How to Experience Living in a Foreign Country


You can live in a foreign country for 1-3 years pretty easily. All you have to do is get a working holiday visa. It’s staying in a country permanently that takes a ton of paperwork and thousands of dollars in fees.

I’ve met hundreds of people from all over the world who have taken 6 months to 3 years out of their old lives to live and work in a foreign country, and frankly, some of them were pretty damned dumb. It’s really not that difficult. If you can move from one city to another city in your home country you’d be surprised how capable you are of moving to a city in another country. The general public just doesn’t seem to grasp how realistic an option working temporarily in another country is.

I’ll explain the steps to living and working temporarily in New Zealand, but this advice is pretty universal.

Step 0: Get a passport If you can’t figure out how to get a passport then don’t worry about moving to a foreign country. Despite what I said two paragraphs ago, you’re too dumb to survive in a foreign country.

Step 1: Fill out and submit the paperwork to get a working holiday visa. A working holiday visa to New Zealand was $120 NZ last time I checked. You can afford that. You’ll also need to get a medical physical done. Do you know how to schedule a physical? You call your doctor, set an appointment, take 30 minutes out of your day to have some blood drawn, and then you wait for your results. You might pay around $200 for your physical for a working holiday visa. You might pay $500 for your physical for a permanent residency visa.

Step 2: Buy a plane ticket. Once you get your working holiday visa all that’s left to do is buy a plane ticket. If you keep your schedule open, watch the prices of flights and don’t leave at the busiest travel time of the year you’d be surprised how cheap you can get around the world. $900 will get you almost anywhere if you can wait. Otherwise, $1,500 will get you anywhere if you book it just a little early.

3. Go there. Go to the airport. Then go sit on a plane. Eat a hot meal, watch a bad children’s movie and then get off the plane. Walk out of the new airport you find yourself in. Walk to the street curb and hail a taxi.

4. Get a place to stay. Tell the taxi driver to take you to the 3rd cheapest hostel in town. Trust me, no matter what city you go to you don’t want to stay at the two worst hostels in town. Go cheap, but don’t stay at a death trap.

In New Zealand a very popular alternative to staying in a hostel is to buy a camper van or station wagon that is fully furnished to live out of for backpacking/camping purposes. There’s always a few for sale on http://www.trademe.co.nz. Chances are your hostel will have fliers posted from travelers trying to sell the camper they bought for their trip that is now over. I’ve met one or two people who sold their travel van for a profit at the end of their vacation.  Note: this may not be safe in every country….but it is in New Zealand.

5. Get a job. If you stay at a hostel you might find fliers for people looking for backpackers to do seasonal work. Otherwise, you’ll probably meet someone who knows where to find it. If you were smart you would have found out where all the work is before you arrived. If not you can spend your days walking down the street with a stack full of resumes giving them to every shop on every street. Or you can pay $2 per hour to surf the internet doing Google searches for “Seasonal Work” “Fruit Pickers” and “Kitchen staff.”

And that’s it. That’s how millions of people travel the world and live in foreign countries. You just submit an application for a visa, buy a plane ticket, go there, get a place to stay and then find a job. It doesn’t take a superhuman feat to accomplish. Regular people are quite capable of this. Once you’ve got the hang of it you can just hop from country to country for years without stopping. Note: You probably won’t be able to save any money for retirement during that time though. So think carefully about how long you do this for.

The hard part about spending 1-3 years in a foreign country is paying for it. But let’s break down the cost and see how much it really is:

$120 for the visa.

$200 for the medical physical

$300 for backpack and travel gear

$1000 for a plane ticket

$400 per month rent

$100 per week for food

$300 for things you’re going to ignorantly pay too much for before you learn the ropes in the new city you’re in

$100 per week for having fun

So basically it’s going to cost about $2500 to get into the country and get a roof over your head. Once you’ve accomplished that you just need about $1000 for every month you expect to be unemployed. However, that can be reduced by $400 per month if you live in a camper van. However, you’ll have to bring an extra $1500-$4000 to buy the van.

Assuming you don’t buy a camper van, it’d be ideal to allow yourself 3 months to find a job. It shouldn’t take that long unless you procrastinate, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, and this will allow you to be a little pickier about what job you take. So plan to bring $3,000 for living expenses.

That brings the total cost of moving to a foreign country to $5,500 (assuming you can find a job in 3 months).  Through in traveler’s insurance, emergency money and the possibility that you might have to prove you have at least $5000 in your bank account before you’re granted a working holiday visa and we’ll just call the grand total $7500. Of course, the more you bring the more options and less stress you’ll have. Actually, this whole price list is moot because in order to qualify for a working holiday visa you have to prove you have $10,000 available in your bank account. But the immigration board set that requirement because it’s a few thousand dollars more than a frugal traveler realistically needs.

So here’s what it all comes down to. I can’t say if you should move to another country for 1-3 years or not, but if it’s a dream of yours then the only thing standing between it and you is $10,000 and a round trip plane ticket. How much is that really? You can save that much. If you don’t have that kind of money, ask yourself what luxuries you could sacrifice to get it. You’re probably pissing most of your money away on frivolous things anyway. Would it be worth sacrificing some of those unnecessary indulgences for 6 month to 1 year to have the experience of a lifetime?

All I’m saying is that it has been done, and you can probably do it too if you tried.

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