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An Intro Guide on How to Live and Work Abroad

I have a confession. I had no idea what I was doing when I moved abroad to find a job overseas. I was scared, lost, confused, and I totally messed up a hand full of times. I wanted to work abroad so bad but it's a bit scary and difficult to figure out when you're on your own and thinking of picking up and moving to a place that you've literally only seen on TV or on the internet. In fact, I can't lie. I was terrified when I clicked "purchase" on my one-way flight to Bangkok without having stepped foot on the Asian continent before! What was I thinking?!

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The hardest part happens before you even get on the plane! The rest will come clear to those who have an open heart and mind, who have prepared (I’m helping you with this, don’t worry), and to those who can remember this one sentences: This will not be a vacation, this will be a lifestyle change.

So let me help you get over your fears, get you prepared, and get your new life of working abroad started! Here are all the main "How’s" when it comes to how to work abroad and live overseas.

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How to Work Abroad

How To Work Abroad Infographic

Step 1: Change your way of thinking to prepare for your move abroad

"You’re not on vacation." This might be the most important piece of advice I give you and I’m giving it to you first because it’s THAT important. If you don’t have this mindset down, you’ll be in trouble before you begin.

If you want to move abroad and begin working overseas, you will not be on a perpetual vacation. In fact, if we want to get real, you will probably be living a life very similar to what you’re living now.

You wake up, you eat, you work, you socialize, you go to sleep, you repeat.

If you do things right (which you will because you’re reading this), you will have more frequent chances to travel and you will, of course, be in another country. Otherwise, you’ll be living "a regular life."

This new mindset that you’re going to have to get into might be difficult at first. You’re excited, you’re so keen to get abroad, you are curious and want to experience all the things! But that’s a sure way deplete that bank account quicker than it took you to fly over.

Your mindset should be that this is your new life and you need to do things that people do in real life, not in vacation world. You need to find a job, you ned to find the local grocery store that has the best produce that’s cheap, you need to find the best and budget-friendly restaurants, you need to go house hunting… etc. All real life stuff, just in another country.

You’re not on vacation, you’re living in the real world and need to do real world things. This is your mantra. Don’t worry, there will be some fun and travel mixed in! But you need to have your mind in "real life land" and not in "vacay mode."

Step 2: How do I find opportunities to work abroad?

So first things first, can you actually survive and legally work somewhere in the world? I know, it’s a very heavy question that has an abundance of factors all squashed in that make for very muddled answers… Lucky we have a tool called Google to help so try this: Search for: insert the country of your passport citizen work abroad opportunities or working holiday opportunities or jobs abroad

If you’re from an English-speaking country, you’ve essentially struck the lottery for finding opportunities abroad. Under 35 years old? Oh, you’re lucking out! Have a university degree? You’re GOLDEN.

I’m going to use myself as an example. I’m an American citizen, I was 26 (at the time), and I have a university degree. I wanted to travel but I’m in no way rich, so I needed paid work abroad. I found that teaching English abroad was the best and easiest way to get my foot in the door with working abroad. Luckily, I can have this job in almost any country on our planet! Pretty sweet, right?

I also have taken advantage of the Australian working holiday visa, I’ve HelpXed so I could travel and live for almost free, and I’m going to be doing a working holiday in New Zealand soon. These are all opportunities open to many people, not just Americans.

Another avenue is remote work. If you don’t want to/can’t find work legally in another country, you can still work online to earn an income! It doesn’t get anymore location independent than that! If you have some skills that can be done with a laptop and wifi connection, you’re golden. No age restrictions, worrying about a working visa, or other legality hurdles to jump over. Just get online and work!

There are many more paid work abroad opportunities than people realize. I certainly encourage you to find out if there are opportunities for you! I’m sure there are.

Step 3: Estimate Your Living Costs

You don’t want to live somewhere you can’t afford. Make sure the country you choose is something you can support yourself in because if you can’t even live, you certainly won’t be able to travel the country. If you are cutting it close with your income, try saving more before jetting off.

A quick example would be me scratching off the dream to teach English in Europe. It’s super competitive, you don’t get paid much, and the cost of living is high. It wasn’t a good deal for me. So I went to Thailand where I still didn’t get paid much but the cost of living and traveling was so low, it worked out great.

Consider:

Daily costs – shelter and food are certain, and depending on where you are, transportation. • Fun – you are doing this to travel and explore as well so I’d certainly say try budgeting for some fun too! •Extras – budget for anything more that’s still necessary. Student loan payments?Insurance? Having an emergency stash?

Total this up to get your monthly cost sorted. Using Numbeo could help as it lists all the common things and the costs in every country! Try it out.

Step 4: How to find the best jobs abroad for yourself

Do you want a job that’s easy to obtain? That pays well? The easiest job to do? This is why you need to research a bit on possibilities, (since there are quite a few out there!) as you know yourself best.

What to consider:

• What are your skills? That will make the job easier to get and easier to do since you have experience. • What jobs are obtainable and the best paying in countries you can work in? • What kind of work can you do remotely? Working online is an excellent way to work abroad! • What is something you’re willing to invest the time into learning should you want to develop new skills to achieve a job that you can obtain abroad/online? Here’s a list of popular jobs you can do abroad or online but it by no means is exhaustive!

Jobs You Can Do Abroad

Work Abroad with these Positions:

  1. ESL teacher
  2. Travel nurse
  3. Travel agent
  4. Tour guide
  5. Work on a Yacht or a cruise ship
  6. Au pair
  7. Peace Corps / NGO volunteer
  8. Photographer
  9. Host / Waitress / Bartender
  10. Seasonal jobs
  11. Working Holiday visas
  12. Dive instructor
  13. Yoga instructor
  14. Another sport instructor
  15. Hotel staff

Work Anywhere in the World With These Jobs:

  1. Writer
  2. Accounting
  3. Graphic design
  4. Website building
  5. Customer service
  6. Translation
  7. Online teacher
  8. Content curator
  9. Day trader
  10. Drop shipping
  11. Marketing
  12. Social media management
  13. Virtual assistant
  14. Video editor
  15. Computer Programmer
  16. Consultant

Step 5: How to find jobs abroad

There are two main ways to go about this:

  1. You pick up and just go and find one once you get there
  2. You find one prior to leaving your home

Both come with pros and cons. I prefer picking up and moving to a place and then finding a job. I find I have better luck as someone is more likely to hire the person that’s actually there in front of their face as opposed to a million miles away. This one is a tad riskier though and you’re moving without a promise of a job. However, if you have enough money saved for a few months of living in the bank, and you’re avidly trying to get a job, then you should be fine.

There are some jobs that are better obtained prior to leaving and some that aren’t. I can’t speak for all jobs. For teaching in Thailand, I applied once I got there and got hired within three days. For all four of my jobs in Melbourne and Darwin Australia, I applied in person and got hired. I’ve never once applied before I was already living in the city. This is just my experience.

To get good ideas on the jobs on offer, searching the internet is the best bet. It all depends on what job you’re after but websites like these here are a great place to start and even something like Craigslist could work! And as old-fashioned as it sounds, word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get a job if you’re ready to just move already.

Step 6: How to stay on budget when you live and work abroad

If you’re not budgeting correctly, it doesn’t matter if you have work or not, you’re going to be in trouble. You need to live realistically. Remember this is NOT a vacation. This is still "real life" and no, you can’t splash out on 5-star hotels, go out drinking every night, jet across to neighboring countries each weekend and then cry when your bank account crashes and you don’t even have enough for a croissant.

Get smart with your money. A big reason we want to live and work abroad is so that we can experience other cultures and travel, right? Well, that needs to get budgeted in and if that’s important to you, then you’ll happily skimp on some of the other things in life in order to afford it.

What exactly am I talking about? I’m talking about living modestly. I usually live in a comfortable apartment but I make sure I can afford it and I’m never overspending just because I want a few extra luxuries. It’s OK if I’m not right in the center and I have to walk 15 minutes because guess what? That $300 a month I’m saving by living a bit outside the city will come in handy when I need a flight to Bali or it can cover most of my food for a month while traveling in Portugal.

Speaking of food, learn to cook more. This helps you spend less and travel more. Trust me! Eating out, no matter where in the world (OK maybe SE Asia is the only exception) will cost more than cooking at home. Cooking at home is often healthier as well but that’s another story.

Calculate and keep track of your spending. Give yourself a weekly budget and keep track on an excel sheet. You can download the Google Sheets app(or any other money tracking app) and enter in the numbers on the go in two seconds. It’s the best way to keep yourself on track. The essential thing to remember is that this is not a vacation so don’t spend like you’re on one. I can’t stress this point enough.

Step 7: Preparing to move abroad

This one is actually very easy and very hard at the same time depending on what type of person you are.

There are two main things you need to do:

  1. Mentally prepare and actually purchase your ticket to leave making this decision 100% firm and real. (This was the step that was hardest for me.)
  2. Physically prepare everything that needs to be done before you leave.

A list of things to do before moving abroad:

Paperwork, visas, and other specifications

• Make sure your passport is up to date. • Prepare a visa if one is needed. • Gather any paperwork that may be needed (physical documents that are needed) • Are there special requirements for the country you’re going to? (vaccines, proof of an outbound flight)

Actually moving

• Sell all the things! • Rent out or finish up your lease. • Make sure your mail has somewhere to go.

Finances

• SAVE! You CAN’T go abroad without having a savings first. How much is another question as it depends on how expensive the country you’re going to is, but you need money saved. For me, I’d say that anything less than $3,000 USD is moving into dangerous territory. More is better than less. (I left with $6000 and all debt paid off.) • Get a Charles Swabb account (Americans). There are no international or ATM charges on this card! • Call all of your credit card companies and have a travel note put on them so you don’t get flagged. • Cancel all other subscriptions and memberships.

Step 8: Traveling while living and working abroad

Remember what I said about budgeting earlier? You need to make sure you have room for traveling in your budget. That’s the point! I was always able to travel even when was making very little money. Sometimes traveling meant exploring a nearby city or town and sometimes I got on a plane and packed my bags.

It’s all possible! While teaching English in Thailand, we often had 3-4 day weekends when there were holidays and I’d go the beach or hop over to another city. During school breaks, I traveled to other countries. While living and working in Australia I popped over to Indonesia and the Philippines and when I had a short window of time, I went exploring the city I was living in. Which, by the way, I did all of that AND managed to save over $17,000 USD in less than a year! Yes, it’s possible to save money while traveling and living abroad. Awesome, huh?

When working remotely, your schedule is way more flexible and that thought of "this is not a vacation" needs to be understood WAY more. You need to be responsible and work to make your money and reward yourself later. You’ll need to find a good flow that works for you (and your bank account).

Step 9: Finding friends and a community

This is a common fear. People are afraid to be alone. However, it’s pretty doubtful you’ll be somewhere where you can’t make friends. Hang out at the local coffee shop, join Facebook groups for the expats in the area, and be friendly when you’re out and about. It’s going to be hard NOT to make friends if you try using these methods. Just be friendly and patient. Also, enjoy the time and space you have when you’re alone. You may learn that you’re great company!

Step 10: Finding information about living and working abroad that’s specific to what you want to do

OK great, so you think you’ve figured out where you want to go and what you want to do, so now how do you get more specific information on it?

Trust me when I say just Google it. This isn’t me being lazy or rude to you, this is just me being honest. I can’t speak about what it’s like working in the mines in Australia, or being an English teacher in South Korea, or working remotely as an accountant while living in Dubai. I’ve worked abroad and online for years and I have my own set of skills and experiences I’m happy to share with you but I haven’t experienced it all!

So why not just Google the exact thing you want because there is a very good chance someone is blogging about it. In fact, you should type in your query into Google and add "blog" at the end so you can have a search of personal blogs that pop up to browse through. It feels nice to see others doing what you want to do and to get ideas from them, You can also join Facebook groups as well that are related to the job abroad you want and ask questions and find out more information.

You may think some of this information is super broad, and you wouldn’t be incorrect. It’s pretty much impossible to compile an article talking about all the opportunities out there for everyone’s skill set and to touch upon every opportunity in each country in the world for every individual passport. Not to mention the financial side as well… It’s quite a lot to take in, I know, but I hope this has helped with some of your questions on where to begin and what to think about! Where do you dream of working and living abroad at? What type of work do you plan on doing?

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About the Author

Nina Ragusa// Where in the world is Nina

Hi! My name is Nina Ragusa and I broke up with my cubicle in 2011 for a one-way plane ticket to Thailand. Here I am, years later, a full passport, and my wanderlust still hasn’t ceased. I’m a nomadic expat on a mission to travel, live and work on all continents. Read more about me here.

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