There’s a lot to consider when you’re weighing whether to move overseas. As someone who needs to explore all possible outcomes at all times and has a hard time committing to big changes, it was especially hard for me to decide if leaving the States indefinitely for a continent I’d never set foot on was a good idea given the number of unknown variables. After a lot of thought (and worrying and doubting and changing my mind an endless amount of times), these are some of the reasons I came up with for why it was the best choice for me to change my path. I think they’re good food for thought for anyone on the fence about moving.
It will build my resume. This is a response that I think is completely derived from living in DC for too long, where it is just as common for people to first ask your name as for them to ask what you do. The level of my education vastly outweighs my experience working in my field (which happens to be human rights and international development, but I think this problem will be endemic among those who took the college/grad school detour during the recession in any field). For me, living abroad isn’t just about taking a prolonged vacation from reality; it’s kind of a job requirement. Rather than this journey setting my career back, it would allow me work hands-on in the refugee community and bolster my chances of landing a job I care about when we do move back to the States. Choosing northern Thailand as our destination over other ESL hot spots like Korea or Japan had a lot to do with this.
I can do it while managing my finances wisely. One of the reasons Thailand attracts so many retirees and foreign teachers is that it is incredibly cheap to live here. Kyle and I live a very comfortable life on less than $1000 US per month. Even if it took us months to find jobs, we would have been able to support ourselves on savings and keep up with lingering obligations in the States (a.k.a Student Loan Monster) for nearly a year without worrying. Being stressed about money, especially in a strange place when you don’t have a job yet, can ruin the experience of being abroad; make it a priority to figure out basic living expenses, create a plan to keep up with payments back home, and have enough saved when you leave to cover both for about six months.
Work/Life Balance. Ahh, the blissful dream. My first salaried job was in France, where they take this idea very seriously; every six weeks, I had two weeks off. It was heaven. It also completely spoiled me as far as US vacation policy tends to go. 10 days off a year? Work late hours, take work home with you, check email on the weekends, keep my phone on at all times – seriously? When was I ever going to have time to travel the world on a schedule like that! Living in a place where family, life outside of work, and the energy and creative spirit that can come from relaxation are valued is important to me, and I was unlikely to find such circumstances Stateside.
I’ve never been there before! I’ve traveled all over Europe, lived in France and Egypt, and seen a lot of the US – but I’d never been to Asia. Curiosity alone made me want to drop everything and go!
This will all be here when I come back. The great thing about being young and broke is that your ties are limited. I don’t own a house, my car could be sold, I don’t have kids, and I didn’t have a job that I loved so much I couldn’t leave it. Everything I was leaving would be right there waiting for me if and when I decided to come back. In fact, there might even be better things waiting for me. I couldn’t just sit around and wait for life to happen.
It feels right. This is the tricky one – being able to trust your instincts. But once you reach this point, addressing all the nitty gritty of moving becomes a whole lot easier.
Coming up in Uprooted: A How-To Series – Picking a Place to Move (the fun part!)