So You Want to Move Abroad: Our Best Tips & Advice

From time to time, we get emails from readers with questions about itineraries, destinations, and general travel inquiries. We are always happy to respond to each email individually and have never considered sharing our advice more publicly. Until now…

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We don’t know if it’s the time of the year that’s making so many of you reflect on your life or if it’s just a coincidence, but over the last few weeks we’ve had numerous conversations with friends and readers on the topic of Moving Abroad.

So we thought it was time to address the question head on!

I Want to Move Abroad! Do You Have Any Tips?

“…I love what I do, but sick of current workplace and want to pack it in to go work and travel the UK. Any tips? My main issue is finding new job, somewhere to live and not sure have enough $ to do it.” – Kaitlyn

Dear Kaitlyn and the readers of Drink Tea & Travel,

We know exactly how you feel. I (Oksana) was in your shoes 4 years ago when I was still living in Canada. I really liked my job, but I wanted to explore the world beyond Canada and I knew that I had to do it in my 20’s.  So I quit my job, packed my bags, and bought a one-way ticket to London…

Ok no, it wasn’t quite that easy and simple. I had a dream: I wanted to live in Europe, but I had no idea where to start and how to make that dream a reality. It was terrifying to even think about leaving everything behind. But what scared me more was the idea of spending the rest of my 20’s DREAMING and not DOING. I didn’t want that! I knew that moving abroad was going to be a HUGE jump. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who had done it, which made it even scarier! I spent months thinking about what I wanted to do and how I was going to make it happen. I had to devise a plan, figure out the end goal, and come up with the strategy, and the little steps I needed to take to get there. Just like you, I didn’t want to sacrifice my career to move abroad. After all, I did really love my job.

So I tried to make a move with my company. But after a few unsuccessful discussions with my manager, I knew that this route wouldn’t be possible for another few years. I didn’t want to wait that long. I looked into moving to London on my own in hopes of finding a job once I got there, but in the end, I decided against it. Instead, I choose to move to the UK to study. I spent 6 months studying for a GMAT test, took out a student loan to finance my MBA degree, and moved in with my parents to save as much as I could in preparation for the move. I did an enormous amount of research on the MBA programs in the UK. I even took a trip to London to do some school visits and suss out the living situation. In July 2011, when I decided to pull the plug on my life in Canada, I was 100% prepared (well ok, maybe only 99%). My plan was in place and I was ready. It no longer seemed like a huge jump into the unknown, but a step outside my comfort zone. And that was exactly what I wanted.

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Studying in London was so much more than I expected. It changed my life in many incredible ways. It allowed me to travel all over Europe, it took me to India, then China… and well, I’m still riding the wave. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever stop…

But let’s get back to you and your desire to move abroad…

Should You Move Abroad to Study?

Maybe. The answer is – it depends. It depends on your industry, it depends on your desire to pursue further education, it depends on your financial situation. Studying abroad is a great way to move to a new country with minimal risk. You’ll gain hundreds of friends the second you step into the classroom, your school will help you with accommodation options, visa requirements, and any problems you might encounter along the way. And no one will ever question your decision to upgrade your skills and your knowledge, they’ll clearly see a benefit in it when it comes to career progression. They’ll pat you on the back, tell you how fantastic it is, wish you all best in your studies and most likely tell you that they’ll hire you back with open arms should you ever decide to come back.

The downside of studying abroad is, of course, the cost. Not only will a Masters Degree cost an arm and a leg, but studying abroad will not be cheap either. Will the investment be worth it? It depends. I’ll be honest, for me, the education alone wasn’t worth the money… it put me in huge debt, it didn’t increase my chances of getting a job abroad, and it certainly didn’t double my salary. But the incredible value I got out of everything outside the classroom, the friends, the connections, the experiences, and all that followed, were worth all the money and then some! So I don’t regret it for a second.

So How Can You Move Abroad?

If studying abroad doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, there are other options that are easier and cheaper and won’t leave you with $100,000 in debt.

Where Can You Go?

Your dreams play a big role in the decision, but so does your passport. If you are not being sponsored by a company, and not moving abroad to study, your passport will dictate how easy or difficult it is for you to make the move. If you are from Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, or Australia, you have some great options thanks to the reciprocal Working Holiday Visa arrangements. Countries like Korea, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, Chile, and many others offer 1-2 year Working Visa schemes for 18-30 (and in some instances 35 ) year olds. If you are from the US or anywhere else in the world, don’t worry, you still have options.

Strolling along Alexandria Bay Beach, Noosa National Park
Spending weekends on beaches like these was just one of the small perks of living in Australia.  Alexandria Beach, Noosa, Queensland, Australia

Further Reading: A quick summary of the Work-Holiday Visa arrangements for various countries

How to Find a Job

A Working Holiday Visa is a great way for you to dip your toes into living abroad. If you want to travel more than you want to work, you can easily do that on a Working Holiday Visa by picking up casual work at hostels, bars, etc. But you can also get a proper job in your field with a 12-24 months contract (depending on the length of the visa). Do some research into the requirements for each Visa, apply, and within months you can be ready to take off to a new country.

I moved to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. It helped me get my foot in the door and land a great paying job within just a few weeks of arriving in the country.

My best advice for those considering moving abroad on a Working Holiday Visa is to be flexible with what jobs you are willing to take. Do some research online before you go to get an idea of what jobs are available. Reach out to some recruiters, set up a Skype chat with them and pick their brains on the best time of the year to look for jobs and discuss the types of jobs you might qualify for.

How to Find a Place to Live

If you are considering moving to a new city/country with no friends or family, I highly recommend that you look into getting a room in a shared apartment, at least at the beginning. This will save you the hassle of dealing with real estate agents and searching for properties in neighbourhoods you know nothing about. Sites like EasyRoommate are a great place to start. Select your desired location, fill out a bit of information about yourself, and start browsing. You’ll quickly find out what you need to budget for rooms in various neighbourhoods and what’s available. Typically in a house share, you are not required to sign a lease, but simply pay your weekly/monthly rent until you decide to move. So there is nothing stopping you from getting in, spending a few months living in a house share while you familiarize yourself with the city, look for a job, and settle in. Plus you get the benefit of new friends the second you move in!

Oksana and friends at Stonehenge, UK
Housemates and travel buddies all in one! My housemates and I posing in front of Stonehenge on our road trip through the English countryside.

When I arrived in London, I first spent 3 weeks living in a hostel. At first, it felt strange to call a dorm room in a hostel my home, but after awhile I got used to it. I became friends with the hostel staff, joined weekly pub crawls, and made some great friends along the way. All while looking for the perfect home. Eventually, I ended up in a house share, just like many other students and young professionals in London.

How Much Money Do You Need

You may think that you need to save a ton of money before you move abroad, but that’s not necessarily true. Of course, you’ll want to have a bit in savings, enough to cover you for a few months of rent and living expenses, but you don’t need much more. While you might not be able to find a job in your field right away, you will definitely be able to find a job in hospitality or get some other part time gig to keep the funds flowing into your account, while you search for something more permanent.

Many travelers work in hostels, restaurants, retail shops, and bars. Some get gigs handing out flyers or working sampling events, while others babysit, walk dogs, or use their English language skills to teach. The options are endless, all you need is a desire to find something!

Overcoming Resistance from Parents

When I first told my parents that I was going to move to the UK to study, they laughed and told me that I was crazy to leave behind my amazing job. It took them months to realize I was actually serious. It took them even longer to recover from the shock of seeing me go through with my plan. But they never truly understood… but why should they?

The thing is, my parents (and probably yours as well) grew up in a different time. All they wanted was to get a good education, find a stable job, buy a house, and save for the future. And many of them did just that! Most people didn’t just take off to “explore the world”. This wasn’t the norm. In fact, in their circles, it probably was unheard of. So, of course, your parents may struggle to understand your desire to leave everything behind and to move abroad.

The best thing you can do to get them behind your plan is to take them on a journey with you. Help them understand how you came to this decision, why you need to move, and why you need to move NOW! Show them that you’ve done all the research, you know what to expect, and that you are ready for it.

Mom and Dad in Phuket, Thailand
Mom and Dad are embracing being tourists in Thailand

It took my parents 3 years to come to terms with the fact that I will never “coming back home”. And it took a trip to Thailand for them to finally understand why I have fallen in love with the world outside of Canada.

Making the BIG JUMP!

No matter how much research you do, how many discussions you have with friends and family about your big decision, you will never feel 100% ready and certain. Making the decision to move to another country for the first time is going to be SCARY! 

But it doesn’t have to feel like a BIG JUMP! All that research and planning will help you feel more at ease with the decision, and eventually, the BIG JUMP will feel like a BIG STEP…or just A STEP, a step towards your dreams, a step towards the new and exciting, a step towards a life filled with adventure and incredible memories.

Plans are Nothing, Planning is EVERYTHING!

Not everything will go according to plan when you move. In fact, they most definitely WON’T , but that’s a part of the adventure, part of the fun in it all! After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Sure, you could run out of money, you might not be able to find a job, or love the new city as much as you expected. Well, then you’ll hop back on the plane (maybe set some money aside for a return ticket, if you are really worried?) and come back home, knowing that at least you gave it a chance. But regardless of what happens, you’ll end up on the other side of the experience knowing that YOU DID IT!  YOU FOLLOWED YOUR DREAM! 

… and that is incredibly impressive and inspiring on its own! The rest, is just icing on the cake.

Have you ever moved abroad? Have any other advice to add?
Leave your thoughts and any other questions in the comments section below! I would love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “So You Want to Move Abroad: Our Best Tips & Advice”

  1. I love how you mentioned getting your MA abroad because it’s such a good opportunity that no one every talks about (in North America). I’m from the USA and I’m getting my master’s from the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China right now. For me, I’m actually saving SO MUCH MONEY. I’m paying British tuition, which is even cheaper than public in-state tuition in America, and my degree only takes one year instead of two. The cost of living in China is also so much cheaper. My friends’ 1-month rent in DC or San Francisco is more than I spend for the entire year in China! Plus, I’ve got 5 weeks off this winter to go to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Getting your MA abroad can actually be pretty cheap and a good investment if you do it right. Altogether everything cost me $17,000 USD for a masters. That’s unheard of in the USA. All that, and I get to live in China and make friends from all over the world.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Richelle! It’s wonderful to hear that others, like yourself, have been able to enjoy the benefits of studying abroad at an affordable price. China would certainly be a great place to study and much much cheaper than my course in London!

  2. Loretta Harvey

    Lovely post! I feel that I want to explore the world and see all the wonderful places there are. The thing is that to make this first step is very hard. I am working on the idea to move out from my country already by setting a business ( with a friend that is going great and this will let me move away and at the same time earn good money! I am really adventurous and I travel whenever I can so. My idea is to first move to Spain where I’m going to start with my travels… going through the Balkans than Asia and so on! I will follow my dream no matter what! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. Amazing post! I am also a risk taker and together with my husband we are moving from place to place. We also like to explore the world, to see new things and to learn different cultures! Best regards

  4. Marsha Jones

    You were really brave to move abroad when you are in your twenties! I feel excited for you when I read your story! I love to travel and I’ve been to many amazing places. I agree that if you dream of doing something, you better do it before it is too late. I love living in London and I have never thought of moving permanently away from here but I definitely can’t imagine my live without traveling! Thank you for the great tips! Lovely post!

    1. Aw, thank you for your kind words, Marsha! I can definitely see why you wouldn’t want to move away from London. I used to LOVE living there! You are lucky to call the city your home 🙂

  5. Amazing post, Oksana! I also like to take risks. Together with my husband we like to move from place to place. We also like to explore the world, to see new things and to learn different cultures! Best regards, Dolores

  6. Thanks for sharing these helpful ideas! I hope that my documents will be soon approved and I will take the plane to New Zealand and find a job there. I just feel that I am not living to the fullest and I want a big change in my life. Thanks for the post! Greets!

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