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10 Reasons People Don’t Move Abroad & How to Overcome Them

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As an expat mentor, I get messages and calls all day from people telling me the reasons they want to move abroad but even more so, the reasons they “can’t” move abroad. 

And I get it, moving abroad is a huge step. For many, it’s far outside of their comfort zone and something that only happens in their dreams, not something that they actually feel can become a reality.

The first time I moved abroad, I was terrified. So terrified I even tried to get off the plane as we were taking off. Now, I’ve been living abroad since January 2013 in 4 different continents. I still get butterflies every time I’m off on a new adventure but the good butterflies that come with excitement rather than those anxiety-inducing ones associated with fear.

If you're someone who dreams of moving abroad but hasn't yet made the leap, I’m sure you’ll relate this article. But more importantly, I hope you learn some powerful tips to shake your doubts and get confident with your decision to move.

Here are 10 of the most common reasons I get from people about why they haven’t moved abroad and how to overcome them.

1. “I don’t know where to even begin.”

Starting something new is always the hardest part, especially when you have 0 experience. Luckily, we live in the age of technology and blogging, so one of the best places to start is on Google or Pinterest. Start with something broad, like understanding the 10 steps to move abroad, that will give you the right building blocks and plan your runway.

Once you have a basic understanding of the steps it takes to move to another country, start searching for more specific information about where to move to and what jobs abroad suit you.

When you’re just starting out, you’re not expected to have any answers. The world is your oyster so have some fun researching a wide variety of places that sound exciting.

Once you have an idea of places that seem like a good fit, start looking up the visa process and if you’ll need to find a local job, can work online, or can stay for a few months without working.

a women walking to a Vietnam Airlines flight in Ho Chi Minh, City
You can even hop around to different cities within 1 country

2. “My friends and family don’t support me.”

Remember just recently how uncertain and scary this all seemed? Now put yourself in your friend’s and family’s shoes. You’ve probably been thinking about living abroad for months or even years but if this is the first time they’ve heard about your plans, it will take them some time to get use to the idea.

Cut them some slack and be patient as they process it. 

I’d also be prepared for a lot of questions that they’ll expect you to answer. If you don’t have any answers yet, it’s probably best to wait to share the news. It’ll be much easier for them to understand and accept if you seem confident about your decision.

Avoid saying things like, “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t thought about that yet” and instead come ready to educate them on where you’re going and how you’re going to stay. Confidence is key here and the funny thing about confidence is that no one knows if its real or not.

3. “The visa process is too complicated.”

I won’t sugarcoat this one. Visas are complicated, confusing, and all-around a pain. But, they are a necessary process if you want to stay long-term in any given country. 

Simply put, a visa is a document (or specific passport stamp) that states how long we can stay in a country. There are a variety of visas from tourist visa, family reunification visa, work visa, etc. Every country and every type of visa will have its own set of requirements. Also understand that visas are typically specific for nationalities.

For example, I'm from the U.S. and my husband is from Colombia. Although we both work remotely and both move to the same countries together, we typically have different visa rights simply because our nationalities are different. A big help for us has been the recent boom in freelance visas, allowing remote workers to stay long-term in a long list of countries.

Unfortunately to most of with a huge case of wanderlust, a majority of countries won't let you arrive and stay as long as you'd like without any questions asked or paperwork. Some countries are definitely easier than others but you still need to understand your rights on how long you can or can't stay somewhere being making any big plans.

The best way to overcome this hurdle is to first have a clear idea of why you want to move to that specific country. By having defined dreams the excite you, you’ll be more willing to deal with the headaches while obtaining your visa. 

It’s also fair to accept that somewhere throughout the process, you’ll make a mistake. Something will get lost in translation, you’ll print out the wrong form or not sign where you’re suppose to. Just remember, every single of us has made those same mistakes and we still made it abroad. Don’t beat yourself up when things start getting hard. Instead, ask for help and then ask again, just in case.

Pro tip: A Working Holiday visa is usually the most hassle free visa to get.

4. “I don’t know where to go.”

Choosing where to move abroad feels like a huge decision. There are so many wonderful places to live, it can feel really tough to just pick one. 

Here’s the deal though, you just need to start somewhere. And that somewhere doesn’t have to be permanent, unless you want it to be. 

One of my favorite aspects of the expat lifestyle has been living for a year or so in a wide variety of countries spread across 4 continents. I’ve never moved away from a country because I didn’t like it, always because I want to see and experience more places.

Same goes when choosing a country. I’ve never chosen a place thinking, “this is where I’ll live forever.” There’s no need to put that much pressure on it. Instead, think about places that sound fun to live in for a year and go from there. 

A foreign woman wearing a conical hat looking at a flower at a temple in Hoi An, Vietnam
I've never left a country because I didn't like it, just because there's more I want to see

5. “How do I even find a job abroad?”

Once you start searching, you’ll be surprised to see how many jobs abroad there really are.

Whether you want to stay within your same industry and push for an international transfer or you’d like to teach English, work in hospitality, or do something adventurous, like becoming a scuba dive instructor, there are so many options. 

When I first moved abroad, I moved with a job that held my hand throughout the process. I was young and thought the only way I could live abroad was through a big organization or by working for the government. While volunteering with the Peace Corps was such a great way to really integrate myself into another culture and get confident in the idea of living outside of my comfort zone, its definitely not the only way to get abroad.

Every year I’ve been abroad, I’ve met so many expats with incredible stories and unique jobs. Once again, the hard part is simply starting.

To browse a wide variety of job possibilities abroad, check out A Way Abroad.

6. “I’m not rich enough to live abroad.”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about living abroad. You do not need a huge savings account or trust fund to live abroad. 

I know Instagram might make it seem all expats live extravagant lifestyles but that’s a very small few. 

If you don’t have a lot of savings, I highly recommend moving abroad with a job contract. Usually that job will help pay for travel expenses and will either provide you a moving in bonus to help pay for your security deposit or in some cases, they’ll give you a free place to live. By having rent covered and knowing when your first paycheck is coming, you really don’t need much to move abroad on a budget. 

Plus, depending on where you’re from and where you’re going, the cost of living could be significantly cheaper, meaning you’ll get way more bang for your buck and will be able to stretch your money a lot further than you would back home.

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7. “It’s just not realistic.”

I hear this one a lot. And I mean a lot. So many people think living abroad is just some far off dream that can’t become reality. I’m living proof though that it can be real. So are the thousands, if not millions, of other expats.

Although it seems innocent enough, this sort of mindset is exactly what’s holding you back from really going for it. If every time you daydream about moving abroad your mind instantly tells you “it’s not realistic,” of course you won’t take the next steps to make it happen.

By telling yourself it can happen, researching how to do it and by connecting with others who are already abroad, you’ll realize just how many ways there really are to turn living abroad into reality.

8. “The language barrier seems impossible.”

Language (and cultural) barriers are tough but definitely not impossible. The cool things about languages are that they can be learned. Cultures aren't nearly as cut and dry but by immersing yourself and by being openminded to new experiences and new ways of life, you’ll start to uncover the do’s and don’ts of your new home abroad.

I highly recommend moving with a basic understanding of the native language but at the same time, understand that learning a new language is far easier when you’re fully immersed into it. So while you’re at home packing up your bags, do your best to learn simple greetings but once you’re there, turn your ears on and work hard to pick up more words to add to that vocabulary.

Lucky for you though, since you’re reading this article, you have at least a basic understanding of English. Even if you move to a non-English speaking country, you can usually find someone that at least speaks a few words of English to help you get by. 

A couple posing together in a colorful, lantern street of Hoi An, Vietnam
My husband and I soaking up the sun in Hoi An, Vietnam

9. “My partner doesn’t want to go.”

Another big reason people don’t actually move abroad is because their partner doesn’t want to. While this can cause a huge strain in the relationship, you need to really decide if it’s worth sacrificing your dream for. 

I first moved abroad while I was in a serious relationship. We were young and in love and thought we could handle a few years abroad. Long story short, we didn’t make it. And I’m very thankful for that. While it still broke my heart, I knew deep down there were a lot of flaws in our relationship and not moving abroad, for him, would be a mistake. 

Your relationship doesn’t have to end like mine did, unless you want it to. 

This article is really helpful in getting your partner just excited as you to move abroad. It walks you through 8 big tips on getting your partner comfortable and excited with the idea of living abroad or traveling long-term. 

10. “What if I don’t like it and regret my decision?”

Lastly, a big fear people have is they won’t actually like it abroad. Here’s the thing- you might not. But that’s nothing to fear. Realizing things you don’t like is even more important when getting to know yourself as realizing things you do like. 

Just because you don’t nail it the first time doesn’t mean it was a total fail. You now have a better idea of what kind of lifestyle you are looking for, what job you’re better suited for, or if you’re ready to go back home. 

There’s no shame trying again. Choose a new location, apply for different jobs, or head back to your home country with your head held high knowing you gave it a good shot and really put yourself out of your comfort zone.

The only thing I really recommend though is before you decide you don’t like it, give it an honest shot. Cultural shock is real and moving abroad, especially solo, can be lonely. You’ll need to put yourself out there and you’ll most likely have a lot more awkward encounters than you’re use to. Give yourself a few months to adjust before making any snap judgements. 

There you have it- 10 reasons most people feel they can’t move abroad and how you can overcome them. 

If you’re looking for 1:1 assistance to overcome your fears and make the move abroad, check my mentorship packages to book a call.

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