Traveler Story: How I Prepared Myself Mentally to Live Abroad
Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Traveler Story: How I Prepared Myself Mentally to Live Abroad

mental health , traveler story
R. Peña
R. Peña Aug 2, 2022

Let’s face it, moving isn’t a simple task period. Making the decision to move to another street in your neighborhood can be downright draining. Now imagine the amount of planning, coordination, and mental preparation it would take when you decide to move to a foreign country – it’s not for the faint of heart trust me I know firsthand. 

If you’re an avid reader of the travel stories shared on TravelNoire.com by the expats who planted themselves in other parts of the world, I assure you their stories didn’t start the way they finished. 

As a leading advocate for travel and relocation to gain a new perspective of the world, I would be remiss to not mention the myriad of struggles and challenges that come with making that decision. However, if you are in a place where you are actually thinking of taking a leap of faith, the good news is you have the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences in uprooting their lives to live abroad – starting with mine. 

Photo Credit: @thebrunchxgod

When I moved to Thailand to become an actual immigrant in another country I was completely apprehensive and scared of experiencing full- blown culture shock, and additionally worried if my loved ones would think I was being selfish and/or if friends would support my decision. It’s a bold move, but quickly I learned all of my thoughts and feelings were completely normal. Once I was able to prepare myself mentally, then I was ready for my journey. These are four keys things to remember as you prepare yourself for your moving day:

Step 1: Commit

worst airports
Hill Street Studios

According to Merriam-webster.com to commit means “to carry into action deliberately”. Once you’ve fully made up your mind and embrace moving to another country as part of your future and the continuation to the story that is your life, the path to what you want begins to create itself. Once I decided that overseas living was for me, 100% of my free time and research went towards the execution of this idea. I surrounded myself with people of the same mindset, past or present, and consumed nothing but curated information that supported my efforts. So much so I functioned like I was already in Thailand. The more research I did, the more excited I became. It helped the daily fears turn into anticipation.

Step 2: Don’t Let Finance Overwhelm You

FAA fines
Getty Images

A lot of the fear or anxiety most of us have about moving abroad also has a lot to do with finances. In America we let finances dictate our lifestyles, and money guide our decisions. That type of programming makes it hard to fathom that you can “succeed” without having much.  I remember juggling a career and having three other streams of income in New York City just to keep up with the Jones’. I was overworked, underpaid,  and wasn’t able to achieve the balance I wanted to nurture the relationships in my life that really mattered. You know the feeling of breaking the bank when all you really want is to catch a break? Yup, that was me.  Finding the funds to plan a move 16 hours away by plane felt unrealistic. But going back to “Step 1:commit,” all my research led me to realize there are three effective ways to ease the financial anxiety that comes with moving abroad. First is to look for a job or career in the new country you want to live in. I learned the ability to speak English is a valuable asset for many countries abroad and allow you to find your way into careers you could only dream of in America.  Use the world wide web to find resources like Linkedin to secure you a gig overseas.  Or conversely if working for a company isn’t something you want to do in your new life then now is the time to take the idea you’ve been having the last few years and start up an online business.  Lastly, talk to your current job. Living in a post pandemic world where many companies are more open to remote and virtual work, your current job may grant your permission to keep your current employment while you live elsewhere. How much of your plans  you disclose is up to you, but it can’t hurt to give it a try. I personally kept two of my jobs for the first two months I lived overseas and it was perfect for me getting everything set up in my new home.  In general the American dollar goes pretty far in most other countries, so having a steady stream of income in American dollars will help in giving you the lifestyle you desire. Find something that you’re passionate about and plan. Money is only a major stress factor if you let it be. 

Step 3: Converse

black-owned wine
Klaus Vedfelt

Now you’ve made the commitment to live in another country, you’re closer to finding that source of income you need, but now you need to have conversations with loved ones, friends, and coworkers. You’re feeling a little hesitant about expressing what some might say is a “wacky” idea. But I can assure you more than likely by now all the people in your life already know you as “the traveler”. Moving to a new country is just the evolution to this habit you have. You plan all the group trips or you take solo trips to nearby destinations on the weekends. You’re obsessed with beaches or mountains and eco-friendly hotels. Whatever it is, I want to assure you there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to telling people how you’re about to make yourself feel better. This is about you and your family at the end of the day. Doing what makes you feel good as a human being in this lifetime. I remember when I told some of my coworkers about moving to Thailand. Some thought I was a little crazy, others were curious as to how I could walk away from a great job (as if I were secretly rich), and then I had a couple of haters of course. Don’t let the haters win. Use it all as motivation to stick to the commitment. I would say the toughest conversations will be with your closest relatives. Some of the elders will be stuck in their ways, questioning why would you do such a thing. Some may feel a sense of abandonment if they rely on you for responsibilities from time to time. Then there’s always those family members that believe and support you in everything you do. It’s just the way the world works and you have to be strong and carry out your commitment with conviction. You got this!

Step 4: Network

How to use travel websites to determine inclusivity
geralt, Pixabay

If you want to find people like myself or travelers who had a similar lifestyle to yours before taking the leap of moving abroad, Facebook is a great resource. There are plenty of groups on there with people sharing their experiences and information on how to get yourself started in a new country. Almost every country in the world that has American expats will have a facebook group with all the resources you need. You should reach out to a few of those people and start conversations with them. Even make a few online friends before you arrive. For myself it was great to know and see people that were just like me taking control of their lives and really making it happen in a new country. Adjusting to new laws and new cultures, eating different foods, and even finding the things that we like from back home. I’m sure a lot of us aren’t into fast food as much but for myself I enjoyed getting Burger King in Thailand once or twice a month, it reminded me of being back in New York. Also if your loved ones need more reassurance you can share with them from time to time all of the things that you’re learning before you go there. It helps them know that you’ll be safe.

Make the move!

A lot of the hesitancy or stress of moving abroad can be relieved with just the right preparation. Your mind functions better when the thoughts are clear and precise. I’m sure there’s many challenges you’ve overcome in your life span so you should feel confident when it’s time to make that move. Whether it’s finishing college, getting that promotion, or even buying your first car. You set a goal and you crushed it. Perspective is also important when it comes to easing of pressures. Once you’ve made the decision you have to believe in it. You have to believe that this is the right thing for you. I look forward to you making that move in the near future and reading about your travel story on TravelNoire.com

That One Time in Shanghai

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