A Rough Guide to Moving Abroad

Believe it or not, the thought of moving abroad is about as appealing to me as descending straight to hell. It is a ball-ache, a nightmare, and a seemingly impossible task that NEVER gets any easier.

While the modern media, travel bloggers and infamous YouTubers glamorize the concept of travelling and living overseas, making it look effortless, cool and breezy, this is not always reality. But fear not. If you can navigate the impossible world of filing your own tax return then I’m sure you can conquer this too. Pinky Swear.

But for the unbelievers out there that need a little hand holding, let me guide you through this. Lord knows I do it often enough [rant from last time around] though hopefully after my return to NZ I will stay put for a while. The rewards far outweigh the trauma of moving and in retrospect – it’s TOTALLY glamorous haha.

Step 1: Apply for the Appropriate Visas.

Learn from my mistakes please. This one time I’d booked my flights, paid my transfers, arranged a job and found a place to live – only to get declined a visa with the rights to work [in Japan]. It was soul destroying.

So let your very first step be navigating the visa application process. For kiwis moving to the UK – see here. For kiwis moving to North America – see here. For all other nationalities you can get more info at your local Embassy or visit the High Commissions of the countries you intend to visit.

Also note that for some countries, if you’re going without the appropriate visa in your hands before leaving (ie: picking it up in destination) then you must have a return flight booked or they won’t let you on the plane!

Step 2: Buy the Ticket

Buying the airfare suddenly makes y our decision real. It’s terrifying and exciting – but be prepared to see a large chunk of your savings disappear. I use sites such as skyscanner.com to compare airlines and find the cheapest and most direct route.

Step 3: Save Some Cash Monaaay

Stop buying Starbucks, stop indulging your shoe addiction and start saving. By cutting a few luxury items out of your life it’s easy to start seeing the bank account swell. For me – I was saving $25 a week just by not drinking coffee. In 12 months that would cover an airfare. Work out what your commitments are and stick to them.

Remember to budget extra for things such as shipping, excess baggage, paying off phone contracts and bills before you leave etc. Sometimes these can catch you out.

Step 4: Donate or Dump

Before you even begin the packing process, work out what you don’t need. What can you sell? Do you really need to put those things in storage? It all depends on how long you are travelling for – but if you’re anything like me you always end up packing FAR more than you need. In the words of my mother “be ruthless”.

If you’ve worn it in the last 2 months. Keep

If you haven’t worn it this year. Cull

But don’t be lazy and just throw everything in a big garbage bag. For the best (but non-essential items) like sleeping bags, boots, coats, sporting goods – why not sell them. Get on eBay, TradeMe, GumTree or your local equivalent and make a few extra bucks for your trip.

For the rest, donate to a local charity shop or give stuff to your buddies. All parties involved will be better off for it 🙂

Step 5: Life Admin

The lead up to getting on that plane is a never ending whirlwind of life admin and socializing. But doing them before you leave is far easier than trying to make phone calls from aboard in a different time zone once you’ve touched down in destination.

So get your affairs in order pronto:

Itinerary Sharing – Send your parents or a trusted friend a copy of your itinerary, passport, and accommodation details. If there was an emergency they’d like to know where to contact you.

Insurance – Essential. Get travel insurance and read the policy. Don’t scrimp. Become familiar with what your policy does and does not cover, so you can weigh up all risks accordingly.

Bank Accounts – Pay any debts, cancel any unnecessary credit cards, and make sure the cards you take abroad are not due to expire. Apply for online bank statements.

Doctor – Often when registering for a new medical center they require contact details and the address of your old practice. Worth keeping these on hand, as well as getting any repeat prescriptions well in advance.

Competency Programmes – if you’re a professional with a continuing competency programme at work, let your professional board know you’re taking a break. Otherwise you might get selected for audit, which could be an interesting experience if all your activities in recent months have been drinking and sightseeing!

Tax returns – if you’re moving overseas before the end of the financial year you may be entitled to a tax return. Easier to organize all the documents for this before you jet off overseas. Make sure you have all your payslips and a summary of earnings.

Post – Redirect your post so that it’s arriving with someone trusted, and not a house you’ve moved out of.

Driver’s License – Check expiry.

Mobile Phone – Cancel your contract or at a minimum – turn off international roaming. That sh£$% costs a FORTUNE!

Personal documents

Photograph your travel documents and important cards/ID is essential and will make your life SO much easier. Send copies to a parent or sibling and keep a copy saved on Dropbox in case you lose them abroad.

Travel Docs
Don’t forget to pack the following – and have them in your HAND LUGGAGE.

  • Flight confirmation
  • Accommodation confirmation
  • Travel insurance policy information
  • Visa information
  • And in some scenarios – proof of funds to support yourself.

Step 6: NOW you can pack

Before you start, familiarize yourself with the airline baggage limits. Nothing sucks more than paying $250 at the airport to check-in your extra bag (sorry mum). I’m still not good at this task and it always get stressful for all parties involved.

Key tip – Don’t get sentimental. You’re moving abroad for a while, not leaving forever. That dress you brought for a wedding 3 years ago, and looks cute but you never wear it? LEAVE IT BEHIND. You can buy everything you need there. Don’t panic.

From experience – once you arrive you’ll realise how much crap you packed that is totally irrelevant.

Step 7: YEEEHAAAA Time to Sit Back, Relax, and Go Travelling

You’re packed, visa and passport in hand, ticket booked and it’s time to go. Congratulations. This will be overwhelming and incredibly exciting. No doubt your tear-ducts will take a work out over the last 24 hours.

But it’s worth it, I promise.

Watercolour world map

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