Your Guide to Moving to Another Country Alone: Part 1
Part 1: Preparation
The idea of moving to another country alone can be petrifying.
You’re leaving every comfort zone you’ve ever known. Friends, family, your home, you name it; you’re jumping from familiar surroundings into the unknown.
That’s where the magic happens.
The new experiences, new friendships, new relationships. The job you enjoy. The trip you’ll never forget. It’s all dangling in that area we can’t reach when we’re in our comfort zone.
To get there, you’ve got to make the leap.
You may feel like there’s a million and one things to think about, but most can be considered before even flying. So if you’re moving to another country alone (whether it’s your first or fifth time), have a read through and get yourself comfortable before your trip of a lifetime.
Preparation is the ABSOLUTE key part.
You can’t predict the unknown, but you can prepare yourself as best as possible. By giving yourself the relevant knowledge, you’re armed with a strong plan and then backups for anything that might end up going wrong.
Get a pad, or your laptop and get them all down. I’m talking about everything. How much flights are, what are the visa fees, travel insurance, the cost of your accommodation for a month or two. Are you doing any extras when you get there, do you need new clothes for it? Have you budgeted enough spending money?
From this, you can work out how much you need to save, so no getting excited and handing that notice into work early! Always overestimate your outgoings, as if they come in less, you’ll have more money to play with.
It’ll be the time of your life, but as with anything, it’s not going to come easily. You’ll be away for an extended amount of time, so prepare to be away from emotional connections, such as family. It’s tough, but remember they’re only a phone call away. At worst-case scenario, no matter where you are in the world, it takes a day (at most) to get back, that’s it.
Of course you’ll miss them, but they’ll be ready to hear your stories when you’re back, so until then, make the most of FaceTime!
Most will do it for the right reasons; that in one way or another, you want to grow as a person and have the most incredible, life-changing experience. But it’s important to know your ‘why’. If your ‘why’ is to push yourself and try new things; then do it!
Don’t go to a new country and sit in your bunk on your days off, you can do that at home. Try a hike. Take a walk. If you’re wanting to grow your social skills, join a few Meetups or local groups. Remember why you’re doing it and follow through with it.
When you’re ready to completely commit, you’ll no doubt have a visa high on your list. Being able to work abroad isn’t as straightforward as you’d hope, so you’ll need to look into specific visas. From here, you can check which ones allow you to work and which you meet the criteria for.
This will determine everything, from the date you have to enter the country, to the duration you can work for an employer. This is super important, so ensure you give it the correct amount of time in getting it right.
5. Plans & itineraries
You can’t just rock up somewhere. What happens if you turn up to an accommodation and its reception is closed because your flight got in at 2am? You need to plan your route, dates and times. Bear in mind time differences, clock changes and stopovers.
Flight companies are good at informing you of local times of arrivals, so make sure you account for it all. Also, keep in mind key dates. Is it a public holiday when you arrive? Is there a major parade on? All these things can affect your Plan A, so do your research.
Most visas will require you have insurance, but it’s completely stupid to not get it anyway. Whether to cover your actual flight, through to medical cover when you’re away, you must have that security of being insured.
You can rack up serious medical bills in the unlikely event of needing to go to the hospital, so it’s sensible to be safe and sure.
I’ve heard of stories where people expect to rock up after a day’s worth of flying, walk into a hostel and get a bed. The reality is that these places are busy, they’re full and even if they’re not, they won’t have people checking in until gone 2pm. Because of this, these travelers end up wandering around a new city, getting lost, whilst jet-lagged.
Prepare your accommodation in advance. Booking a night won't be enough. Give yourself at least a few days, as if you like it, you can extend your stay. If not, it gives you time to look elsewhere.
To do all the amazing things each country has to offer, you'll have to be able to fund it. Work to your strengths, or work to the country. America offers loads of opportunities to work at summer camps, whereas New Zealand offers great chances to work ski seasons.
In every country, there are loads of different roles going, from office work to ranch work, so decide what you want to do and start looking for avenues into it.
9. Bank account & tax number
To get yourself a job abroad, you’ll have to ensure that you have a local bank account. These tend to be rather easy to set up, with some online registration needed before a local, in-country-in-bank appointment to open it. This does vary from country to country, so doing your research will get you ready.
Once you've done this, you can then look at getting your relevant tax number. It's called different things dependent on country, in the U.S it’s a Social Security number, New Zealand it’s an IRD number, whereas in the UK it’s your National Insurance number. This tends to be an in-country process, so again, make sure you do your research well in advance.
10. Contingency plans
You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to plan for things that may go wrong. In a technological world, most tickets and bookings you’ll keep on your phone. What happens if you’ve phone dies? Get stuff printed out.
What happens if you lose your wallet with your travel cash? Split your money up before travelling and keep some in different places. It’s a case of having backups, so you’re ready for all scenarios.
95% of the above can be done well before you even book your flight, let alone fly.
The funny thing is though, that most of it could also be considered ‘optional’, so it depends on who you are. A seasoned veteran of travelling may take more risks in ‘winging’ it, but this is from their previous experiences in moving abroad. I’d even take a guess that these experienced travellers enjoy their trips more because they’re prepared.
For those who are moving to another country alone for the first time, it pays to prepare. Spend that extra couple of weeks researching, Googling and planning. It’ll make the whole process a lot smoother. Breaking it down into manageable chunks will allow you to focus on the main part; which is enjoying a trip of a lifetime.
But preparation is just the first part of this journey and the first part of this 3 part series. Click through to read part 2, which is “Settling In”.
About the author
Mike is the Editor-at-Large at Smaller Earth, and the founder of The Lost Lot, a self-development platform helping young adults find direction when feeling lost in life.
He focuses on the bridge between travel and growth, highlighting how both can be a catalyst for positive change in your life.