here’s my quick, how-to on living abroad for years at a time.
[sunset at Salar de Unuyi, the world’s largest salt flats in Bolivia]
1. Get a passport (only 36% of Americans own passports).
2. Weigh your current financial status. Broke? Minimize your things. You’re only leaving this earth with memories and experiences, keep what’s necessary and nostalgic. As soon as you step on the plane with nothing but an over packed backpack, you’ll realize how little you need. Sell that overpriced, trendy top you wore once. Put your tv, bed, couches, etc. on Craigslist and donate what’s left to those who need it more. If you cannot split ways with half your closet, give it to a friend or family member for the time you’ll be away or chuck it in a storage rental place, but just make sure it doesn’t end up on storage wars.
3. If you have a couple of K in the bank, book a one-way ticket to Bangkok if tropical beaches are what you’ve been dreaming about; if you’re more of the adventure junkie head down south (a flight to Peru can cost under $300). If not skip to Step 4. Spend the next 3-6 months living the nomad life. Bum from beach to beach. Forget what day it is, climb mountains, get blessed by a hundred monks, and let your soul fill up with the beauties of the world. Keep it simple, don’t overindulge and the money will last long. Live like the locals and understand how happy life can be with no more than a pair of flip-flops and shorts.
[making friends on Koh Tao in Thailand]
[at Machu Picchu]
4. If you’re tight on savings and want to leave the USA ASAP, here are your options. If you are 18-30, you can apply for a one-year work and holiday visa for Australia and/or New Zealand. If you’re 30+ skip to 5. You will earn more in Australia, but if you want to stay longer it can be difficult to find sponsorship. If you want it bad enough, you’ll figure it out. Your job may be something they need. You’ll never know if you don’t look. Option #2, head to New Zealand, the Canada to Oz, where it’s so safe they rarely check your ID when flying domestic. Not only will you find every type of terrain, but you can also drive the entire country in just a few days. It’s easier and cheaper to extend work visas and their laid-back lifestyles will teach you to forget about stress. Oh and did I mention you are covered by their health care system in an emergency? If it happens in NZ, it’s covered. And if you cannot work, the government (ACC) will pay you 80% of your wages until you recover. Easy to understand why I’m trying to obtain residency, eh? Spend the next year or two and make sure to keep up a small weekly contribution to your travel fund account.
[New Zealand’s Castle Point]
5. Go to Canada. Too similar to the States? Try Quebec. Did you know the minimal wage is $11.25(BC), plus servers make 10-15% tips on top of that? You’ll be able to save up for your one-way to Asia in no time.
6. If it’s somewhere between two years since you saluted your country goodbye; maybe you head home to say hi again or stand up in a friend’s wedding. You’ll completely forget that you lent your entire wardrobe to a friend, and switch out your holy, washed-out black jeans for another pair. Maybe FaceTime’s enough of a connection or you convince family and/or friends to take the leap and meet you somewhere exotic. Is Europe what you desire? Trying Woofing or working at a hostel. Be an Au Pair, or find a tour company since you’re quite the experienced vagabond by now. Teach English to children as young as 3 and adults as old as 90 in most countries. (Best paying teaching jobs: S. Korea, Japan, and Taiwan). Volunteer at an animal sanctuary or study a new trade. Start your own tourism company or write for online publications. Sell your photos, start a blog. Hell go back to Step 2 and see if your job will allow you to work from abroad. Wi-Fi is EVERYWHERE.
Well today was the 4th time I've cried out of happiness on this trip. Had the most incredible dive swimming inside an enormous Japanese cargo ship that was sunk by the U.S. Sept. 24, 1944, can't even describe how amazing it was plus the ship is covered in jaw dropping LIVING coral #addictedtoscuba #penetration #wreckdiving #coron #philippines
7. And somehow four years will have flown by and there is nothing that will ever replace them. You’ll laugh at the times you wanted to cry out of frustration. You’ll cry at the times you found absolute bliss from the furthest place from home. You’ll want to write a book. You’ll want to inspire more to do like you did. You’ll want to keep going, but you’ll realize the elections are coming up and you-know-who might finally be out of office and maybe you should come home. And maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. Maybe that person is re-elected than I’d recommend repeating steps 2-6 all over again or if all fails, marry a foreigner and let the world swallow you whole.
[finishing a 5day trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile]
Cheers if you’re still reading. More posts to come on breaking down some of these steps.
If you have any questions or are looking for advice feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
[saying peace out to Asia to head home after a year and a half abroad]