Modern Day Migration: Strategies

Goiree Island, Senegal

Once the idea of moving abroad is rooted in your mind, it’s time to start planning.  Where will you go?  How will you get there?  What will you do?  These are all really important questions for paving your personalized path to a life overseas.  So, let’s begin.

What is your objective?

Knowing what you intend to obtain should be the foundation of your planning process.  Do you want to learn a new language?  Reconnect to your ancestral roots?  Pay off your debts?  Answering these questions will help you narrow down the limitless possibilities of location.  Having a clear goal will help you sift through other people’s passions and dreams so you can pursue your own.

If you plan to country-hop, obtaining visas is easy for most Americans, but long-term travel requires planning.  Staying for more than a month or three might require a work or study visa.  Be sure to research visa requirements to avoid staying overseas illegally.  If your heart is sold on becoming a resident of another country, be prepared to wait a few years at the minimum or a few decades at the max.  Claiming the nationality of your family’s motherland or having large sums of money to donate, spend or invest generally help when applying for citizenship.  If neither is the case, patience is most fitting.

What are your strengths?

If you have a degree and/or career experience, securing work abroad is often the most sustainable way to stay abroad.  Your employment sponsor will often assist with visa formalities, housing, insurance, and other enticing benefits. However, if your journey is more personal than professional, you may have try another route.  Some individuals find short-term work doing something they love or are good enough at, just to keep afloat financially.  Others find volunteering or studying abroad more suitable.  In either case, honesty is an essential asset because not everyone is a backpacker, nor is everyone a business person.  Almost everyone knows that teaching English abroad is a popular way to migrate but what’s most important is looking at options that speak to your soul and set of skills.

If you want to move abroad as a family, look at your composite skills and how they might aid you.  If you have a strong homeschooling parent in the household, then living in a country with a top-notch academic system is not a priority.  Strong writers or artists often find great creative fuel while jet setting and find opportunities to publish their work or build their portfolio.  Even a great cook in the family can help start a small business that will secure your life abroad.  Take a thorough inventory and plan accordingly.

How will you save?

Money makes the world go round, save for a few who’ve found creative ways to live without it.  Whatever plan you settle on, having a solid savings fund to fuel and sustain your journey  can’t hurt.  The obvious costs of flights, housing, meals, etc. can be budgeted for, but an emergency fund to cover the unforeseen is where most people fail to plan.  A hospital emergency, an ailing relative back home, or the loss of private property can be a huge financial and emotional setback.  Aim for a savings goal that will allow you to buffer a few months without work or at least fly you back home in the event of a crisis.

Before my family moved abroad, we took a hard and honest look at our finances to observe where our money was going.  Rent and utilities were the obvious expenses, but the rest needed to be streamlined.  For us, our dining habits were eating away at our savings.  We reduced our weekly restaurant outings to once a month and changed our grocery shopping habits.  Instead of buying everything organic, we prioritized organic produce and shopped between different stores for bargains.  On Fridays, we would buy fresh bread at half the cost just before the bakery closed and whatever bean was on sale at our local food cooperative was on our menu for the week.  With a lot of home cooking and eating in, we were able to collect the loose bills that were flying out of our pockets.  Once we moved abroad, we realized just how much further our money stretched in the rest of the world.

This article was originally published on Ethos International.

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