Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Big Adventure

Before embarking on the adventure of living abroad, we should ask ourselves some questions. As I've said before, being a foreigner in a different country is not for everyone. Understand that while of course there will be great times and new adventures there will also be times of loneliness and occasional feelings of isolation.

The first question we might ask ourselves is why do we want to leave our home country? There are many good answers to this question. But the underlying reason should express what we hope to discover, accomplish, learn and experience. Answers which tell us that we might not be making the right choice involve expressing what we want to avoid or escape by leaving. Leaving home due to unresolved issues with your country, relationships in your life or other problems you may have is never the right choice. No matter how far you travel, whatever problems, conflicts and stress you have, they come along with you in the form of "emotional baggage".

Another question we might ask is where, or rather which country is most suitable. While this is a really good question, the answer should be flexible. That is to say you should have a few countries in mind where you'd be willing to live. (Have a 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice scenario) The reason for this is simply that depending on the current economical, social and immigration situations in a given country some regions will be easier than others to find work, housing, making a life. It's important to research the potential countries of interest before making a decision.

Also consider the fact that just because you have taken your "second choice" country for now doesn't imply that you will never live in your first choice country. This is about good timing. Assuming that you are looking for an adventure and creating your own path, often taking a longer route leads to a richer experience.

Speaking of good timing... When will this great adventure start? Factors to consider are:

  • How much money will you have available? You may need time to save money before you go. Even if you have a job arranged before you arrive, you will need start up money. How much depends on the average cost of living in the country of choice. For example, even though its not always possible to arrange a job in advance in South-east Asia, the cost of living is relatively low. So you could conceivably show up with about $1000 and have enough to live off of until you find a job teaching English. Conversely, planning to live in most Western European countries requires much more money to get set up.

  • Putting closure on commitments in your home country. Included in this would be, leaving your existing job, making decisons on what to do with existing property and family commitments. Know that even if you own property, that, by itself, is not a reason to slow you down on living abroad and it doesn't mean you must sell. It does mean you must research your options.

  • Knowledge of destination country. To decide when to go, you must know factors on the country of choice such as, hiring times, cultural expectations and local support for setting up.
Use these factors to decide when you will leave and stick to it. Actually set a date and year.

Lastly is... How? We will talk about how to set up next week.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Don't Postpone Joy!

Leaving your home country to face the unknown of a new culture, new career and new life style is never an easy decison and is not for everyone. The purpose of this blog is to share personal experience as well as practical advice for taking the big leap... travel and live abroad.

For many years, I was a disgruntled architect who moved from job to job and city to city hoping to find the right fit. I finally realized that the best option for me was to stop following the beaten path and create my own. However, the question was how might I go about doing this? What could I do to earn a living aside from architecture? What was I good at? At that time, as far as I knew.. not much else.

I began to ask myself, to remember, when was I happiest? Forget about money, (momentarily) forget about how. What times in my life was I happy? Well, I was happiest during the time I was working on a Master's degree in Architecture. More specifically while I was doing the study-abroad component of my training in Italy. It wasn't just Italy, it was the freedom I felt, the discovery process and being a foreigner that contributed to my happiness.

I decided that just the act of living abroad might be just the adventure I needed to jump start my spirit. I had not yet decided how long I wanted to spend outside of the country or what I would do when I returned but I knew for sure that the sheer act of travel was exactly what I needed to discover where my future lies.

After identifying what I would do post- architecture, the big questions were which country and how to make money. Ironically, this part was not particularly difficult for me. Since I had no interest in returning to school, there is only one career that is in demand in many parts of the world that I was qualified for and that is teaching English as a second language. I choose Japan because at that time it was relatively easy to find a job and no experience was required except being a native English speaker. Perfect!

From that moment on my life has been an endless adventure that still hasn't ceased to surprise me. I have no regrets and through weekly chronicles I will describe the events that have taken place since the fateful day that I left for Japan. After all, its been almost seven years that I've been living outside of the U.S. and after a few continents and many countries later, I've found myself in the south of France. I hope that by sharing my experiences and a little advice here and there that I can help others take that big leap.