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How to move to another country (without freaking out)

How to move to another country (without freaking out)

It’s now been one year since we officially moved to New York City!

Robert and I considered moving to another country for nearly 2 years before we went through with it.

Our original idea was to move from Australia to Portland, USA, but as our visas would depend on Robert’s work status, we soon realised that Portland wasn’t an option. Oregon just didn’t have enough jobs for a web developer.

We looked at other cities in USA where tech jobs were readily available. The idea of living in Silicon Valley made us want to barf so we decided on New York City, where there were plenty of startups and businesses that would be willing to hire an Australian.

I’ll admit, I freaked out many times throughout our first overseas move. Even though we both felt excited, upending our lives to take up residence in another country was also scary and intimidating. We left behind the comfortable life we’d known, all for a new city that we had no idea about.

Looking back on it now, we know that it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. By gathering the courage to move abroad, we’ve gained knowledge and experience that we could never have acquired if we’d stayed in Australia.

If you’re thinking about moving abroad any time soon, here’s my tips on how to move to another country without freaking out!


Rob and Ash in LA

My super supportive husband who moved to USA with me in 2015

1. Surround yourself with positive people

It took me a long time to realise that some of the people in my hometown were dragging me down.

When I moved from Hobart to Sydney, I had the opportunity to choose a new bunch of friends. I surrounded myself with people who had big dreams and positive attitudes, which made the world of difference to my confidence. Moving to USA suddenly seemed like an actual possibility.

Think about it – there’s no way you’re going to feel confident about your decision to move abroad if you’re surrounded by negative people. These people will put doubts in your mind and make you think that you’re making the wrong decision by pointing out all the things that could possibly go wrong with your plan.

Avoid them at all costs! Find people who are excited for you, and stick with them. Their positivity will rub off on you, and you’ll feel much more confident about your decision.

2. Save like crazy

Moving cities is never going to be cheap. Our move to New York… well, along with a few setbacks, we went broke very quickly.

It wasn’t like we hadn’t saved up for the move – it just cost more than we thought. As we were without a US credit rating, we had to hire a broker to find us a lenient landlord that would give us an apartment without knowing our credit history.

Upon finding one that was willing to rent out a place to us, we reluctantly handed over three months rent plus our brokers fee (and cried a little inside when we exchanged our worthless Australian dollars to expensive US dollars).

We then realised we had no money left over for furniture. An air mattress, hastily ordered off Amazon, was the only item filling our apartment for a full 6 weeks.

My advice to you is this: Budget the amount of money you think moving to will cost, then double it. Even if you think you’ve accounted for all your moving costs, it’s hard to predict exactly how much it will set you back once you arrive. It’s better to have too much than too little.

Statue of Liberty, New York

New York City last summer

3. Plan, plan, and plan some more

I know many people like the idea of moving abroad with no set plan and just seeing what happens when they get there. This, my friends, is a terrible idea, and unless you managed to save a buttload of money beforehand or have a steady income to fund your time abroad, then you’ll be heading back home in a few short weeks.

It’s a good idea to have an answer to all of these questions:

  • What are you going to do for work?
  • What type of visa will you need?
  • What will your living situation be when you arrive?
  • How much time will it take to get yourself settled in?

Even if you can’t fully action some of these things until you after you’ve landed in your new country, you need to have a plan.

If I could give one good piece of advice, it would be to research the neighbourhoods of your new city and choose one or two reputable ones to test out initially.

If you choose to stay in a shitty neighbourhood (like we did when we first arrived in New York) because it was the cheapest choice, it will probably ruin your moving experience and make you feel miserable about your decision.

For more info on planning your move, see 10 things you absolutely must do before moving abroad.

4. Anticipate that things won’t go to plan

We spent 2-3 months preparing for our move to New York, including selling all our belongings, applying and interviewing for jobs, then applying for a US working visa… only to have it all fall apart.

It’s a long story, but basically our visas were deemed useless right after we arrived in USA as the job we had lined up fell through, so we had to leave the country and go through the 6-week job search and visa application process for a second time.

It was a huge blow, but we tried again. And this time, everything has worked out just fine.

After telling others about our moving experience, we discovered that almost everyone who moves to New York goes through similar difficulties when they first arrive, and I imagine it’s not all that different for other cities. No matter how prepared you think you are, be aware that things might not go to plan. Brace yourself!

New York City

New York City last winter

5. Be confident in your decision

I guarantee that there will be times after you arrive when you will question why on earth you decided to move away from the comforts of your home country to this new and unfamiliar place, no matter how glamorous it seemed back when you first decided on it.

I’ve heard that it takes at least 6 months for expats to settle in to their new surroundings. For me, it took around 4-6 months to feel comfortable in New York and grow accustomed to life in my new country.

Moving abroad is something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but I definitely had to gather a lot of courage to actually go through with it. I’m so glad I did – living overseas has been an unbelievably rewarding experience.

The best advice I can give you is to plan ahead, then move towards your goal of moving abroad with determined ambition. Once you’ve done it, your self-confidence will skyrocket. From there on out, you’ll feel like you can do absolutely anything.

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