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Why you'll say 'No' to living abroad

Imagine if someone offered you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move to the country of your choice, with an apartment, a salary, and moving expenses covered. All you have to do to begin your life abroad is agree to leave tomorrow. Could you do it? Better question: Would you do it? I’m going to speculate that the answer is: No.

Your excuse is not exceptional

Every year, when I visit my hometown for Christmas, I meet friends for coffee or drinks, many of whom have the same apartment and same jobs as they did when I left. Invariably, we have a conversation that goes something like this:

My friend: I want to move abroad so badly.

Me: You can! There’s this option, and that option, and this other option. Where do you want to go?

My friend: Well…actually I can’t because…

And then…the excuses begin.

When I told people I was moving abroad, the most common comment I heard was, 'I wish I could do that!' The truth is that practically anyone can - but probably won't.

Everyone has a reason to say, “No”. Whether it’s people, pets, or grand illusions about one day going back to school for a “useful” degree. What you have to ask yourself is whether the thing that is holding you back is:

  1. Actually holding you back, or just an excuse.
  2. Worth keeping you from your dreams.

One of my colleagues recently said something super relevant to this post:

“There are two times you can start doing something: now or never.”

When it comes to living abroad, I think this statement is extremely accurate. If you wait for that glass jar on your kitchen counter to spontaneously generate a passport and a plane ticket and nullify your long-term lease, you’re going to be waiting an infinitely long time.

Let’s consider some of the most popular arguments against moving tomorrow:

You don’t have a passport

More than 50% of Americans don’t have a valid passport. Don’t be one of this embarrassing percentage of people. You can apply for a passport right here, right now.

You have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/kids/etc.

This one is tricky, and it’s hard to provide any concrete advice. A practical approach might be taking your partner and kids on a holiday to the place you’d like to move. It all depends on the attitude of those around you. Who knows? You won’t if you don’t say something.

When I told people I was moving abroad, the most common comment I heard was, 'I wish I could do that!' The truth is that practically anyone can - but probably won't.

Besides, you don’t know who’s waiting for you on the other side of the world!

My personal experience dictates that two people with very different life goals, e.g. one wanting to travel and the other wanting to work a 9-5 at Umbrella Corp, just won’t work out anyways. And even if they do, do you want to live your life feeling like you’ve given up on a chance to see the world for someone else’s goals? That’s a genuinely tough question when you’re in this position (but easy when you’re not ;)).

You have a cat/dog/very needy parakeet

Pets are almost as hard as partners, but not a deal-breaker either. There are a growing number of services that will safely transport your pet for you, like the IPATA, the International Pet and Animal Transport Association Service and PetRelocation.

When I told people I was moving abroad, the most common comment I heard was, 'I wish I could do that!' The truth is that practically anyone can - but probably won't.

My advice would be to avoid getting a pet when you’re in your twenties, as it surely complicates things. But if you already have a pet, there is little reason not to bring your best friend with you. The one exception may be certain dog breeds that are banned in other countries, but who knows, you might be able to find a friendly vet who can give you juuuust the paperwork you need.

You don’t speak any foreign languages

The height of the language barrier varies greatly depending on your target country (and city). It is totally possible to find jobs where speaking English is an asset – you just need to look for them.

You don’t have skills

Not having valuable working skills is a problem no matter where you live. One solution would be to enroll in a foreign University – an increasing number of European universities are offering English-speaking programs, and the fees are often much lower in other countries than in the United States.

You have a lease…

Tell your landlord that you’ve got an opportunity abroad and already found a respectable person to take over for you.

…or you own your house.

Hand your house over to a management agency. You can hang on to your investment, make money from it every month, and use that to pay for rent in a new country! Win, win, win.

When I told people I was moving abroad, the most common comment I heard was, 'I wish I could do that!' The truth is that practically anyone can - but probably won't.

You’re set on a certain career that you can’t do anywhere else

Do some research on whether this career can be done abroad. I mean, how many jobs are really specific to your home country besides being a politician? People need vets and researchers and linguists and designers and electricians everywhere.

You have too much stuff

If you can, get rid of it. Most likely, you will never miss your complete collection of college textbooks, I promise. Sell what can be sold to fund your move, and give away or trash what you can’t make a profit from.

If not – store it. Depending on the stage of life you’re in, you can probably store your stuff for less money than your mobile phone plan.

How to say “Yes”

Especially your twenties are a good time to put yourself first, as you’re lacking all the responsibilities that typically come later in life: kids, pets, aging parents. If you don’t do it now, how can you expect your circumstances to change on their own? And will it really get easier?

Start making a list of all your objections, and be honest with yourself over whether it’s actually worth foregoing YOUR DREAM. Once you have this list, start actively eliminating every item on it. This is the key to saying, “Yes”!

When I told people I was moving abroad, the most common comment I heard was, 'I wish I could do that!' The truth is that practically anyone can - but probably won't.

What would you say? What is stopping you from creating a new life in a different country?

About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for nearly four years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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