Things to think about when deciding to move abroad

This month will have made 6 months of living here in Yangon. Time feels like it’s going by so fast and yet, at times it’s moving slower than a snail in peanut butter. In this time, I’ve been the new person acclimating and the resident, helping others get settled and I’ve learned some things along the way.

Moving abroad is not vacation.

I think this is probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. When you’re on vacation, you’re a short-term visitor. You get to see the highlight reel of a country. The quick and fun shopping, some cool IG-worthy photos, the tourist attractions. When you move abroad, you’re still a visitor, but a long-term visitor. This new place, is now home for however long you’re there. This means, grocery shopping, laundry, a regular work schedule, traffic and the mundane stuff you did before you moved abroad, except now it’s probably in a different language and format than you’re used to. Everyone around me keeps temperature in Celsius, distance in kilometers and I’m always semi-confused.
If you approach moving abroad with the idea that you’re on vacation, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And with this, it follows onto my next point…

Do lots of research in advance.

When I moved, I researched (somewhat) and I was satisfied with the amount that I did (mostly). I knew that where I’d be living and working was nowhere close to the dangerous areas and that this city was safe. I also knew that I’d be moving to a developing country and there are just some things that developing countries do that defy common sense and all possible logic. Reminds me of home (not a compliment). If you’re from a first world country and very developed city, things like the mailing system, the electricity and even banking would frustrate you to no end (Reminds me of home. Still not a compliment). The better prepared you are before the move, the less frustrations and adjusted, more realistic expectations can be set.

Measure the cost of moving.

The financial cost, the cost of family support or lack thereof and the cost to your soul. Moving anywhere costs money. Save as much as you can and then some before you move. While many companies cover tickets and visas, sometimes they won’t cover the 34 bags and your pet lizard that you have to bring along with you. What about settling in money, or money to survive until payday?
Are you so far away that it’s likely you won’t have any family visit you or you won’t be able to make regular trips home? Can you handle being away from them during the holidays?

Weigh out the pros and the cons.

And when you weigh them, consider the value of each. For example, you’ve wrote down your list of pros and cons about moving to El Salvador and you came up with 4 pros and 2 cons.

– Good salary
– Good weather/temperature
-Good food
-Good job environment/benefits

-Housing in good area is expensive
-Poor air quality

Even though you have more pros, how big are those two cons for you? What are you willing to put up with and for how long before it becomes unbearable?

Big decisions should be met with optimism but also a lot thought and consideration. And at the end of the day, you could have done all of those things and still decide that after a year of living abroad, it’s just not for you and that is okay. We are not trees. If we don’t like something about our situation, we can try to fix the problem, ignore the problem, complain about the problem or simply leave. I know that financial obligations and family often makes us feel like we’re tethered to one spot, but we really aren’t…not when there are so many opportunities around the world to use our talents and education.

Better to have tried and failed than to not try and criticize others that are trying.


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