Seven years ago I made one of the best decisions of my life: I left cold, expensive, miserable London for warm, cheap, welcoming Thailand.
I had a lot in my favour at the time. I was a single man with no dependents who owned property and ran a successful online business.
We are all different people at different stages of life. We earn and have access to differing amounts of money and we have different responsibilities towards our families which may or may not tie us to a location.
However, this opportunity may be open to more people these days.
People from western countries earn and save income in reserve currencies which can go further when spent in countries with a lower cost of living. The stress of the pandemic as well as growing global inequality will, in my view, contribute to ever increasing numbers of people actively choosing to live a new life abroad.
Hopefully this article will help you overcome the hurdles to achieve the life of your dreams.
We are social animals.
Of course, if you have a partner and kids then you’ll have to sort out schooling and medical care for all of them. There’s home schooling, international schools, as well as health insurance to navigate. Certainly, I meet every type of traveller on the road: young, old, singles, divorcees, couples, families, etc.
Maybe you have elderly parents? Or other relatives or close friends you like to keep in touch with? Can you convert these relationships from regular physical contact to less regular Skype or Zoom calls?
If you’re OK with that, would you still be OK if one of your parents, or anyone else, suddenly got ill? Are you able, financially or otherwise, to fly back quickly? I have heard many harrowing stories where this was not possible or when a sudden flight home didn’t arrive in time. I’m sad to say that I lost both of my parents while I was thousands of miles away. It’s not nice to think about but good to get mentally prepared for that, if you can.
Are you the sort of person who likes a certain amount of anonymity but also likes regular human inaction? If so, then you can achieve this while living abroad.
Whenever I have lived abroad, new friends magically come into my life. The moment you cross over to the other side, you give off “foreigner vibes” and you’ll attract other people giving off “foreigner vibes” (both foreign and local) into your life. Try it! It’s amazing!
Choosing your friends when travelling is even more important than choosing friends in your hometown. Make sure the 5 or so people you meet on a most regular basis share your positivity, values and outlook.
Obviously, the secret to living abroad successfully is being able to support yourself and your loved ones financially, and have something put away for emergencies.
Working remotely has been possible for a great number of people over the years and now the pandemic has shown everyone the good sense and, indeed, financial prudence of working from home (or co-working space).
We already have WiFi, 4G/5G, phones, video conferencing, cloud apps, etc. Everything, in fact, to make working from home (and, therefore, anywhere) a reality.
It’s now easier than ever to earn a professional New York salary in a place where your morning coffee is less than a dollar.
Another option is renting out your property, or living off the interest of your savings. Of course, you may think that this is the domain of the super rich, but … it isn’t.
Pro-tip to think about: budget for every eventuality. Can you live in a certain country comfortably whilst allowing for inflation, interest rate changes and foreign exchange changes? There are more variables you have to allow into your financial calculations when living overseas.
Money, debt and minimalism
What sort of people, or what sort of family, want to live and work abroad? People who have noticed that they’ve had enough of the life they’ve been leading.
Some people think there’s too much going on around them, too much noise, and too many distractions.
Minimalism is getting rid of the non-essential from our lives to concentrate on what really matters. What does matter? Is it really money and possessions? Or is it the people you love and a sense of purpose? Travelling and living abroad helps you identify what’s most important to you.
Following on from minimalism and the design to rid yourself of clutter is the necessity of ridding yourself of debt.
I appreciate some people are in debt with mortgages and student loans that were unavoidable, necessary life choices. But, financially speaking, I would say that personal debt should be avoided if at all possible. Getting in debt to own a car or a phone is inadvisable because these are depreciating assets, whereas debt to buy a house or to invest in your education is a better use of debt.
Of course, this is not financial advice. And I’m certainly not judging people who are in debt.
All financial decisions should be made against the background of the individual’s personal circumstances, yes. But, in general, if you have any debt, it’s a good thing to get rid of it, as soon as possible. Simplify everything.
Do you have a routine that benefits your physical health? If so, it’s essential that you carry that on when you move abroad.
If you play football with the same team every week, you must ask yourself if you can do without that? If you can, great. But you’ll have to find an alternative.
Of course, you can put messages out on social media to find people to play your sport of choice with, and that would be a great way to meet like-minded people, but that may not always be possible.
And maybe you’re moving to a country with a climate that precludes outside exercise for many months of the year as well as an absence of parks and sidewalks to exercise in. (Yes, I’m in Thailand: no parks, no sidewalks, lots of scary dogs and very hot).
Luckily, gyms and fitness centres are fairly ubiquitous all around the world.
Also, an ability to self-exercise at home with nothing but a yoga mat is an enviable habit if you can manage it.
Diet is just as important. Do you have specific dietary requirements? It’s essential that you research your ability to access certain foodstuffs you need in potential host countries.
All in all, your physical health is even more important to you when you move abroad. As is your mental health…
Mark Twain said that “travelling is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrowmindedness.”
Up until a few years ago, I would have agreed with him. However, it seems that, nowadays, our devices mean that our minds can be transported to the streets of Minneapolis when we’re halfway up a mountain in northern Thailand. And, call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s better to have your attention to your current physical area and the humans who are nearest to you physically.
I have found a media diet is just as essential as a food and drink diet. This is because I have seen many casualties of a poor social media diet. It seems to affect travellers more and more these days.
There are many other things you can do to improve your mental health, of course. And, actually, the first points (people, work, physical health) in this article are also essential to your mental wellbeing.
Solitude and self care
When living abroad, or maybe during many times in our lives, we may find ourselves on our own for periods of time. I have often found it necessary to spend extended periods on my own with little interaction with other humans. And I’ve seen the tremendous importance of being OK with being on my own.
I recently wrote an article on how I’m trying to rediscover my passion for business, and this article really contains a lot of the procedures and tools I use to keep me on an even keel.
You may not like being on your own but it can teach you a lot about how to live at other times in your life. For example, it teaches you to identify who it’s best to spend time with when you are interacting with others. Remember, the mood and wellness of the 5 people you spend the most time with, reflects on you. Actually solitude, perversely, helps your social life.
Here are some tools (I go into more detail in this article) that have helped me deal with time on my own:
- Meditating: hands down the most effective tool to deal with life in general
- Journalling: write down your thoughts on a daily basis
- Eating well, drinking well, and avoiding intoxicants
- Exercising regularly
- Reading books: this does not involve reading updates on your phone on any device, I’m talking about reading proper books
- Keeping a daily self-care check-in habit to monitor your progress with the above. Here is a video about how to do this.
People are going to say, “wherever you go, there you are”, meaning the act of travelling doesn’t immediately make you a better or a happier person. But I wouldn’t necessarily agree.
When a human suddenly moves into a completely different environment, they are more aware of their surroundings and are, as a result, much more “present” in their interactions. And being more “present” usually brings “success”.
The trick is to keep your curiosity and openness the same as it was during those first magical moments exploring your host country.
Everything starts with a single thought. And, if you want to live and work abroad, you most certainly can. Don’t ask yourself “can I do this?”, rather ask yourself “how can I do this?”
I hope my tips on how to successfully live abroad has helped someone. My advice would be pretty similar to my advice on living absolutely anywhere, in a way. But what do you think? Please answer in the comments or get in touch somehow.