Hello, friends. So you’re thinking about moving overseas?
I’m glad to hear it. And I hope I can help make your planet bigger. My goal here is to share with you as many ideas as I can to get you living as an expat.
That’s why you’ll find on this first post my 10 top ways for moving yourself abroad—and maybe staying there.
So let’s get started. I hope you find at least one tip that excites you.
Tip 1. Study abroad
Now maybe you’re a younger person (I’m going to work up in years on this post). But whatever your age, studying overseas is not like studying in the USA. Overseas, you’ll meet people who will be more different than you.
If that’s not reason enough, did you know that tuition for universities in Europe can be as low as 300 Euro a semester? That’s $323. Or free? No, that is not a typo. Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, Slovenia, and Greece are among the countries offering tuition-free studies at public universities.
But don’t take my word for it. In this clip from Michael Moore’s 2016 movie, Where to Invade Next, these Slovenian students are laughing at the word ‘debt.’
I couldn’t find a clip for what follows: an American student saying that 90% of her classes are taught in English—which you’ll find in many of the smaller EU countries.
It also helps that in most countries—EU or not—you can work on a student visa. Which can lead to international jobs after graduation.
Tip 2. Find an opportunity in which your room and board is paid for.
If you have a skill or two, or are willing to learn, there are many ways to have part of your trip paid for. Here are a few that might interest you.
Work as an au pair. If you’re 30 or younger—guys can do this too—working as an au pair means you get housed, fed, paid (rates vary), for living with a family and taking care of their kids part-time. Ashley Abroad has great advice about all aspects of working as an au pair. The best site for finding your job, that she and others recommend, is AuPairWorld.
Go on a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand. Again, you’ll need to be 30 or under, and like ‘au pair’, you can legally stay for an entire year in Australia or New Zealand. Doing what? you ask. Well, working on a winery, taking hospitality work, bartending, or even doing a corporate gig in Melbourne or Wellington.
For U.S. passport holders, check Australia work and holiday visa and the New Zealand working holiday site for details. Those are the links for Americans because, sorry, we can’t stay for a second year on this visa.
(Full disclosure: this is a tip I gleaned from Adventuresome Kate’s travel blog. Thank you, Kate!)
Workaway. Want to have your way paid at hostels in Austria, Scotland, Turkey, Guatemala? Work on ecological farms in Sweden, Italy, India or Japan? Or crew on a sailboat off the coast of Norway or in the Bahamas? Registering on the Workaway site allows you to search over 27,000 hosts in 155 countries.
Generally, in exchange for about 5 hours of work a day, you’ll be provided with accommodation and meals. Some hosts may offer pay. NB: older workawayers with skills are in demand.
Ditto for WWOOF. If you take your food seriously, or want to see what happens when you do, you might want to check out World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. From their site: “Want to live and learn on organic farms worldwide? … Join us, show your support for the organic movement and start learning (or sharing) ways of living a more sustainable life.”
Peace Corps. Lastly in this living-expenses-paid category, the Peace Corps is still very much active, currently in over 60 countries. You can make a difference to a community, and depending on your course of studies, get help paying for grad school in the U.S.
What’s new is a shorter program: Peace Corps Response. Professionals in the fields of healthcare, education, tech, or resource management can be considered for 3 to 12 month assignments. BTW, you get an end-of-service bonus after both the regular and short assignments.
Tip 3. Teach English Overseas.
What I started doing 22 years ago—and what a great way to meet people in places you might not have even seen otherwise. Please look at my post, about finding a job teaching English overseas, for suggestions on how to do this.
You may also want to browse Dave’s ESL Cafe, the largest teaching English job-board site in the world.
My other main tip is earning your English-teacher training certificate before looking for a job. And why not do it in a country where you might want to work? International House, a British company with language schools on several continents, also offers the certificate. After the training, they also offer jobs to people. (That’s happened to me in their Cairo school.)
Tip 4. Find a job in your field.
Or learn how to find jobs in new fields.
First, I have a number of friends who work in the area of humanitarian aid, and I myself have made two trips to Afghanistan by volunteering for an NGO. Reliefweb and DevNetJobs have extensive lists of both volunteering opportunities and jobs in this field. Trust.org is another site that will keep you up-to-date on projects around the world, as well as providing other services.
Warning: This is not an easy sector to get into. I can’t tell you how many people I met in my travels who were gradually building up their creds by alternating grad school with volunteer work in the field. That’s what this Forbes article suggests, along with other ideas.
Or maybe you already have marketable skills. If they’re in tech, finance, management, engineering, construction or healthcare, they may be worth more overseas. The Gulf States, in particular, have come to depend on skilled expats to assist in and manage all sorts of projects. For an overview, the best single resource I found is T. Scott Shorey’s ebook: Get Rich in America by Leaving It: Or How to Become an Expat.
If you do find a job in the Middle East, you’ll be working side-by-side with laborers from other Arab and Asian countries—who, Shorey says, come nowhere near getting the compensation and respect that Western expats do. (For a piece I published about how these people are trafficked in Saudi Arabia, click here.)
Tip 5. Become an entrepreneur.
I first heard of the EU entrepreneur’s visa from my friend Allison of Paris Unraveled.com. In France, it’s kind of complicated …
Back in Saudi, where I was working at the time, I came across a New York Times piece about a Silicon Valley tech engineer who set up a business in Spain, a country where it appears a little easier to do this.
Basically, in an effort to climb out of the 2008 recession, the EU has loosened its restrictions about who they will let in to start companies or to work as a freelancer. (The EU has also started offering a Blue Card Visa residence permit, which is not freelancing but lets employers find skilled professionals. To post your CV, click here.)
In fact, this visa—whether it’s called entrepreneur, start-up, or business—is available in countries all over the world. And if you’re interested in going this route, the cost may not be prohibitive. Some countries might not even require an investment, only proof that you can support yourself for a while. You’ll have to check each country’s consulate website for details.
To give you more of idea, though, this Migreat post has start-up costs for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Chile and more.
Tip 6. Seek Asylum.
Okay, here’s a big one, though to be honest, I could not find documentation for how well it works. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
I did find, though, that the number of people seeking asylum in Canada and Europe has surged in the last few years, due to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Recommended viewing is Darnell Walker’s doc, Seeking Asylum, in which he explores seeking refuge on a trip to four European countries. A trip that, as it happened, coincided with the murder of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police officers on April 12, 2015. Walker himself is unresolved. As one of his traveling companions puts it, “I don’t know if leaving means defeat.”
If you’re asking yourself the same, you may want to read Reuben Daniels Jr.’s book: How to Be Black and Live in Spain. (Spain again? Those folks must be doing something right.)
Born and raised in Detroit but now living in Catalonia, Daniels writes, “I know there is no place in the USA to escape from being Black.” He walks you through everything you’ll need to know about moving to Spain, including this: “Can Blacks REALLY apply for asylum in Europe? Hell yeah.”
He tells you how.
Tip 7. Citizenship through Ancestry.
Here’s an idea: escape nationalism in the U.S. by going back to your ancestral homeland.
Seriously, if you have relatives from Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Germany, Spain (including Sephardic Jewish ancestry going back as far as the Inquisition), Greece, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Cyprus or Malta, this Huffington Post article is a good place to start.
BTW, I hate the idea of calling anyone illegal. How can you be an illegal human being? You may be a human without certain pieces of paper…
On the left is a photo from GG Historical Archives.
I wondered if this boy became my Lithuanian great-grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of twelve—by himself we think.
Tip 8. Live someplace cheap or retire there.
In my random googling, I came across this question: “Can I collect my disability check overseas?”
That just about broke my heart. Imagine being unable to work and not able to get through the month on your check? But the answer is, yes. You can have all social security benefits sent or wired into your foreign bank account. (Except for a few countries, like North Korea.)
Fortunately, this category of living outside the U.S. on $1500 a month or less, has tons of resources. To get you started, Tim Leffel’s Cheapest Destinations Blog, mentions these three regions:
Latin America: especially Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.
Europe: Really! Several Eastern European countries, and parts of rural Portugal and France make the $1500 or less list.
Asia: Pockets of Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam are even more affordable, as low as $800 a month.
As well, here are two books (also available as e-books) that are about as close as you can get to one-stop shops:
Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America was updated in 2012, and at 450+ pages, includes per country analyses of cost of living, visas, residency requirements, among other tips. (You do have to double-check the visa info. Some of that has changed since 2012.)
The International Living Guide to Retiring Overseas on a Budget: How to Live Well on $25,000 a Year. Another good resource. And to help you make a decision, authors Haskins and Prescher ask you to prioritize your needs, i.e. affordability, climate, activities, healthcare, if it’s easy to visit family at home, among other issues.
Tip 9. Just travel.
Okay, maybe none of the above works for you. You don’t where to go, you don’t want to commit.
No matter. Save up your money. Or do your digital nomad thing. Just leave.
Why? Well, it seems to me that in every place I lived (outside of the U.S.), the average person I met, if his or her basic needs were satisfied, valued family, community, and other people more than we do.
Is that too harsh? Could be. But for myself, it’s one of the reasons I kept going overseas. To see how people could make each other feel necessary.
Tip 10. Or do the same at home.
Here’s the link to indivisible.
I started this site to create a clearing house of ideas, suggestions, and yes, disagreements.
So shoot me any of the above.
Or, if you’re already an expat, please see my contact page. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Thanks for reading!