When I was in my mid-30s, it suddenly dawned on me I was bored with my life. I lived in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from the beach. I rented a fabulous apartment, drove a nice car, had a great job and loved my boss. But, even with all these things, something was missing. Adventure.
So, after a short holiday to Thailand, I came back to the US, gave my boss 6 months notice, started taking Thai lessons at a local Thai temple and began to plan my move abroad. I intended to work in Thailand for a year, but 14 years later, I’m still here.
For those of you who just want to do something different, but don’t envisage living in Thailand or any other foreign country for the rest of your life, I recommend a year working abroad as one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.
Scared? Don’t be. Here’s how I did it and 10 quick steps so you can do it too.
1. Decide What Country You Want To Live In and Look For a Job. First of all, decide which country interests you, do some research to see if it’s possible to live there for at least a year, check on cost of living, average cost of an apartment, what a typical job would pay etc. and then figure out what kind of job you can do.
I chose Thailand and initially went into teaching English, which is a great profession for many countries. You can however, depending on the country and work visas required, work in a restaurant or a bar, work for a corporation overseas, do travel writing, work in a ski resort, or any number of other interesting jobs.
Make sure, though, that you double check on work visas and the ease or difficulty of acquiring them before you make your final decision.
Also, don’t forget, if you don’t need the money, there are tons of volunteer jobs or internships available, some of which even pay small stipends for living costs. Volunteer jobs and internships overseas are amazingly cool things to do because you really get to see something your average traveler or tourist would not normally see.
Many volunteer jobs are also easier to get working visas for than for paid working positions.
2. Get Your Plane Ticket Organized. Once you’ve decided where you’re going and when, book a plane ticket. Round-trip is usually best because if you have a crisis or run out of money, you always have a way to get home.
3. Research and Book Accommodation. Once you’ve decided which country you’re going to, start looking online or in guide books, magazines or at the library, for accommodation options. There are many websites around that can give you up to date information about great apartments, hotels, guest houses, dormitories etc.
There’s a price range for everybody and you can often book everything online so you know you have somewhere to stay before you even get there.
4. Save Money. Make sure you have enough time before you leave to save the money you will need for your year abroad. Don’t forget, you will probably need enough money to last you a couple of months until your first paycheck comes in.
You will also need money to set yourself up with basic necessities when you get there, and emergency money in case you get sick, have an accident, or have anything else drastic happen to you.
5. Buy What You Need To Take With You. Most countries nowadays will have everything you’re used to buying in the US but to be on the safe side, make sure you buy basic toiletries and other necessities to take with you.
Also, if you have medical needs, get at least 6 months medication to take and then find out what your options are for medical care in the country you’re going to.
6. Get a Basic Wardrobe. Don’t forget, if you’re going to be interviewing for a job when you get to your new country, you will need a couple of interview outfits. They may well be cheaper where you are going, but it’s usually recommended to have at least two outfits so you’re all set for any interview that may come up early in your first few days.
Related: What type of dress is appropriate for female teachers in Thailand?
7. Health Insurance. Check out options for health insurance in your new country. Often you can get full health insurance when you arrive, or it may be offered you in your job. But, make sure you at least have catastrophic care before you leave, with the provision in the policy that will get you home in case you have a serious medical event happen
8. Organize Someone to Take Care of Your Home. If you have an apartment or a house you are not planning on selling or giving up, make sure you have somebody reliable to take care of it while you’re gone. If you do decide to sell it or let it go, then make plans for a good storage facility that can take care of the stuff you really must keep while you’re away.
9. Wrap Up Loose Ends At Your Job. A couple of weeks before you leave, make sure you wrap up everything at your current job. Remember, you may require a reference from your employer, plus you may end up needing the job back when you come back home. Plus, it’s always responsible to leave everything organized for whoever takes over the job after you leave.
10.Say Goodbye To Family and Friends. Make sure you call or visit family and friends before you leave. It’s not like you’re going to be completely out of touch – with internet and telephones you’ll probably be in daily touch with many people, and some will probably even come and visit you while you’re away – but it’s still nice to say goodbye properly.
Finally – pack your stuff, get to the airport, get on the plane and LEAVE. Take advantage of every interesting opportunity while you’re away, meet new people, have fun adventures, eat a lot, take lots of photos, learn to speak a new language and most importantly – have fun!
After a year, you’ll either come back refreshed, feeling more confident and happier that you did something different or, like me, the year will come and go and several years later, you’ll still be abroad having more and more adventures.
For more information and cool job opportunities look at Escape Artist.