Many people dream of moving abroad. For some, it’s the desire to hit the reset button and make a fresh start somewhere new. For others, it’s the chance to experience a different culture before returning home someday. A few have an inexplicable deep calling to a country. Several wish to leave the hardship of their homelands for better lives.

Yet despite these intentions, when it comes to taking the steps of leaving the day job, selling off possessions, packing the bags and booking the flight, many people become immobile, unable to make the leap of faith.

“I can’t just leave my job after the contract, I need to make sure I transition to the other one perfectly…”, “What will my friends think if I move to another country…?”, “There’s a lot of paperwork to do, maybe I’ll wait until next year, I’m sure things will free up then…” and so on go the internal monologues.

The human brain may be one of the wonders of the universe but unfortunately it’s also wondrous at coming up with doubts when its owner is on the verge of stepping outside of their comfort zone. When faced with the possibility of change, excitement can be met with fears and insecurities. Sometimes these worries are useful counterbalances but often they’re excessive and irrational. Let’s call these types of doubts ‘weasels’.

‘Weasels’ can prevent us from making proper assessments of our decisions. We need a realistic way to reflect on our concerns without letting our emotions blow them out of proportion. Chances are when you examine such ‘weasels’ for what they are, you’ll reach a conclusion to your dilemma (hint: you’ll likely realise moving abroad is very realistic after all).

Let’s address some of the main issues people have when deciding on moving abroad.

Weasel 1: It costs too much

List the average person’s weasels about anything and chances are you’ll find a financial one at or close to the top. There’s a persistent belief that for x, y and z in an overseas country, expensive amount e is required.

The reason many estimates of the costs of moving abroad are overstated is because they’re anecdotal accounts based off tourist prices from people who’ve holidayed there rather than local costs of living from residents. Tourists will always perceive a place to be more expensive than it actually is because financially-speaking, they only experience a country in this way. Staying in multi-star hotels, eating out at restaurants morning, noon and night, and forking out for attractions every day are not the same as paying rent in a suburban area, cooking at home, and going out occasionally like most residents do.

This isn’t to say that countries are never expensive if you earn in their currencies—some are a real squeeze on people’s budgets even with a decent job but it’s important to make proper assessments.

A useful resource for actual cost of living ranges in the world is Numbeo. This site has fairly accurate and up-to-date estimates of different types of costs that you’d experience living somewhere. A great feature is that it lets you compare costs of living between two countries to help you get a fair judgement of what your money translates to as a resident.

In actual fact, most people who move abroad need less money than they think.

When we talk about moving abroad, we’re talking about making the transition between countries and settling in. We’re not talking about having a luxury lifestyle for a year without an income. If your goal is for a comprehensive lifestyle with all the works right away, you’ll need a larger chunk. But if your goal is just to get started, you’ll need little more than a few months rent, money for residency paperwork, and some emergency cash. 

In most cases, once you start working, your purchasing power will be in line with or exceed the average consumer prices allowing you a stable lifestyle (although there are of course challenging exceptions). Your hand is even stronger if you’re using geoarbitrage to earn in a stronger currency.

A common obstacle that movers encounter when applying to live overseas is proof of a minimum amount of savings in their bank account. The idea is that by setting this minimum threshold level of cash, the governmental bodies that issue visas and residency permits ensure that only certain types of people are let in—those who have ‘proven’ that they can reliably get resources at home and are self-sufficient to work for more once they move without getting stranded.

In reality, the minimum thresholds aren’t reliable indicators of either of those traits and the amount can prevent highly-motivated and talented individuals from moving abroad and contributing to a country.

If your application process requires showing a minimum amount of savings and you think you’ll struggle to prove so, consider the following tip: ask trusted acquaintances to wire you the necessary money temporarily to meet the statement of proof. You can then return the money to them once the application has gone through.

A friend of mine did this by having his parents lend him the money needed to meet the threshold for his move to the Czech Republic before returning it after submitting the visa application. He’d already won the ultimate proof of resource security by obtaining a job before moving but due to the strict requirements of the visa process, he wouldn’t have been allowed to emigrate if he hadn’t used this tactic to support his application.

It’s worth stating that while you don’t always need to secure a job before moving abroad (e.g. working holiday visas), if you haven’t confirmed a position pre-departure, the minimum threshold is a useful benchmark to see what amount of cash acts as a safe nest egg for a few months while you settle in and search for work.

I’ve met several people who simply turned up to a country as a tourist without work and almost everyone managed to transition to a work visa after finding positions while in the country. Nothing beats showing future employers your face-to-face potential and networking in-person. These individuals took action instead of hoping the perfect preparation back home would fall in their lap and transformed their lives as a result. If financial concerns are making you sit on the fence about packing up and moving, let these people inspire you.

Weasel 2: It won’t work out/I won’t fit in

Out of all the doubts that arise, the fear that a move to another country won’t work is the deepest.

Compared to worries about finances, visas, jobs and other common factors, the ‘what if?’ anxieties of never settling in or succeeding with a lifestyle abroad are even more uncertain because it’s much harder to determine what signifies settling in or succeeding in a completely different place. Achieving these factors isn’t just a checkbox exercise like obtaining finances is, there’s a personal subjectivity in deciding whether you like somewhere or not.

The truth is that no-one really knows whether they’ll definitely fit in to a new country. Each person’s value system, personality, tastes and contexts differs and changes how they’ll experience life abroad.

But if moving abroad isn’t only a pipe dream that’s flashed by one day and instead is something that you’re pondering again and again, it’s probably a signal from within that you should favour exploration.

The wanderlust of your conscience is asking the question. As a wise person once said, ‘to ask the question is to answer it’. If moving abroad is something you’re often contemplating then you’ve likely already answered the question of whether you should go.

To not go is to stay in the same situation where you are. That’s fine for some but if you sense your situation isn’t going to get any better then the odds of moving abroad are in your favour. That move could provide the change you’ve always dreamed of. But at the very least it’ll prevent you from the lifelong regret of never having tried in the first place which is a worser emotional state than life abroad not working out can put you in.

The previous point about odds is no overstatement—the probability that things will work out for you moving abroad is on your side. Understand that most people who have ever moved abroad have settled or lived long enough in a country to have had meaningful experiences before returning to their homeland.

People often underweight their adaptability to different cultures and overweight their reactions to culture shock. In a future post, I’ll cover the phenomenon of culture shock in great detail and how to overcome it but for now understand that it’s almost always temporary and will dissipate eventually. A mover shouldn’t classify their transition abroad as not having worked out based on weeks or even months of experiencing culture shock.

Remember, if things don’t work out overseas, you can always return to your home state but you can never return from the state of deep regret.

Weasel 3: I can wait until another time

Something about moving to another country leads to a higher number of deferrers than other major life decisions. Perhaps it’s because unlike people, countries never move creating a false perception of eternity. Or maybe it’s because people believe the stars need to align in two different places (their current location and the target destination) compared to other decisions that have a single location. 

In any case, it’s crucial to understand that this type of waiting is flawed. Waiting is qualitatively different from patience—the former is procrastination resulting from an inability to confront important decisions.

As I wrote in my article on vagabonding and longer-term travel: “If you desire to travel but push it back to an indefinite ‘someday’, you’re demoting freedom and exploration to insignificance and that day will likely never arrive.” The same applies to moving abroad.

I lived in Japan for almost two and a half years until 2018 and I got to have a complete experience there with no macroeconomic obstacles. Fast forward to 2020 and beyond and the same cannot be said for anyone who’s migrated there since. A pandemic swept through the world making travel and migration all but impossible for many months and years. Some countries like Japan are still operating with caution for non-residents. It’s safe to say that nobody making a move there in the last couple of years or so is having the complete experience and lifestyle that those who lived there pre-2020 had.

Like Japan, there are many countries who have a restrictive approach to immigration or tourism and there are thousands of cases of people who gave up on moving abroad to these countries due to the prolonged delay of entry. This resignation feels all the more worse for those who could have moved before the pandemic started but hesitated believing they could wait.

The pandemic is an awful occurrence but it has its lessons and one of them is ‘Memento mori’, remembering that we will all die someday and that time is precious.

Life is too non-linear to predict that what’s the case today will remain in place in even the near future. Sure, there probably won’t be another pandemic anytime soon. But a whole host of factors in your life could change and sometimes all it takes is one excuse to veer you off course.

The author Chris Guillebeau states that “The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.” Don’t let this very day be the first part of that quote next year. If moving abroad is calling out to you, take the next action towards that move TODAY, whatever that action is.

Weasel 4: Life admin/It’s too difficult

The fourth and final doubt lies in the perceived difficulty of moving abroad—that the practicalities of moving are challenging and the tasks to carry out are formidable.

As with any new change, the start is often the busiest. That doesn’t mean we should assume this period represents the whole process. When you move towards something transformative, the change feels like an ordeal as you’re going from stasis to reorientation. The first changes can feel the most sudden. 

Think of it as moving between two mountains. The one you’re on is your current place of living and the one in the distance is the country you want to move to. The only way to get to it is by going downhill on the mountain you’re on first before you can climb uphill to reach your dream destination.

That initial downhill then uphill move represents the ordeal of the tasks you have to do to complete the transition abroad. It’s a hassle and you wish you could teleport over into a smooth life at once but it doesn’t work that way. Reaching new peaks requires a degree of sacrifice.

Short-term life admin should never be a reason you give up on a dream, no matter how arduous it is.

As with any admin, good process management will help ease the completion. We use good productivity methods in our careers but often forget that they have use outside of work too. Breaking up the tasks you have to do into separate actions and documenting them on a checklist or chart will give you a sense of control.

Chipping away at each task will build momentum and before you know it, you’ll be on that plane.

Moving Abroad Life Admin


Moving abroad can be the catalyst for a beneficial lifestyle transformation. But the immediate change it brings when stepping off the flight can scare off many from making the transition—a fear that often comes from an irrational source. This post looked at dealing with such fears by framing the correct mindset so we can consider any doubts from a poised position.

When we move towards transformation, nagging doubts (weasels) often arise. In many instances these weasels prevent us from taking action that would otherwise make us happier in the long run.

When it comes to moving abroad, typical doubts include concerns about costs, not fitting into a new lifestyle, believing we can postpone a move and the life admin involved. Our emotions can aggrandise these concerns making them more overblown than they often are.

Most people need less money than they believe to move abroad, especially if they have a job lined up. Be careful in drawing estimated costs based on information that’s directed at tourists; residential costs for working locals are lower. Be sure to have a decent nest egg saved before moving abroad but don’t delay a move thinking you need to make it as large as possible. With such an attitude, it’ll never be large enough and you won’t end up moving abroad.

Understand it’s better to take a chance of seeing whether a new lifestyle works for you than to never try and live with potential regret. Every human who’s ever lived was the product of ancestors who at some point explored and moved to new places aspiring for a better life. The probability that life abroad will work out is in your favour as it was for your ancestors.

Time waits for no one. The 2020 pandemic is an example of how life can stall, delaying many from following through on their dreams. Don’t wait for the stars to align before moving abroad if this is what you desire. Something else may come up if you postpone it further and you may never transition.

Lastly, don’t let the short-term aggravation of the life admin included in moving abroad put you off. The reorientation involves a temporary busyness before you can reach the summit of a new life. Use productivity techniques to gain control over the tasks and you’ll complete them faster than you think.

Abroad Lifestyles will offer the details and workings to succeeding in designing your ultimate lifestyle overseas. Begin by having the right mindset to make that move by overcoming the weasels you have that prevent you from making a personal transformation in a foreign country.

As the author Garrison Keillor states: “Leaving home is a kind of forgiveness, and when you get among strangers, you’re amazed at how decent they seem. Nobody smirks at you or gossips about you, nobody resents your successes or relishes your defeats. You get to start over, a sort of redemption.”