money leading up to my moves. Choose an amount that you can bear to stash away weekly or biweekly and tighten your belt. It’s only temporary.
Step Three: Do an inventory of your skills.
On my second day in Panama, I got a job teaching exercise and CardioDance classes at a fitness studio. Within a week I was offered a job leading conversational English classes at the University of Panama after calling to inquire about Spanish courses. Had I done either of these things before? Absolutely not. Would this have been possible in the States? Absolutely not. These were simply interests of mine that happened to be in demand here.
Beyond the often-constricting borders of America, your mere ability to speak English opens more doors than you could ever imagine. Skills you take for granted or have set aside could be beneficial elsewhere. Having played football way back in college could land you a job as athletic director of an international school. Your unused IT skills could lead to a comfy post overseas with a housing allowance and swanky benefits. Make a list of your marketable skills. You may be surprised what you, as an English speaker, can get paid to do outside of the United States. Sites like Overseas Jobs and Monster let you search by city, region and keyword and are great starting points. Expat portal International Living even has an entire section devoted to funding your life abroad.
Step Four: Tend to the small details.
It’s not quite as easy as packing a six-month supply of grits into a duffle bag and hopping on a plane. How do you get a work visa? Is the US dollar accepted in Shanghai? Can one get kinky twists in Norway? These are all very important issues to address. Luckily, Addison Sears-Collins of Visa Hunter has thought of it all. He has sorted through the confusing, contradictory web of information online about visas, employment, travel insurance, and housing for 232 countries and created a comprehensive research portal. Sears-Collins even researched the dating scenes in 62 countries to aid you in your cross-cultural sexual education, which I’ve learned is a surprisingly helpful way to learn a new language.
Connecting with those who have done what you are about to do is invaluable. Reading stories on Expats Blog and connecting with foreign professionals on Internations will inform you on the day-to-day issues you may encounter. Facebook-based communities like the Nomad·ness Travel Tribe and Black Americans Living Abroad are indispensable for meeting brown people in every corner of the world.
Step Five: Know that you’ll never be 100% “ready.” Leap anyway.
A monster move such as this requires a great deal of planning. There are many elements to arrange when starting a new life abroad. You could always save more money. You could always find a better job or buy a gaudier Traveling Black Man’s white linen short set for making your presence known. If you’re waiting for all of the stars to align in your favor, you’ll never leave. Once you’re fed up with doing what everyone around you has always done, act. Move before your loved ones dim the light on your dream and present you with more “reasonable” alternatives.
If you’ve got the gift of gumption, there’s a hell of an adventure to be had in creating a cushion, strapping on your parachute, jumping, and figuring it all out on the way down. Worst-case scenario: you end up back home alongside your well-intentioned friends with priceless experiences and great stories to share, learning from your mistakes and preparing to leap again.