19 November 2013

5 Tips for Moving Abroad: Part I. Before You Leave

Jill and I often hear from readers. Obviously most of the questions are about fashion tips* and a close second is advice on moving abroad. When we were interviewed by Cup of Jo, besides the commenters calling us neo-colonialists, we noticed a lot of people saying they'd "always wanted to live abroad" or raise families in another culture. Which leads to my first tip on how to move abroad...

1. Just go

Seriously. If you're thinking about it and if there's any part of you that wants to give it a try, just go. Don't give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. Go. Some people have absolutely no interest in moving abroad. That's totally fine. Somebody's gotta hold down the homefront. But if you have any desire to move abroad, that's about all it takes. I mean, how hard could it be? This leads me to #2.

2. The hardest part is the leaving part.  

Everyone's scared of moving to a new place. But that foreign country isn't the scariest part. You have to leave your current home. This is the hardest part. "But I have so much stuff and a house and a car," you say. This is why there are buyers and renters and dumpsters. "And so many friends and family I'm leaving behind!" This is true. This is hard. But take it from someone who left before the dawn of Facebook. There is now Facebook. And Skype. These are game-changers. Gone are the days of missionaries leaving on a boat and receiving letters twice a year. Thanks to the magic of social media, your friend's Instagrammed pic of the coffee they're drinking looks the same from 10 blocks or 10,000 miles away.

3. No really, sell your car.

I know it's hard. But if you're going to be gone for any substantial amount of time and you can't take your car with you, just sell it. Your Honda Civic you got in high school will be the last thing on your mind when you step off the plane in your new home (ahem, brother-in-law). Same goes for the rest of your stuff, really. Somewhere in an attic in Virginia we have stuff we never got rid of. Once during a trip home we started to sort through our old boxes and as soon as we found socks without mates we closed that box right up and threw in the towel. What on earth were we thinking keeping all this stuff? A good rule of thumb when deciding to keep it or trash it, ask yourself: Will I think about it after I'm gone? Will I miss it when I come back from fill in the blank amazing country when I have more cool and exotic stuff? No? Rent it. Sell it. Or dumpster it.

1974 Honda CiViC by Hugo90, on Flickr
This is how old your car will feel when you return. Seriously, sell it.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Hugo90 

4. Expect to regret it.

Each and every time I've moved to a new country, there has come a point when I have regretted it. I'm not just talking about nervousness or culture shock. I'm talking about the feeling in your gut when you lay down on your first night in a bug-infested mattress in West Africa, or are up to your elbows in Cairene filth as you clean your new apartment, or the morning before you leave for the Congo and have a breakdown in the shower because you're moving to the freakin' heart of darkness. (I mean, speaking hypothetically of course.)

You will think know at some point that it's the wrong decision. You have made a big mistake. But really, this is your gut confusing regret with leaving your comfort zone. Ah yes. This calls for an inspirational poster...

And at the end of the day. If it's really that bad, the plane goes both ways. You can always go back from whence you came. Except you might have already sold all of your stuff...

5. You won't regret it. 

Worst case scenario: You hated your experience abroad and moved back home to no belongings. But you still did it! This is more than most people can say. Most realistic case scenario: Your experience was/still is great and you haven't yet moved back home. And if you end up having kids while abroad, they will obviously turn out amazing.

Just look at these precious, well-mannered expat kids. Photo credit: Jill Humphrey

* My husband is sweet enough to think I need to clarify to readers that asking me for fashion tips is a joke.

We know many of our readers have also taken the moving abroad plunge. What other suggestions do you have?


  1. You're so right that the number one thing is just go. I'm tour guide in Paris, and I have people on my tours all the time talk about how they would love to move abroad. The truth is though, that unless a series of very bad things happen to you (all of your belongings are stolen, and your friends decide they hate you) there is never going to be a "good" time to do it. It's always going to be inconvenient. You just gotta do it.

    1. I love imagining the new expat who moved abroad because all their stuff got stolen and their friends started hating them. Guess it's the perfect time to go! Haha. P.S. Tour guide in Paris? Wow!

    2. It is a charmed life! If you make it to Paris anytime soon, let me know. I'm a big fan of the blog and would love to show you around :)

  2. MamaCongo Mamas and Mama-in-laws should perhaps be given a chance to guest post. Something like: "5 Tips for Mamas when Your Kids Move Abroad". 1) Let go: they're going whether you approve or not. 2) The hardest part is when they leave (especially when grandkids are involved)-- new understanding of the phrase "broken heart". 2) No really, we'll keep your things until you return. 4) Expect to regret it -- "it" being the times you took them abroad and taught them to love travel and adventure (and don't forgot all those wonderful stories you told of your time abroad! Argh! What were you thinking?!) 5) You won't regret it….well, yes, you will regret the lost moments, but you won't regret following them around the globe...

    1. If its okay with you I am going to share this with my mama as we are packing up her beloved only grandchild and moving to Dakar after Christmas. Heartbroken doesn't really cover it.

    2. Omi, you've obviously tapped into a niche readership here. We're waiting on your guest post...

  3. Sarah, I love this, and I so agree. Just go! I also agree with Omi who wrote about letting her kids go. Why did we expose our kids to travel and expat life at a young age? Now I have kids who want to leave us and go back to the Congo or some other exciting place overseas. What were we thinking? Now I'm learning to let go just as my parents and in-laws did. I will not be the one to hold them back and hope to visit them wherever they go. :-)
    P.S. Your kids are going to really love you for that photo in the future.

  4. And then sometimes those kids who you took abroad and taught to love travel and other countries grow up. And then they meet and fall in love in those other countries. And then they either stay there or need your support as they figure out how to walk the immigration journey to get their spouse into your country... Augh!!

  5. Thanks for this post- a really big thank you actually. We moved from Australia to Boston two and a half years ago and I spend a lot of time regretting what we should have done and how we should have done things but we did it! It has been fantastic and I will miss it when we go home but you reminded me of the adventure (not quite as adventurous as you!!!) of taking three kids across the world and the time we get as a family away from our comfort zone. They speak the same language here but it is soooooo different to home. Thanks for your blog- I love it!

  6. Thanks for the shout-out!! :)

  7. If anyone is interested in a 2002 Honda Accord, we may or may not have one for sale....

  8. Travel does come with surprises. :) It's part of the adventure of it that is inherent in all types of sea change as well. The key is in embracing the unexpected. You don't have to sell your car, though, I figure. Why deprive yourself of the luxury? There are ways in which you can have it brought in safe to take with you. Go for it.

    Dave @ Orbit

    1. Yes, good point! I should have mentioned, if you can bring your car, do it. That is indeed a worthy luxury!

  9. Moving is indeed hard, but definitely worth it. Just imagine having to start a new life at a new house and turning the house into a home. I think with social media, we are able to establish connections that even though you’re in your new house abroad, it would feel as though you never left.

    Julio Oyola

  10. I personally feel that your tips for moving abroad are perfectly reasonable and really make sense. You would always have doubts on whether to move or not in the beginning, but sometimes you just really have to do it and take a risk rather than live the rest of your life wondering what could have happened had you moved. As you've mentioned, all the emotional turmoil one would feel upon moving are all natural. I admire you for putting such a frank and realistic portrayal of how it would be to move abroad.
    Christine Ordze

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  12. I love your tips, especially number one--just go! When I was in college, I decided it would be fun to move to Paris for a few months. Everyone thought I was crazy (including me!) and it was definitely hard to go. I have to agree that the hardest part is leaving, but once I got there, I didn't get home sick once. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and you are absolutely right that you will not regret it! http://www.matco.ca/international_moving.html

  13. My wife, step son, and I are thinking about moving to the Caribbean or Belize in the next two years. We recently moved from the Midwest to the southwest. Now that we are conquering this challenge our real dream is to live by the ocean or tropics. We want to explore everything on the west coast and then go down south. What are some of the biggest changes we will expect from leaving U.S. comforts to overseas living? Habits, conveniences, frustrations?

  14. Pack one room at a time. This is one of the most important packing tips which for some reason often gets neglected. Doing this will help you stay organised and will later tell the movers, or anyone unloading, which box goes where.


  15. تعتمد شركة ركن البيت على افضل الخدمات الاساسية المميزة التى تساعد فى الوصول الى افضل النتائج المميزة التى تؤدي الغرض المطلوب حيث لدينا شركة تنظيف بالرياض تساعد فى تحقيق افضل ما هو مطلوب في خدمات النظافة بعيد عن اعمال التنظيف اليدوية التي تستخدم اساليب فعليك ان تتعاون وتتصل بنا في شركتنا حيث يمكنك الاستعانة بخدمة تنظيف الفلل من خلال التواصل مع قسم شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض التي تحقق كل ما هو جيد في اعمال التنظيف والسعى الى التنظيف من الالف الى الياء كما يوجد لدينا خدمات اخري في النظافة مثلا تنظيف الخزانات التي تحتاج الي مختص فني في تقديم اعمال نظافة الخزنات من خلال شركة تنظيف خزانات بالرياض
    التي لديها خدمة متخصصة في القضاء علي البكتريا والرواسب التي توجد في قاع الخزانات من خلال شركة تسمي المتميزة في التعقيم والتظهر للحصول علي كل ما هو صحي من خلال شراء اغلى انواع المنظفات والمساحيق والمعطرات المميزة التى تساعد فى الوصول الى اى نتيجة يرغب العميل بها فشركة ركن البيت هى افضل الشركات التى تهتم باعمال التنظيف لمنزلك التي توجد لديك مثل خدمة شركة تنظيف مسابح بالرياض مهما كانت مساحته ومهما كانت درجة الاتساخ فلاتتردد فى التعامل معنا لدينا خدمات اخري يمكنك متابعتها مثلا بعض الناس يعتمدون علي شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض والتي تعتبر من افضل الخدمات الاساسية داخل مدينة الرياض التي تحتاج عناية شديدة في اعمالها من خلال تعاملها مع قسم شركة رش مبيدات بالرياض والتي يستخدم مبيدات طبيعية والتي تقتل جميع الحشرات المنزلية مثل الصراصير والنمل الابض والفئران بالاضافة الى ان الشركة تهتم بتوفير افضل الخدمات الاساسية فى اعمال الرش

  16. ولأننا افضل شركة نقل عفش بالرياض فاننا تستخدم احدث وافضل طرق نقل العفش عن طريق امهر الموظفين المدربين جيدا علي كافة اعمال تحميل وتنزيل العفش وكذلك حسن ترتيبة داخل السيارات لضمان وصولة سليم تماما بالاضافة الى افضل طرق تغليف الاثاث ويشمل ذلك ( تغليف نايلون – تغليف مفرقعات – تغليف كارتون ) وذلك لضمان وصول العفش بالكامل بدون اية خدوش او كسور في بة كل هذا بالاضافة الى افضل وامهر الفنيين المدربين جيدا ً علي كافة اعمال فك العفش بكافة انواعة وكذلك فك الستائر والمطابخ
    شراء اثاث مستعمل
    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
    نقل اثاث
    اسعار تخزين اثاث بالرياض

  17. أفضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بنجران هي شركة الدليل السعودي لأنها تستخدم أفضل المعدات والآدوات القوية المتطورة الحديثة

    شركة كشف تسربات بنجران
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بنجران
    كشف تسربات المياه بنجران
    كشف تسربات بنجران


  18. فى شركة العربى نقدم خدمة تنظيف المنازل نسعى دائما الى الافضل ولنا مميزات عديده ومختلفه وجديده اذا كنت تريد تنظيف بيتك فلا تبتعد عن شركة العربى لتحصل على الدقه والجوده فى الاداء مع حسن المعامله

    شركة تنظيف سجاد بحائل
    شركة تسليك مجارى بحائل
    شركة تنظيف بحائل
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بحائل
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بحائل
    شركة تنظيف منازل بحائل
    شركة تنظيف موكيت بحائل
    شركة جلى بلاط بحائل


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