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.

Are you thinking about moving to another country? Or have you done it before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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21 Responses to “How to move to another country (without freaking out)”

  1. Taste of France

    The easiest way is to be transferred for your job. You have instant contacts, network, advice, support, even friends. The bureaucracy is taken care of–visas, residence permits, etc.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That would definitely be an easy way, though it’s not necessarily for everyone – Robert (my husband) wanted to advance his career by getting a better job when we moved country!

  2. Bashfully Bold

    I definitely needed to read this on the 6 week anniversary of us moving to NYC– this week has been a bit “what the f-&k have we done?”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re definitely not alone in getting that feeling after moving to NYC – literally everyone we talked to had a hard time moving here. Push through it, and hopefully everything will feel better after a while! Good luck!

  3. Melissa

    This is all SO TRUE. I’ve moved from one country to another a few times, and I couldn’t agree more with this post. Especially the 4th one about not everything going according to plans hit home hard, as after over a month since I moved to Dublin I still don’t have a bank account due to the process being full of crazy bureaucracy for immigrants. I’m so stressed my hair might start falling off soon. 😀 But like said, there are always things that won’t go as excpected. My Canadian work permit was also delayed for almost 2 months because of some useless misunderstanding. Urgh.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think it’s inevitable that things won’t go to plan! I totally feel your pain about all the bureaucracy rubbish. It took us 8 months to get a US credit card, and 1 year to get a social security number! All this jumping through hoops can be ridiculous. But then I remember that I’m living in another country and everything is pretty great anyway 😛 Thanks for your comment, Melissa, it was great to hear your story!

    • Rozcio Med

      I’m right now looking through the process for moving to canada, just started to research so I can be fully prepared when I apply for the visa, also looking for job, any piece of advice you might wanna share? I already lived in Montreal 6 months while learning french but moving there to work and live is a whole different story

  4. Kate

    Thanks for such a fantastic guide! My boyfriend and I just moved abroad for the second time, and even though we’ve done it before (and in another language, no less) it’s still stressful. Will definitely be using your tips to help ensure our move/settling in will be as smooth as possible!

    Kate |

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh, that’s really interesting to know – I’ve only moved abroad once but I imagine the second time would be just as stressful! Especially if there’s a language barrier. Thanks for your comment, Kate!

  5. T

    I only moved to a different city in the same country a few years ago yet I feel like most of your points were relevant even then!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I did the same thing (moved to a different city within my country) and you’re absolutely right – these tips can be just as relevant for that situation!

  6. Danielle

    This is all very true and helpful advice. I experienced a lot of this when moving from the US to Germany. Worth it, but it took a while to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

    Check out my travel blog! |

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks, Danielle! I think that’s one thing that most people don’t consider when they move abroad for the first time – it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving to another country without expecting that it will have some challenges, too. I’m glad you were able to push through and feel comfortable in your new country 🙂

  7. Trisa Taro

    From one travel lover to another, thank you for sharing your story! I loved reading this! Whenever I meet NYC transplants I always admire what they must have gone through to move their lives! Are you still in NYC? Would love to meet up sometime and swap more stories!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Trisa! It seems that everyone who has moved to NYC has a similar story – it’s definitely a tough city to get started in! Yep, I’m still here 🙂 Are you based in NYC, too?

  8. Phoebe

    Hey! Me and my friend are planning on leaving New Zealand to head for New York. I saw that you struggled to find an apartment without a credit rating, any advice for us?

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s great news, Phoebe! It turned out to be pretty easy, but it will cost you money. We went through a broker (which is expensive but I highly recommend it) who found us a landlord who was willing to take us for an extra month of security deposit. So we ended up paying the brokers fee (about 10-15% of annual rent), plus 1 month rent upfront and another 2 months rent for the security deposit.

  9. Amy

    I live in Holland and always wantend to move to America. I am now researching what i should do, have and learn Before we move. Finding a job is really hard for me because my only background in work is daycare and after school daycare for children. So if anyone has any tips. Please give them to me!!!

  10. Rylie rimmer

    Hi Ashlea,

    Thanks for this post, it helped me SOO MUCH!

    I’m currently working on trandferring to Melbourne Uni in Aus! Im super excited, but also have the same fears and worries you faced when you came to the US. Is there any advice you can offer me? I’m trying to transfer by the next first term.

  11. Kobie

    I just read this post and it seriously was so helpful!
    My partner and I have been contemplating moving the Netherlands from Australia. We have a comfortable life here but feel drawn to the lifestyle in Europe and the endless travel opportunity being so close by to everything.
    We have two small dogs, which we will not leave behind but I think it’s building up the courage to know they will benefit from a move too.
    Are there any other ways we can chat with you?

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Europe is a such great place to be for travel opportunities – destinations are so easily accessible by train or a short flight! It definitely takes some courage to move abroad, but while it’s scary to do, it’s also exciting and full of adventures. You can take a look through my other posts on moving abroad, and leave further comments if you have some questions 🙂


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