One of the things I love about blogging is the questions we get to answer. Becky and I spend a lot of time browsing the web to gather the best ones. This one in particular piqued my curiosity, mostly because I daydream about living abroad at least once a day.
It’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of global living and, with so many fascinating places to see in the world, why not try to hop to a new country every year? Well, as fun as it is to dream, one has to be a little realistic. Moving to a new country every year might be doable for James Bond but, for most people, it’s not so simple. Here’s why:
Work requirements. There is a perception out there that if you are in Europe you can pretty much go wherever you want, whenever you want. But, this is only true when it comes to leisure travel. If you are an American and you are planning to work, you cannot go from one country to the next without the proper paperwork – you will need work permits in every country you visit. No matter where in the world you are planning to live, you will need to look into residency and work requirements well in advance of when you plan to move so that you can file all the necessary paperwork. You will also want to make an employment plan and stick to it so you don’t have months of unemployment in between moves. Finding a new job in a new city can take a while, so you’ll want to save enough to carry you through.
Household goods importation. If you are hoping to have some of your household goods shipped from country to country, you may run into obstacles. First, you may not satisfy the residency requirements of the origin country so that your household goods can be imported duty free in the destination country. You will need to carefully check customs regulations for the destination country to make sure that you satisfy these requirements. Some countries simply won’t allow you to move your goods from one country to another so quickly. Other countries may have regulations in place where you have to sign off that you won’t sell your household goods. These agreements typically last for a year, but it can be longer so it’s critical to know the rules before trying to dispose of household goods.
Financial outlay. Moving to a new place in the U.S. every year is a financial challenge for most people. Trying to do so in a foreign country only magnifies the expense. For one, lease agreements may differ from country to country. Further, you cannot rely on your security deposits to fund your new home in the next country. It could take months for you to get it back, if at all, and you will have no legal recourse if things go south. Next, before moving to your new country, you will have to travel there in advance to find a home. Once you find the home, you will need to pay the set up costs (down payment, security deposit, utilities, etc.). You can imagine how quickly these costs will add up when you are moving every year.
Language and culture barriers. When we are on vacation, we find different languages and cultures to be fascinating. Of course, this is part of the charm of traveling the world. But, this can quickly become stressful when you are trying to live and work in a country where you don’t understand the language or cultural nuances. Going through culture shock adjustments on an annual basis is not for the faint of heart.
Social circles. Before hopping to a new place every year, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your ability to make new friends and leave old ones behind. Moving around is a great deal of fun, but it can also be a lonely life. As much fun as it is to dream about such a life, not everyone is cut out for the inherent isolation.
Tax issues. Moving to a new country every year is bound to create major tax headaches for you in each country and in the U.S. You will need to consult with an international tax expert before you start your journey so that you don’t get slammed with any unforeseen costs upon your return. International tax mistakes can cost thousands of dollars, so this is one area that you do not want to leave up to chance.
These are just a few of the challenges involved with moving to a new country every year. There are many other issues to consider including global banking, safety issues, transportation concerns, etc. Certainly, if you have a family, school requirements and spousal work restrictions will play a huge role in your ability to effectively move every year.
Ultimately, living abroad is an incredibly rewarding experience for many people and I would never discourage anyone from embracing such a fabulous opportunity. Moving to a new country every year, however, is a completely different challenge. If this is something you want to do regardless of the challenges I’ve discussed, good luck. Plan as much as you can in advance and remain as flexible as possible throughout your adventure.
Have you lived abroad? Please share your experience below.