I remember the exact moment I started seriously considering moving myself and my family abroad.
It was back in late 2016, and we were living in NJ at the time. Things politically in the US had just gotten, well…a little scary if I’m being honest with you!
My hubby (boyfriend at the time) and I started casually discussing getting the hell outta Dodge so to speak, and were brainstorming a few ideas/locations.
One of our first thoughts was to move to Canada since I’m Canadian, which is still a possibility in the future, but the paperwork for him to get a working visa is pretty extensive and would have taken quite a while. So we decided to think about somewhere more temporary, perhaps a five year plan but in another country and then we’d have the dual benefit of a great adventure, but also be living outside of the US while we worked on paperwork for Canada.
After some more discussion, we decided that Central America could work well, and so I did an absolute boatload of online research on pretty much every country in the region. We started looked much more extensively into Belize, Panama and Costa Rica, after ruling out the others for various reasons, and ultimately decided on Costa Rica.
Have you been considering a move like this? Perhaps becoming a digital nomad and visiting more than one place, or maybe you’re thinking of making a slightly more permanent move to another country. Drawing upon my personal experience, there are several major questions you should ask yourself before you start packing you and your family’s entire lives up, and making the big move.
What’s Behind the Desire to Move?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but taking a few days or weeks (or even longer) to think this over, as well as to thoroughly discuss the reasons why you want to make the move with your partner or family, is definitely the best idea.
It’s easy to look at it all through rose colored glasses and see all the great adventurous aspects of it, without considering the ramifications of all you might be leaving behind.
Of course, nothing is ever set in stone, and there will always be the opportunity to change your minds and move back, but it may not necessarily be easy or quick to do so once you’ve made the move.
Try to think very carefully about your reasons for moving to determine if everything you’ll be leaving behind is worth what you’re moving towards.
Where Will You Live?
This is absolutely one of the most important questions to ask yourself besides financial stability. What country you decide to move to, and further to that, what region or town within the country you decide on may ultimately decide whether or not the move will be successful, so take plenty of time in researching options.
We looked at several countries in the Central American region as possibilites, because of:
The prices, lengths and frequency of direct flights to the region
The average cost of living being around the same or slightly less than the U.S.
The availability of good international schools for my boys
The availability of reliable internet service since I work remotely.
Our eventual decision to move to Costa Rica was based on my research and the answers I found to these questions in particular. That and the fact that the country looks like this:
How Will You Earn a Living?
We knew going into this venture that we would be moving somewhere that we would not legally be allowed to work locally, as is true for many countries, but some of you may be considering moving to a country where you are legally allowed to work, ie you’re eligible for a work visa per the country’s laws or have family or a company sponsoring you etc. so researching options before you leave is a must.
Since I already had a job that was 100% online, working as a voice over artist, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to simply move my entire business to a new country, VO equipment and all, but for some it may be far more complicated, and thus merits careful consideration. If you’re considering the possibility of working 100% remotely, this guy has a great article about getting started.
If you truly want to make this happen, and will be working remotely, make sure that the only thing that will change for you is your geographic location. Check on the availability of internet/wifi and any other resources you regularly use. If you know you can work pretty much anywhere as long as you have a laptop and good internet, your options open up a great deal!
Regardless of your job situation you’ll need to make sure you have enough funds to get started. There were a million and one little things that came up for us, but some of the bigger ones moving here were: extra baggage fees since we brought more than our allowed baggage amount with us, rental deposit and utility fees on top of rent, renting a car for the first month until we could buy a used one locally, school fees/uniform/supplies.
It’s essential to think through how much you’ll need and make up a monthly budget based on what your monthly expenses will be, and determine if what you’re bringing in will cover it. If you work as a freelancer like I do, factor in the possibility of having a dip in incoming work or even slower months and plan for that possibility. I had an unexpectedly slow couple of months after we first moved and it ate into our cushion in a way we hadn’t planned for, which led to some challenges later on.
If you’re moving somewhere that it’s a possibility to find a job after you land, make sure you research the job market to ensure your skills are essential. You’ll also need to obtain the necessary paperwork which can take a lot longer than expected, so make sure you get a massive head start at the very least, or can have it all done before you even land.
What kind of visa or work permits are necessary?
While you’re planning your overseas move, make sure you find out how long it will take to get your visa or other needed documentation in place before you leave. The first step of course, is finding out exactly what’s required for you to live and work in your destination country.
In the case of my family’s move to Costa Rica, it’s relatively easy to be a perpetual tourist here, leaving the country every 90 days and coming right back in. I can easily prove that I work 100% online, and we also own a small business here, (a food truck) which employs a Costa Rican. We have also always been very careful with our 90 day limits and not overstaying our visas, so we’ve never had any problems with immigration.
What’s the cost of living like?
This is definitely an important aspect to consider, and there are plenty of blogs and resources for most countries that you might be thinking about where you can get a good idea of daily life as an expat and how much your cost of living might be. Make sure whatever resource you reference is recent (within the last year or two) so that you know their figures are still relevant. I’ll be writing another post in the near future breaking down what the cost of living us for our family here in Costa Rica, but overall, it’s around the same as the US, with some things being cheaper, (like cell service, coffee, meat and fruit) and other things being much more expensive (like cheese and gasoline!!)
Where will your kids go to school?
This was a major consideration for us, and it was one of the main things I researched when considering various options for where we would eventually move to. There are myriad international schools throughout the Central American region, but they vary greatly in both price and educational philosophy, so it’s important to do your research into all options, and factor in the cost when figuring out your budget.
Will You Have Healthcare Coverage?
This is also a very important factor to consider, especially if you have a family! If you move somewhere with your company or with certain types of visas, you may be covered straight away either under your company’s plan or under the national health care system, but this is not always the case. Do your research! Costa Rica has a socialized health care system that covers you if you have any of the types of resident visas that are available, but not if you’re a tourist, so getting additional insurance here was a necessity for me and my family. We found a great insurance broker that works here in Tamarindo, and for what we have for whole family coverage, it’s far, far cheaper than what it would have cost us in the US for the same.
Can you afford the cost to make the move?
In a nutshell…moving abroad ain’t cheap!!
If you’re thinking about moving to another country, you may need to factor in a whole lot of additional costs that you may not have considered such as shipping a car, renting storage space in your home country, or moving your stuff via plane or ship. For us, we tried to simplify this as much as possible. We got rid of the vast majority of our stuff, sold our car, and came having secured a furnished rental so that we wouldn’t have to deal with moving furniture and personal possessions down here, and as a result, we managed to make the move with just 2 huge duffel bags each, 2 extra bags total, (and a cat and a dog) to our names.
What’s your long term plan?
This is also an important question to consider. Are you thinking this move will be permanent or semi-permanent, or are you prepared to pay all the costs of moving if you only stay a short time? You don’t necessarily have to have an answer when you move, but it’s something which should at least be discussed before you make your final decision.
All of these questions are important, but just as important, is the decision to make it happen if you truly want it! Once you make that decision and start working towards it, you’ll find that the energy you direct towards it will allow things to manifest to make your dream turn into a reality.
More on that in future posts!
So how about you? Have you been toying with the idea of making a big move, maybe even one to another country?
Let me know in the comments below!