10 days ago I decided to pack up my relatively settled California life and take a job with a responsible safari company in Lilongwe, Malawi. As I sit here having completed my third full day of work – I still feel as though I’m living in some sort of alternate reality. Although I have traveled and moved abroad previously, I had never taken this leap in such a short period of time. In the midst of my general panic and dysfunction I could have used some guidelines and gentle reminders. So, for those of you who love a good list – here is a checklist to be used in order to quickly wrap up your life in 10 days or less and take the next big jump into the international unknown!
Research – when does your passport expire? What are the entry requirements for your host country? Note* some countries require that you have two clean pages in your passport for entry.
Can you enter on a tourist visa and then obtain the appropriate permits in country?
- Travel Insurance
Cancel your local health/car insurance providers and secure the appropriate travel insurance for your time abroad. Helpful Hint: Make sure the travel insurance covers your flight dates as the provider will help to reimburse any flight delays/cancelations/lost luggage you may experience. I use World Nomads – shop around and identify the best option for you. Extra Helpful Hint: New favorite site/app AirHelp will actually deal with the airlines for you in these situations…
Speak to your personal physician about which vaccines are needed for your region. If you don’t have time to schedule an appointment with your local health care provider simply call, explain your situation to see if they can prescribe appropriate medications. It’s always useful to have an antibiotic and an anti-diarrheal prescription for emergencies. Otherwise, you can often get vaccines in country for a much more affordable rate.
- Book Your Flight!
Holy crap! This is actually happening! (I personally recommend skyscanner and Hipmunk for effective cost comparisons.) It is worth noting that some countries require proof of exit or a work permit, which means they want to see a round trip ticket. Some airlines are more strict about checking this than others. (Ethiopian airlines being one of them.) This is a risk you must be willing to take if you only have a one-way ticket.
- Personal Responsibilities
Sell, sublease…do whatever you need to do to MOVE OUT! (This may be the most time consuming process of all – start early, be proactive.) Get rid of as much as you possible can.
Sell, store or sort the most affordable way to take care of your most common transportation needs. *Don’t forget to cancel your insurance for the time you expect to be away. If you are storing a vehicle your insurer can often give you a very low rate to simply cover any damages to your car while in a storage facility.
Make sure that your cell phone comes unlocked for a new SIM card – or go to your provider to get this done before you leave. Cancel your cell phone provider or have them put your line on hold for the period you are away.
Cancel all recurring payments that you will no longer be responsible. Make sure you have a virtual or auto pay system set-up for all necessary continual charges.
Call your credit/debit cards and let them know how long you will be away. Some only allow for a 3 month departure – you may have to call and extend this again from abroad. (Often this process can be completed most efficiently via your online banking system).
Be sure that you have the correct amount of necessary personal medications for your travels or a significant period of time before you can transfer your records to a local provider.
- Physical equipment
What are the items you cannot live without? Pack minimally. Determine if your luggage is suitable for this move. Are most things imported into the country in which you are moving? Choose one or two of your preferred toiletry items – stock up and prepare to purchase everything else in country. Bring clothes that you love – I’ve found that even when traveling in the developing world I still want to feel myself. Things are things…you can always replace them.
- New Home Country Prep
- Research the local language, culture, and geography – do you have any mutual contacts in the region? Exploit the hell out of these.
- Final Pamper/Process
Be sure to leave some time pre-departure to process this move and recognize gratitude for your new opportunity. Go on a hike, eat at your favorite restaurant, get a mani/pedi – do whatever you can’t do for this upcoming chapter. My advice is to be totally packed a day before you leave. Check in for your flight 24 hours in advance and leave the following hours to have a meal with those you care about most, call your family – make sure they have your Skype/whatsapp details, get a massage and do something you LOVE in your current home.
Now it’s time to fly – Take a deep breath, reflect on where you’ve been and remain present throughout this next life adventure!