Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Decision to Move Abroad in 10 Easy Steps

Resigning from a job, selling a house and/or car, and leaving family and friends to move abroad can be scary. But I did it in 2006. And now I’m sharing the steps (in the order that they appeared) that led me to work up the nerve to move abroad:

  1. Get fateful email from husband: “I got the offer.”
  2. Google, “Should I move abroad?”
  3. Eat lots of high fructose corn syrup.
  4. Google, “Living abroad.”
  5. Toss. Turn. Repeat.
  6. Wear sunglasses to cover up bags under eyes.
  7. Remember who is president (2006).
  8. Repeat #7. A lot.
  9. Go to work. Stare at vacation balance. Shake head.
  10. Realize looking back and thinking, “what if?” would suck.

If you’re living abroad, what made you decide to go? If you’re not, what’s holding you back?


  1. Aw, this reminds me of the fabulous Google ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Have you seen it?

    There's also a clever little app where you can create your own: Maybe a Writer Abroad search story?

  2. Hi Susan,

    I loved that Google ad. It was actually done by a colleague from my graduate school-the VCU Adcenter.

    Good idea for a Writer Abroad version. I'll see what I can do...

  3. I knew I needed a change of pace, and felt in a rut after five years in the same place (in my home country). Though it was a bit nerve-wracking, I felt it was the only option for me at the time - as if everything was pushing me forward to make that jump. So glad I did!

  4. AnonymousMay 13, 2010

    Number 10 pretty much sums it up for me. I visited Paris, loved it, then visited again and fell in love. Really, a no-brainer.

    Though actually, it made no sense in the world on paper as I had *nothing* in place when I moved. But there's no doubt I did it the right way for me. I knew I would always wonder if I didn't just take the leap. No regrets.

  5. Yeah, number 7 was important to me too. I remember my husband and I sitting in our South Philly living room in 2004 when you-know-who was re-elected and we both got tears in our eyes and said, we've gotta get out of here. We finally did it in 2007.

    But that wasn't the whole reason, of course. Turkey rocks and I loved living here as a high school exchange student and had always, always wanted to come back. Combined with the practical considerations -- our pres, the signs that the economy was going to crash (remember, this was 2007), plus what I felt in my heart -- that I had to come back to Turkey -- we took the plunge, sold all our brand-new wedding gifts and furniture, plus my car, packed two suitcases and our two cats and moved to Istanbul. Best. Decision. Ever.

  6. We were glad to escape the U.S. before the housing crash. Just lucky timing, I guess, as I was sad to sell the house at the time. It was so cute. Sigh.

  7. AnonymousMay 13, 2010

    #10 did it for me. I had pretty much lived my whole life within 15 minutes of my parents' house and knew that there had to be more. I was on the east coast and considered CA, but soon realized even that wasn't far or different enough, so I ended up packing up for Japan sight unseen. It was the best thing I ever did. I was there for 8 eight years - during the entire Bush administration - and moved back with my new family less than 2 years ago.

  8. Agree with many of you that #10 was the deal-breaker. When I thought about how I'd be, 80 years old, and looking back on life, I realized I would always be disappointed in myself if I didn't take the chance on the adventure.

  9. AnonymousMay 14, 2010

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. AnonymousMay 14, 2010

    Without realizing it, I fell in love. With a place, with people and with someone who is now my Significant Other ;) I had no place to live in my host country, no job lined up, no prospects of any kind, except the hope that it would all work out. And it did. Besides, long-distance relationships suck ;)

  11. I Adrineh, I love stories like yours. So much more romantic than my somewhat calculated decision :-)

  12. I love hearing about how people decided to take the plunge! For me I left straight after college to move to Japan and teach English because I loved Japan and Asia. I think it would have been harder for me to stay in the States actually because I was ready for an adventure. Then, in Japan I met my British husband, and that wrote the rest of the story. The latest chapter has been deciding to return to America together, after 8 years abroad. We get back in 2 weeks so hope it goes well! We don't have any plans, jobs, etc., but we have family and friends so should work out somehow. :)

  13. Hi Alisha,

    Wow, back to America after 8 years abroad. Good luck! I've heard going home is even harder than moving abroad.

  14. I cracked up at #7.

    Although not abroad, I did leave my comfort zone in 2006 and jumped with both feet, leaving the family and friends and moved to HI.

    #10 is a big one for me in almost everything I do. I never want to look back and think What If.

    PS: Hi Alisha! :) *we're old college friends*

  15. Sometimes moving across America can be as big of a decision as leaving it. When I moved from Chicago to Richmond in 2001, I definitely went through some culture shock.

  16. Of course! Now I remember you posting about the Google copywriter who went to your alma mater. Congrats on the mention in ABC News!

  17. Thanks, Susan. Haven't made the television news like you, but I'll take what I can get, ha, ha.

    Yes, I think I commented about that on your blog after you posted the ad.

  18. AnonymousMay 20, 2010

    My husband and I are living in Lisbon for his sabbatical year -- not the same as moving abroad permanently, but it's about the same amount of effort to get there. We're moving back in two and a half months, and I'm already dreading the work ahead! But the experience has been amazing... so glad we followed the urge of #10 and took the plunge.

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