Preparing for your new life abroad can be both an exciting and stressful time. The idea of such a big move can be quite overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Making something as simple as a ‘to do’ list is an effective way to help you to organize your move. But of course you’ve already made a “to do” list right? I’m sure that list includes things such as packing up your personal items, donating non-essentials or things that you are unable to take with you, and of course spending time with family and friends before the big move. So, since you’ve got the basics covered, allow me to help expand on that list to include things you may not have thought of. Things that can assist you making a smooth transition abroad. Did I make copies of all my documents? Did I remember to cancel my gym membership? Did I give a forwarding address to the post office? Moving day is quickly approaching so let’s get to it.
Have your passport and other travel documents in order.
Check the expiration date on your passport and ensure that there is enough time left to allow for long term travel and multiple entry stamps. I’ve heard that your passport could be rejected if there is less than 6 months remaining on it, or if there isn’t enough empty space in it for multiple stamps. If you do however find that you need a new passport while you’re already overseas, you can obtain one from the U.S consulate or embassy. You just have to be sure to return to the same location to pick it up in two weeks. They don’t mail them.
Make copies of important documents, AND store them to iCloud.
Driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate, transcripts, immunization record, and any degrees or certifications. I’ve had a few cases where I’ve tried to show a document to someone, and it wasn’t acceptable. They want an actual copy, and a lot of times no, they will not make a copy for you, even if you can literally see the copier behind them. Just save yourself the time and have them ready.
Be sure to keep any professional licenses current.
I absolutely love traveling and living abroad, but if for some reason I have to go back stateside again, I have comfort in knowing that I have nursing as a safety net. So I always renew my nursing license biannually. Also, you never know what opportunities may come your way while you’re abroad, and your license or certification could be an asset.
Notify your bank that you’ll be out of the country, and keep a credit card for emergencies.
There’s nothing like starting your life abroad with a locked bank account, which is what happened to me, You don’t want your account flagged and locked for suspicious activity, which is exactly what will happen if they see overseas purchases. It would also be wise to order a second bank card and take it with you just in case. I left my card in an ATM and it literally took over 2 months to receive another. You’ll have to email back and forth and make several phone calls to confirm you’re the account holder before they issue another. So just save yourself the grief and have a backup bank card. Another tip for banking overseas, be sure to use a US VPN to avoid overseas fees when making payments, and purchases online. Banks usually charge 3% per transaction. Also, take note of any reoccurring payments you may need to cancel.
Bring at least a one-month supply of essential medications with you.
It will be one less thing you have to immediately worry about while you’re settling in. From my experience in South East Asia, acquiring medications is easy. You can receive anything over the counter besides controlled substances. You literally just walk in to the pharmacy, state your symptoms and you’ll receive medication on the spot. For things like narcotics and mood stabilizers, just visit any local clinic and show the doctor your current medication list.
Make last minute appointments with all of your health care providers.
It would be wise to have a full work up prior to your departure. Schedule a women’s health checkup if applicable, blood work, a physical and get a dental cleaning so don’t have to worry about it for a while. Again, be sure to keep copies of all lab results so that you have a baseline to show the local physician in case you have any health concerns while traveling.
Obtain an international driver’s license.
You can receive an international driver’s license in about 20 min from any AAA location. An IDL permits you to drive or rent a vehicle in just about any country in the world. It also makes it extremely easy for you to obtain a driver’s license in the country where you establish residency. I received my Thai driver’s license in about an hour after watching a one-hour video. No road or written test. If you have a motorcycle endorsement on your IDL, your also able to obtain a motorcycle license just as easy.
Learn a few key words or phrases in the local language.
Something as simple as learning how to say “hello”, “thank you” and “excuse me” goes a long way with the locals. Another helpful sentence to learn is, “Where is the bathroom?” I decided to learn that one after I grew tired of having to pantomime going to the bathroom to locals, then having them giggle at me as they pointed towards the facilities.
Tap in to the local expat community prior to your arrival.
Joining expat groups can be beneficial. You’re able to have your questions answered by locals and not just rely on the answers from your Google search, or the opinions from someone on TripAdvisor that had only spent a week there on vacation. They can also hip you to local spots to dine and where to meet up with other expats, helping you to avoid the usually more expensive touristy areas. Connecting with the locals prior to your arrival can also make it easier for you to acclimate to your new surroundings. And of course, it’s a great way to expand your social circle and make friends.
Purchase a voltage converter and a set of international adapters for your electronics.
A voltage converter is an item I intentionally didn’t purchase prior to moving, because I assumed it would be an easy find abroad. I was wrong. I lost a hair dryer, a pair of clippers and a Bluetooth speaker I was charging, by not using the proper converter . The ones I’ve tried while abroad are always off by 10 watts and the devices don’t work properly, or I just cross my fingers, plug it directly in to the outlet anyway and see what happens. Buy a voltage converter!
Stock up on makeup, hair and skincare products.
I’ve never been a makeup girl, well sure I’ll make sure my eyebrows are on point and I won’t leave the house without my metallic, icy blue eye liner under my lower lashes, but that’s about it. But I still feel compelled to share this nugget of information with you. This tip is particularly geared toward women of color or any women that have naturally kinky or curly hair or if you have a complexion that’s even half of a shade darker than alabaster. If you wear foundation or require natural hair care products to maintain your ‘do, it would behoove you to bring as much hair care, foundation and skin care items with you as you can. Also, if you plan to reside in Asia many of the lotions, face scrubs and creams contain whitening products. So beware.
Ditch bulky suitcases for light weight duffel bags.
If you plan to make a permanent or long term move overseas as I did, consider using packable duffel bags as opposed to traditional luggage. They cost a fraction of the price and weigh much less, allowing you to carry up to seven or eight pounds more items without paying over weight luggage fees. Also, when you reach your destination, they’re a lot easier to stow away. I found 32-inch duffel bags for 15 dollars. Bonus packing tip: Use vacuum storage bags to save space and reduce the number of bags you travel with.
Although you no longer reside in your home country, as a citizen you still have the right to vote while abroad. You can confirm online that you’re registered and can vote with an absentee ballot.
Butter up friends and family before your departure.
Living abroad is amazing and full of exciting new experiences, but there may come a time when you’re craving things from home, or you may get homesick and wished you packed your favorite blanket. That’s when you make the call back home, and ask your friends and family to send you a care package. I’m always grateful when I have a few comforts from the States shipped to me.
This of course isn’t an all inclusive list. I’m just merely suggesting things that I found helpful, or that I wished I had thought of prior to my move. Happy packing!