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How To Move Across The World

I only move at least 3,000 miles at a time, or not at all. I’m definitely an expert in how to move across the world at this point, given that I’ve lived in 5 different countries in the last decade. Now I want to help you do the same.

Every plan will be different due to varying degrees of financial security, opportunities, and passport privileged; however, there are key elements that always remain the same.

In this article, I’m going to give you an overview of the major milestones that you’ll need to consider when planning your move across the world.

These will be both physical and emotional because I want you to be prepared for what’s actually out there and not just a ‘best case scenario.’

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

If you’re looking for more resources about moving abroad, I have loads!

Here are a few of my top favorite posts and resources:

Moving across the world is never perfect the first time, but I promise that it’ll get easier with time! And if it turns out that you don’t like the experience, you can always come home.

Want Extra Help? – Join my Move Abroad Master Class

If you want to make sure that you’ve crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, you should jump into my 5-week Move Abroad Master Class.

This experience is packed with helpful video tutorials, digital tools, immigration resources, and so much more!

PLUS, if you have an American passport, you’ll be able to work with me for 5 weeks in my small-group coaching sessions as a complementary add-on.

Step-by-Step Guide for Your Move Across the World

The next tips are my most practical guide for moving internationally. They will specifically cover packing, what to do on arrival, and how to prioritize what you’ll bring abroad.

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All You Need is Food, Water, and Shelter to Survive… Technically

We tend to create this grandiose plan in our minds when we think about what it takes to move across the world. It sounds all romantic and difficult, but in reality, you really just need the basics of food, water, and shelter to survive.

Anything beyond that is just an added bonus.

So let’s start from the beginning. First and foremost, you need to have a soft place to crash in your new home.

I would recommend starting with a short-term lease (from 4 to 6 weeks) so you can buy yourself some time to find a more permanent housing solution.

Beware of housing scams! If someone asks you to pay up-front for a property that you’ve never seen, this is a BAD sign.

Multiple friends have fallen victim to this type of scam and I don’t want you to be one of them too.

Instead, start with your short-term lease via Airbnb or just a regular furnished apartment booked on Expedia (or equivalent).

Next, start making in-person visits to apartment viewings to make sure you get a legitimate apartment instead of falling victim to scams.

Once you have your short-term housing sorted, have a quick Google about the amenities nearby. More specifically, you’ll want to find the following:

  • A large grocery store for weekly shopping
  • A department store to buy bedding, pots, and any other furnishings
  • A phone provider or store of some sort to get a local SIM card
  • The embassy of your country (just in case)
  • Your nearest hospital

Once you find these locations, drop a pin on Google Maps and save those locations to your account. It also helps to give them a nickname (like ‘closes hospital’) so you don’t have to remember the name of the location when you’re bleeding out (lol jkjk).

Lastly, Google whether or not you’re able to drink the water at your new location because this is always something that creeps up on me.

Who knew you couldn’t drink the water from the tap for most islands (not me)?

I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!

Move Abroad Master Class

You’ll Likely Need a Visa

If you have a highly privileged passport (American, British, Western European, etc), then there’s a likely chance that you won’t need a formal visa to enter most countries OR you can get a short-term visa on arrival (i.e. when you land).

For example, Americans that stay in the United Kingdom for up to 6 months without a formal visa. Lucky ducks! In comparison, someone with a Nigerian passport will need to apply for a tourist visa before arriving in the country.

A short-term visa typically allows you to stay in that country for anywhere between 30 to 180 days. Once you reach that threshold, you’ll need to leave the country.

If you’re just traveling through a country, you can remain on a tourist visa without a big issue. If you want to work or study in that country, you’ll need to apply for a formal visa outside of the country and wait for a decision before you can travel.

Read my article on how to apply for a visa step-by-step here.

Figure Out a Budget for Your Move or Travel Adventure

Perhaps the least sexy part of moving across the world is figuring out how much money you’ll need to save and how to budget once you’re on the road.

Solo travel will always be more affordable than traveling with others because you’re able to move more nimbly in popular places, couch surf with friends easily, and have greater flexibility than when you’re with a large group.

You also need to consider what region you’re traveling in when you’re calculating your budget! The Nordics are going to be significantly more expensive than traveling through South America.

Here are a few basic starting points when trying to figure out a budget. These are huge generalizations and are often not a perfect reflection, but we need to start somewhere.

  • $1000 per month: Shoe-string budget in a region with a ‘cheap’ cost of living (SE Asia, South America, Africa); includes accommodation, activities, food, and local transport for 1 person.
  • $1800 per month: Mid-range budget in a region with an average cost of living (Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle America); includes accommodation, activities, food, and local transport for 1 person.
  • $2500 per month: Larger budget in an expensive region (America, Western Europe, Nordics, Australia); includes accommodation, activities, food, and local transport for 1 person.

Obviously, these budgets will fluctuate based on your spending habits and personal taste, but I wanted to give some sort of reference to start with.

That list is also a generalization. For example, I was able to live in the UK for less than £1500 a month and I know loads of people who live on less than $2500 a month in Western Europe.

Be mindful that you’ll need to figure out what works for you!

Once you have a general budget in mind (broken down by month), then you’re going to want to multiply that budget by however many months you intend on traveling without working.

If you’re moving across the world for a job, your budget might be lower because you’ll have income eventually. However, don’t forget that moving is expensive and you might have to furnish your apartment once you arrive!

Play it safe and always add 2 more months into your budget calculations just in case unforeseen expenses occur.

Finding Housing is Critical for Your Move Abroad

If you’re moving abroad for the first time, most people don’t realize that having an address that can accept mail is a critical part of your relocation abroad!

This is because you’ll need to have a proper address to receive important immigration, tax, and legal documents and you’ll need to bring these documents with you to your in-person immigration interview.

Furthermore, you’ll also need to register this address with the government because they require foreigners to notify them of their location in case there are any issues.

More often than not, you’ll have a 1-3 month window to find and register with a residence. However, you might not be able to schedule your immigration appointments until you have a semi-permanent residence.

It’s kind of like a Catch-22 situation because you can’t often get your residence permit without a home address, but no one will rent an apartment to you unless you have a residence permit.

Hotels often won’t often count as a permanent residence for your visa application so you’ll need to find some sort of Airbnb or temporary apartment instead.

Here’s my best recommendation:

  • First, set up temporary accommodation via Airbnb or with a serviced apartment for at least 1 month. This way you can send all of your important immigration documents to an address that can accept mail.
  • Second, use local housing apps and websites to search for available accommodation, and be sure to see that accommodation in person before putting down a deposit. There are a lot of scams out there!
  • Lastly, register your new address with your local government and tax office. You might need to change your resident permit address too so look out for that.
Move Abroad Starter Kit

Start with a Bare-bones Packing List

I try to bring only what is absolutely necessary because the shipping costs of moving back and forth across the world can sometimes exceed the cost of the clothing itself.

If you’re struggling to discern between what’s a ‘must-have’ instead of a ‘nice-to-have,’ start with a bare-bones packing list.

Here’s an example of a bare-bones packing list. A ‘bare-bones’ packing list only includes items that are absolutely necessary to survive in a small range of climates with a focus on functionality:

  • 1 winter coat, 1 fall coat, 1 rain jacket
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 7 pairs of socks and underpants
  • 3 shirts or tops
  • 1 pair of waterproof flip flops
  • 1 pair of walking sneakers
  • something to sleep in

Beyond this bare-bones packing list, there are of course unique requirements to every personality and location. However, you’re really going to want to look at each piece and question: ‘Does this bring me joy?’

But be sure to pack for the weather you have; not the weather you want as well.

Make Medication a Priority.

I have a tendency to land in hospitals when I travel (world tour!) so I’ve made it a habit to pack emergency supplies and medication, in bulk. Wearing dirty clothing isn’t going to kill you.

Finding out that you’re seriously allergic to something in the Philippines while you’re trapped on an island due to a monsoon might.

Google what you’re going to be up against according to your destination and use some common sense when packing.

While in the tropics, you’re going to want to make bug spray and allergy medication a priority; but when you’re hiking the snowy mountains of Tibet in the winter, you’re going to give socks and heating pads the most attention.

You should ALWAYS bring contraception when you travel, even if you’re doctor has already prescribed you something or you don’t plan on doing the dirty. I’ve often helped out friends or strangers, which then leads to good travel karma, and allows the party to continue effortlessly without pregnancy or STD scares. #humblebrag

Bring Only As Much As You Can Carry on Your Own.

 You’re going to be traveling alone at some point so be sure that you only bring so much that you can lug around yourself. For me, I always put what I can’t live without in my GoRuck backpack so if I get into trouble, I can drop everything (but the backpack) and take off running (dramatic much).

Most people bring a few people in tow when they’re about to move across the world. HOWEVER, those people won’t be there when you land at your new destination so you have to make sure that you’re able to carry and support yourself when alone.

Overpacking will actually make you a much bigger target when you first land. Scammers know that you’re new to town, maybe you don’t speak the language, and they will pray on your desperate desire to have a little bit of help in a new place.

If you’re backpacking, you should really only bring a large 45-70L pack that you can wear on your back. Then, you should have either a fanny pack or a small backpack that you can wear on your front with all your valuables in it.

This way, if there’s an emergency, you can bail on the larger backpack and take off with just your absolute most valuable items in the smaller backpack or fanny pack.

I know it feels strange to think ‘What if I get robbed’ when planning your move abroad, but this is a helpful exercise to ensure you’re ready for anything.

If you’re relocating abroad, try to stick to two large suitcases and a backpack. This way, you can push one suitcase with each hand while keeping your most valuable items in your backpack.

You’ll get extra points from me if you have a fanny pack on

open suitcases and backpack filled with items to move across the world with

Pack Like You’re in the Military

Most people feel uncomfortable packing aggressively with their beloved items, but comfort is not always something we can afford when you’re moving across the world!

Instead, maximize the space you have by packing ‘military style.’ What that means is that you’ll need to roll your clothing into tiny burritos and stuff them in every crevice you can find.

For example, I put my athletic clothing into my shoes, my work clothing into my purses, and my phone in my bra (ha… but actually). If you can, wear all of your heaviest clothing on the plane to save space and kilograms for the weighing-in nightmare at the front desk.

When it comes to liquids, you’ll want to put a little square of plastic material under the cap and then screw on tightly. This will ensure that the liquid doesn’t escape when the pressure in the cabin changes. It’s a lifesaver.

Just like the military, you should also do a purge of anything and EVERYTHING that’s not serving you. Clothing, products, boyfriends… you name it!

Because physical and emotional space is so precious, you’ll need to become comfortable with shedding things that no longer serve you and your greater purpose.

Don’t feel sad. This is a fantastic exercise that will carry you through your adult life.

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Don’t Stock Up on Your Favorite Products.

Chances are the changes in the weather and water will completely change the way your hair and skin react. Suddenly, my oily skin dried out with the Beijing pollution and the humidity of London is crushing my blowout routine.

You’ll learn what works as you become accustomed to the new environment and it’s important for you to become familiar with local products, as imports are often expensive.

 Things are Things are Things. 

Anything and everything can be bought again; unlike memories.

Need More Resources?

I have loads of articles about how to move abroad and things to consider:


Friday 10th of June 2016

How do you go about making a drastic move to London with no job lined up or guaranteed place you'll be able to rent?

Carolyn V. Hamilton

Monday 29th of December 2014

Did I read correctly that your minor was in Studio Art? Do you carry any art supplies with you? or do you do everything on the computer? I think I may be old-fashioned, shlepping art supplies with me (got really excited when I found a glue stick to buy in Montevideo, Uruguay).

Vanessa Elizabeth

Monday 19th of January 2015

Hey Carolyn,

I don't really have the space to carry around art supplies :[ I was a big time spray paint nerd in school, but I gave that hobby up quickly because I would get super high off of the fumes despite using a mask, a fan, and spraying outdoors.

Such is life.


The Together Traveler

Wednesday 19th of November 2014

"If you have more space, feel to throw in more outfits and pieces, but only pack as much as you can realistically take.

And then cut that in half."

That really made me laugh. So true!