Leave the US
Ever contemplated packing up your bags and getting the heck out of the US? You’re not the only one. Unfortunately, many people have this dream but lack the support and resources to take the steps to get there. But your dream doesn’t have to be yet another one left to wither away.
With the right information, community, action plan, and a pinch of patience with your closest embassy, you can go abroad and stay abroad, sooner than you think.
In this article, we’ll go over if leaving the US is even worth it, how to get clear on what you want from a life abroad, and even the practical side of moving, like what to do if you have pets—no, you won’t need to leave Baxter behind with your in-laws. Sound like a plan? Let’s dive in.
Is leaving America worth it?
Maybe we’re a bit biased here at She Hit Refresh, but if any of the following reasons strike a chord with you, the answer is a loud, resounding—YES! We’ll let you decide for yourself. Leaving America offers the possibility of:
- Improved Safety – When you research where to go, you have the power to choose countries and areas with lower crime rates, stricter gun laws, and less violence. In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of Black Americans choosing to leave the US in particular—a phenomenon that has been coined “Blaxit”. Dissuaded by America’s systematic racism and rising racial tensions, many are choosing countries with safer environments to call home.
- Accessible, Affordable Healthcare – Many destinations provide universal healthcare systems and private options with comprehensive coverage and lower costs, even for foreigners, ensuring easier access to quality medical care. Debating whether or not to visit the hospital due to the price shouldn’t be a question.
- Quality of life – A life abroad can lead to improved quality of life. You get to choose the pace of your lifestyle, the language you wish to pick up, and the culture you want to learn more about.
- Women’s rights – You have the ability to choose a country with more progressive attitudes towards women’s rights. From healthcare access to reproductive rights to women’s safety statistics, many countries are ahead of the US in this regard.
- Cost of living – Depending on your chosen destination, the cost of living may be significantly lower, allowing for a more comfortable and affordable lifestyle as you stretch that paycheck a bit further.
- Cultural disconnect – Leaving America can bridge the cultural disconnect that you may feel, providing opportunities to immerse yourself in different traditions, languages, and perspectives that all work to foster personal growth. And live in a culture that you feel more aligned with. Additionally, if you move to a country with which you share cultural roots, you might even find a new sense of belonging and identification that may have been lacking in the US.
- LGBT+ rights – In the last few years, many states in the US have advanced bills that directly attack queer rights, causing decreased feelings of safety and representation within the community. Many countries in Europe in particular are safe havens for queer people, providing equal rights, strong protections, and a welcoming environment. Learn more about the best places to live in Europe for LGBT+ expats.
If a few of these points, or even just one, resonate with you, keep on reading for actionable steps on how to move out of the US.
How to move out of the US
Compared to a week-long vacation, moving out of the US isn’t as simple as closing your eyes, pointing to a place on a map, and running off to the airport. We have full lives we are leaving behind in the US. There will be tasks to be taken care of, paperwork to sort out, and A, B, & C plans to have at the ready if you want a smooth and stress-free move.
We recommend reflecting on all of the 12 following points in preparation for the big move. They’ll make the entire process smoother, your life easier, and your flight that much sooner.
1. Get clear on what you want
This point is an excellent one to journal on in the beginning. A move abroad looks different to everyone. Really visualize what your life abroad looks like, feels like, sounds like. Will this be an indefinite move? Just want a year sabbatical? This is your chance to dream big and be completely honest with yourself. If you’re a visual person, feel free to start a new Pinterest board with an idea of what your life abroad could look like. What are you doing on a daily basis? What language are you speaking? Are you in a city or a small town, by the sea or up in the mountains?
2. Figure out your finances
Unfortunately, nobody is paying us for our courageous leap abroad—if you know someone though, you know where to message us. Having a budget and financial game plan will take a lot of the stress off of your shoulders once you arrive. Whether you plan on living off of savings, going remote in your current position, or searching for work once you’re there, knowing how you’ll be able to financially support yourself is going to help you not only get to a new country, but stay there.
3. Choose a destination
Sounds easy enough right? Not really. With almost 200 nations in the world, you have a lot to choose from. To funnel down the right destination for you, evaluate a mix of personal as well as practical aspects of life in different countries. From climate to cost of living, make sure your destination aligns with your dreams as well as your realistic needs. Looking for some recommendations? Check out our list of the best cities to live in Europe.
4. Identify a visa that works for you
Visas can be the biggest hurdle for many when moving abroad. Before you set your heart on a country, make sure there is a visa you qualify for. For example, if you’ve fallen in love with Iceland but there isn’t a visa you qualify for, research countries with a similar climate or culture, that also offer a visa you do qualify for.
Consider factors such as the purpose and duration of your stay, whether it’s for work, study, entrepreneurship, or retirement. Look into specific visa categories such as skilled-worker visas, student visas, investor visas, or non-lucrative visas. Pay attention to the eligibility criteria, application process, and any financial or language requirements. If you’re looking to move to Europe check out my visa guide which covers the 18 easiest countries to live in Europe based on 50+ viable visa options!
Immigration lawyers and consulate consultations can help you understand these processes better, so don’t hesitate asking for help if you get stuck.
5. Join an expat community
Having an expat community before you move abroad, as well as once you’re living abroad, is essential for navigating the seemingly inexhaustible list of questions that come up—and for forming lifelong friendships. There are many online groups for support, info, and to meet like-minded people such as ours at She Hit Refresh, geared towards women age 30+ who are loving life abroad, or looking to get there.
Finding your people is empowering, it makes you feel less alone and validates your idea to move abroad – it’s not crazy, lots of people are doing it.
Important: You don’t need to share your dream with everyone in your personal life either. Don’t feel obligated to share your dream with family and friends who do not support your decision. They mean well but are most likely projecting their fears on you which can leave you feeling discouraged and disempowered.
6. Do a scouting trip
Going on a scouting trip allows you to experience what life will be like in your potential new home. It also gives you an opportunity to explore the local job market, housing options, and community resources. To plan a successful scouting trip, research the destination in advance, create a list of must-visit places, and connect with locals or expat communities to connect with when there.
7. Decide what to do with your home
If you’re lucky enough to have a lease that is soon ending—congratulations! Get outta there. If you have to sell your home, find a renter, or potentially break a lease, start working on that right away. Here is some detailed information on what to do with your home when you plan on moving abroad.
8. Downsize and declutter
This is a crucial step that should be started on as sooner rather than later, for a smooth transition and fewer headaches. By reducing your possessions, you can save on shipping costs and minimize the logistical challenges of moving internationally. Start early, sort your belongings into categories, and consider selling, donating, or discarding items that are not essential. Learn more on how to declutter and downsize before moving abroad.
9. Plan for your pets
To plan for your pets, start with a bit of research on the destination’s pet import requirements. This includes vaccination, quarantine, and documentation. Consult with a veterinarian to ensure your pets are in good health and meet all necessary requirements. Additionally, consider the logistics of transporting your pets, whether it’s by air or land, and explore pet-friendly accommodation options in your new location. Not sure where to start? Check our our guide on moving abroad with pets.
10. Save as much money as you can
While you might have a certain budget in mind when planning your move overseas, remember that unexpected expenses tend to come up when you make a big life change. Some being tax surprises or deposits when you go to rent or buy your future home. Incidentals, medical bills, and entertainment are other costs to keep an eye out for too.
Additionally, a big move overseas means you’ll need some time to get settled. If you intend to take days off from work to get adjusted in your future home, will this affect your cash flow and how much you save? If this is the case, plan accordingly!
As soon as you decide to move overseas permanently, begin tightening your current budget. Take small steps like cutting back on eating out and buying things you really don’t need. Also trim out unnecessary items like cable television, fancy gadgets, or that daily coffee from your favorite cafe.
11. Start taking language lessons
Whether by app, language exchange, or private lessons, learning the language of the country you’re relocated to might just be one of the highlights on your moving abroad checklist. Before arriving in your new home, it’s a good idea to at least be familiar with the local language. Aside from being a sign of respect, you’ll feel a little bit more grounded if you’re able to understand what other people are saying.
12. Get your paperwork in order
Before you begin your visa process, check with the nearest consulate or embassy of your future home to learn about the documents required for your application. This can take time and may require digital and in-person legal documentation requests. Additionally, some guidelines insist that documents be translated and certified.
Move out of the US
And that’s all folks! If you’re still wondering if you’re making the right decision, you can never be 100% sure until you do it. It’s going to feel scary—you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s just part of the journey.
Worst case, if you don’t like it, you can always move back—and that’s completely okay. But you can be sure that by following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, from identifying a suitable visa to decluttering your home, you are following your heart and taking steps towards a life that suits you. If you really want to see if a move abroad is for you, join the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass! This 4-day LIVE Masterclass with help you understand how YOU can move abroad on your terms.
Remember, this is your chance to embrace new opportunities, immerse yourself in different cultures, and create a life that aligns with your dreams. It might be tough, and you might feel like quitting at times, but the rewards are great. So take that leap, trust in the process, and savor the adventure that awaits you beyond the US borders. See you abroad!