A very broad question but very valid if you are planning on taking the leap. Everyone thinks about doing it at some point, from the most seasoned travelers to the hometown hero that hasn’t gone further than the end of their driveway. Living abroad is something that I think everyone should do at least once in their life and while it may seem daunting, it is really much easier than one would be led to believe. I will outline my top 5 tips for people thinking about living abroad and making the most of their experience!

  • Go into it with an open mind

One thing to realize before you step onto the plane is that you need to throw what you think of as “normal” right out the window. The food will be different, the smells will be different, the noises will be different. Depending on where you go, the language will be different. Not to fear! This will really add to the experience by putting you outside of your comfort zone. When I moved to Costa Rica and moved in with my homestay family, it was very challenging. Even though I thought I had a good grasp on the Spanish language, I was sorely out of my league. What was originally a “oh crap I’m here for a year and I can’t handle this” moment, ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences and educational times of my life. What I’m trying to say is plan ahead, but know that you cannot control everything. There will be plenty of times where you will need to think on your feet. Embrace it and enjoy it!

Oct 2017. Seventeen college grads move to Costa Rica for the first time. The first day of our 11 month internship.
  • Have the appropriate visas, vaccines and paperwork

Nothing is as painful as getting turned away at the door. Don’t let it happen to you! A quick google search for visa requirements can save you heaps of stress down the road. Some of this can be unavoidable as some parts of the world work differently than others (story to come later) but for the most part planning ahead and getting your affairs in order should be a breeze. This also includes making sure your passport up to date and stamps (good ol ink on paper) in line. Did you know that a car rental company will deny you your rental at any point that they find your passport or immigration status says anything other than “todo bien”? Don’t let it happen to you!

  • Get yourself a routine

If you are going to be in specific place for a while, I highly recommend getting into a routine. This includes joining a gym, volunteering, going running, even becoming a regular at a bar. This will help you overcome the single biggest challenge that Mary and I find ourselves faced with; loneliness from not knowing anyone. It can be very hard to make friends, but it is easier to make impactful friendships when you put yourself around others regularly. Also (depending on the routine), this can be an excellent way to keep yourself healthy both physically (gym, running, yoga groups) and mentally (volunteering, group dinners, bar regular). Living abroad is challenging as it is. Getting into a healthy routine can make it easier.

Summer 2019. My routine on Pipe Dream was to watch the sunrise or sunset every day.
  • Say yes to the dress

Not literally tho. But you should be willing to say yes to much more than you are used to back in your old life. If somebody invites you to go try to catch some lobster, say yes! If somebody says they are hiking a mountain and want you to come along, say yes! If somebody propositions you to do drugs behind the dumpster in the alley, say no… use your best judgement. All jokes aside, saying yes to things has resoundingly given me some of the best memories, the most incredible experiences, and introduced me to some of my best friends. Take a chance and it will reward you 200%.

Coast of Italy off Capri Mid 2016. I met these guys that morning and we ended up traveling all over together.
  • Check in with yourself every now and then

Keep in mind that while living abroad has some amazing upsides, it is not always sunshine and rainbows. It is very important to make sure that through all the new experiences, you are taking care of number 1 (you). It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’m really not having a good time BUT I can’t quit now”. This is a flawed way of thinking and can really damage the whole experience. If you really do not vibe with a certain place or a group of people, then it is important to realize it and to find other options to help you get as much out of living abroad as possible.

In summary, taking the leap and getting that one way ticket can be one of the best decisions you can make. The people you will meet and the lessons you will learn from living abroad will teach you much more than you can learn in any school. With these tips and tricks, I really only scratched the surface and one will find that there is no one size fits all for this kind of stuff. These tips are what I pulled from my time living on the go for the last 6 years (If they worked for me they might work for you too!). Plan ahead (but not too much) go get involved (in moderation) and say yes to new experiences (within reason).

Stay safe and get moving.