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Almost everybody daydreams about it from time to time: packing everything up and moving to a new country. For our parents this was mostly just a pipe dream. For us, though, thanks to the programs that help us get gigs like teaching English and companies for whom globalization is just part of their plan, it is something we can actually accomplish. Of course, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it can be done easily. That whole “pack a bag and hop a plane” idea is more romantic notion than reality. If you’re serious about ex-patriating (even temporarily), here are the steps you need to take.

Figure Out Where You Want to Go

Where do you most want to live? If you’ve traveled through a country and fallen in love with it, this is a much simpler decision to make: just go there! If you haven’t done much traveling abroad, you’ve got some work to do.

The first part of this process is to make a list of things that really matter to you. For example, if you’re good at learning languages you can go pretty much anywhere. If you’re not good at learning new languages, you will want to limit your choices to countries in which your native language is spoken widely (or even is the predominant language).

The current economic climate and cost of living are also important. The last thing you need is to move somewhere, where you can’t actually live, you know?

Pay a Visit to Where You Want to Go

Once you’re pretty sure you know where you want to live, it’s time to pay that place a visit. When you’re there, work hard to stay away from the “touristy stuff.” Remember: there will be plenty of time for that when you live there! Instead, spend some time poking around in the different neighborhoods. If you have kids, check out the local schools. Explore grocery stores and other shops that are off the beaten path. Get a feel for what people are like when they aren’t catering to a crowd of tourists.

Meet with Immigration/the US Embassy

Remember, unlike moving to another state, when you move to another country–even one with which we share a border like Canada or Mexico–you can’t just pack up your stuff and go. You’re going to need a visa (and there are several types of those for which you can apply) and you’re going to have to jump through a bunch of legal hoops. It’s a good idea to work with a professional to help make sure that all of those details are taken care of before you attempt to “hop the pond.”

Find a Place to Live in New Country

If you can afford to do so, it is a good idea to take a second trip to your country and city of choice before you actually show up with all of your stuff. Unlike your first exploratory trip, this trip has a definite goal: you need to find and secure a place in which to live. The last thing you want to do once you arrive is have to pay for a hotel for several days or weeks while you find more permanent lodging.

A lot of people aren’t able to afford this second trip. If this sounds familiar, working with an international moving and relocation company is a good idea. The  Unigroup international movers, for example, offer housing assistance in addition to actually moving your belongings from point A to point B. Some companies even offer language training and services that will help you “settle in” to your new city and country.

Pack and Go

The best way to approach this, unless you’re working with a professional relocation specialist, is to pack only what you are certain you will need during your first few weeks abroad. Once you’re settled in, you can have your stuff shipped to you.

Finally: settle in and get to work but don’t forget to have some fun! You’ve successfully moved to another country–that’s the dream!

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