Thanks to That-Which-Will-Not-Be-Named, the first couple years of the ’20s gave many of us a glimpse into a life that previously only a few daring rule breakers had known about: self-empowering, location-agnostic work—and the vast possibilities that come with it.
Traditionally—despite the abundant benefits, inherent adventure and guaranteed growth that comes with moving abroad to a foreign country—it’s not a path most people are sufficiently motivated to explore.
But now society has been forced to acknowledge that high-quality, rewarding work doesn’t actually require people to constrain their lives to a geographical bubble defined by the distance they can stomach commuting across twice a day.
As a result more people than ever are taking a fresh look at their lives and asking whether living in their home country is providing them with their best possible life—or is even necessary.
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Welcome To Freedom
If that’s you, we’re here throwing you a spiritual party—because taking a sharp, critical look at that paradigm is all it takes to open the door to a literal world of opportunity.
There’s a reason so many expats choose to live abroad in a new country when they have the power and freedom to base themselves anywhere in the world. Actually there are a lot of reasons. And we’re going to lay them all out on a platter.
In This Article
I’m Alia—an American citizen living in Thailand—and I’m going to be your guide as you bring the details of this achievable dream into focus. Here’s what we’ll explore together in this article:
- Why moving abroad is the most incredible decision you’ll ever make.
- All the amazing benefits that come with moving overseas.
- The ways in which many countries are actively making it easier for people interested in working abroad.
- How you can bring your job abroad with you when you start a new life abroad.
- The challenges you’ll face (like learning the local language) and how to overcome them.
- A quick-reference moving abroad checklist to help you get started.
Why Deciding to Move Abroad Will Change Your Life
I’m going to try not to get too philosophical here, because we’re not discussing this in theory. In fact the entire reason I’m writing this is because this is the sort of thing that’s easy to watch others do and fantasize about.
But actually making the move to live overseas is one step further than most people end up going.
It’s understandable. For a lot of us there’s a reason we are where we are. We have ties, comforts and responsibilities. There are others, we rationalize, with the freedom and luxury to simply detach and move abroad—but not us… right?
Maybe not. That’s something only you can decide.
But most expats will tell you that at one point or another in their lives they’d placed themselves in that category of people who “just couldn’t.”
Almost all of them will also express immense gratitude that they ended up dispensing with that thinking and moving overseas.
Perspectives and Comfort Zones
Which leads me to the number one reason that saying “yes” to moving abroad is a game-changer.
And don’t worry, we’re getting to all the sexy tangible upgrades you’ll bank from basing yourself in many countries around the world.
See while all the benefits—like a lower cost of living, better job prospects, gorgeous destinations, new cultures and new friends—create their own compelling argument to move abroad, even they can’t compare to how much the experience of living abroad will upgrade you.
Moving abroad will inevitably challenge you, and while setting up an entirely new life in a new country is much scarier and more difficult in the beginning, the reason it gets so much easier over time (and it really does) is because you get better.
All around more worldly, experienced and capable.
There are few adventures in this world more mind-expanding, skill-advancing and growth-effecting than moving abroad to a new country and just having to figure out a whole bunch of stuff you used to take for granted.
And this is also exactly why so many people who fantasize about going to live abroad never end up doing it.
Because it’s scary! And of course it is. But it’s also a whole lot of fun.
What’s bigger than any of that though—and I offer this both from personal experience and that of a few hundred of my closest friends—when you get comfortable being uncomfortable, the whole world becomes your comfort zone, and you unlock mastery over your surroundings.
Benefits of Living Abroad—From the Many Expats Who Do
Beyond the incomparable growth, gratitude and open-mindedness that comes with living life in a different country, there are of course some amazing tangible benefits that come with moving abroad.
So without further adieu, the fun stuff:
Everything Your New Destination Country May Offer…
- A totally fresh start (pretty much assured)
- Immensely lower living costs and access to luxuries at big savings
- A cheaper high-quality healthcare system
- Lots of new professional opportunities
- Incredible new landscapes, geography, natural attractions and cities
- An amazing base for traveling abroad to other parts of the world
- The chance to learn a new language
- Fun, eye-opening new cultures and ways of life
- Tons of new friends you never would have met otherwise
Benefit 1: A Fresh Start
No matter what’s primarily driving you to dreamland around the idea of living abroad or what you may be leaving behind, few things in life are harder to come by—or more invigorating—than a fresh start.
You don’t have to be running from anything or bathed in regret to benefit from a clean slate. Moving abroad to a new country is just… healing.
New surroundings, colorful sights, interesting sounds, and new ways of life all merged into one experience have a magical way of awakening our inner child.
All of a sudden you notice there was a little bit of cynicism that’s suddenly disappeared, or maybe even some passive frustration that’s been a layer on your worldview and is surprisingly gone.
From this new place, the world is new and exciting again. Full of mystery, adventure and opportunity. And in it, you can be anyone. Escape toxicity, gain closure, start anew,
Benefit 2: An Amazingly Cheap Cost of Living
Did you know that financial wealth isn’t the same thing as having a ton of money? Wealth is your buying power. And sure, having lots of money is a very effective means of building wealth.
But what most people totally forget to consider is that it’s also possible to build wealth by manipulating the other variable in the equation: costs.
If you’re living in the US or most western European countries—and even better, a major city—I’d gamble you can’t even begin to imagine just how far your money would be able to take you if you were spending it somewhere else.
If you want to explore just how much richer you could be living abroad as opposed to in your home country, read my article comparing the cost of living in New York City to Bangkok, Thailand. The difference is astounding.
You could, for example, end up legitimately paying 80% less in rent for a modern, luxurious condo—smack in the heart of the city. Or access app-hailed on-demand taxi rides for an average of $4 as opposed to $20+.
The list is endless, and the beauty is that when you save that much, not only can you afford to buy more, you can also afford not to work as much while still accessing all the comforts and high-quality necessities you need for an easy, healthy life.
Benefit 3: Great Healthcare You Can Actually Afford to Use
The US and Canada aren’t the only places to get great medical care, treatments or surgeries. In fact gorgeous paradise nations like Thailand have built their entire modern economies on the basis of being world-class medical destinations.
Combine values like that with the overall incredible affordability of living in those places, and you can take better care of yourself in more comfortable and convenient settings, all while paying as little as what your insurance co-pay would cost now.
Benefit 4: New Professional Opportunities
A lot of people contemplating moving abroad often cite work as a key concern, or even a reason not to do it. But what if I told you that was just one huge misconception?
If you’re a professional—especially one who’s already able to work remotely—we’d wager the opposite: that making the move abroad will actually expand your job prospects and professional opportunities.
A lot of people envision living abroad like bushwhacking into uncharted wilderness. There you are, a lone pioneer venturing into the great unknown with no safeguards or connections to the outside world. You’ll be lucky to survive the night!
Yeah, no. A hugely underrated aspect of living abroad is that by moving to a new country you instantly become part of a community of expats from all over the world.
In pretty much any foreign country you choose to explore or base yourself in, there’s sure to be a vibrant community of other professionals working abroad there as well.
Of course you don’t have to engage with anyone, but inevitably there will be many expats just like you who’ve moved abroad to the same country.
In addition—and this is especially true if you choose to live in a country with a very different local language—your skillset and background are almost guaranteed to be less common and therefore more in-demand.
In many countries, even those with far lower average incomes for locals, you’ll have strong prospects as a remote professional whether you’re looking for a new job, new business, or new talent.
And networking amongst expats in any given country is essentially supercharged.
Benefit 5: Beauty, Wonder, Wisdom & Relationships
I’ve taken the last 5 bullets and smashed them together into this one convenient heading, because they’re all thoroughly connected.
You know how when you do the same thing over and over again it kind of just fades into the background and becomes white noise?
Well, to a degree, that’s what happens to your entire world when nothing changes.
That’s why going somewhere new on vacation or even something as small as changing up your workspace can all of a sudden reinvigorate your whole life.
So imagine what happens when you change literally everything, everywhere, all at once.
Your eyes open. Your mind opens. You appreciate things you’d previously taken for granted, and you see things you might’ve otherwise missed. On top of that, in this new country those things are often stunning.
It makes you happy. It makes other people happy. You connect. You share experiences. You learn. So. Much.
And it’s not boring—not even for a second.
You’ve heard (too many) people talking about living their “best life?” Are they still in their home country? Yeah…
The Best Countries To Move To For A New Life
Of course, not all countries are created equal when it comes to big potential perks like a massively more affordable cost of living or an ideal setting in which to retire abroad.
If you’re on this journey and exploring the planet from the novel perspective of finding a new country to call home, it can be extremely overwhelming.
Tons of different accounts litter the internet that are often hyper polarized based on a person’s unique experience and personal situation, and it can be difficult to get a feel for a place through the lens of your own values.
Fortunately my friends and fellow remote workers at Iglu have covered most of the planet at one time or another in their lives, and I’ve tapped them to compile this shortlist of the best countries you could choose to base yourself in.
Fair warning: I didn’t say this would make it any easier to choose.
Beautiful, warm, welcoming Thailand is the central hub in Southeast Asia where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking views, beaches and mountain ranges in the world.
It’s also where you’ll find a world class healthcare system, some of the best food on Earth (that’s also impossibly cheap), and me.
Full disclosure, I am definitely biased toward Thailand. But before you let that weigh against it, consider this:
Why Choose Thailand As Your Destination country
- Incredible, cheap food
- Incredible, cheap healthcare
- Pristine beaches, gorgeous mountains, lush jungles, bustling cities
- Year-round tropical holiday weather
- Welcoming, friendly people and relaxed culture
- An overall cost of living that can instantly triple your wealth
Thailand is truly a special place, and it has far more to offer than can ever be experienced in even a lengthy visit.
Between Bangkok, Chiang Mai, the islands and the mainland coast, you could spend years here and never run out of genuinely worthwhile, unique adventures.
And you’ll likely spend less money living luxuriously as you redefine work-life balance here than you would sitting in your living room in the States.
Vietnam is another country in Southeast Asia that tops our list of best countries for living abroad. It shares many of the same perks and benefits as Thailand, but with its own unique culture, amazing food, and unforgettable vibes.
Whether you settle in one of the country’s beloved cities like Ho Chi Minh or venture out to hidden gems like Da Nang or Hue, living abroad in this magical country will fill your life with joy, wonder and warmth.
There’s always something new to explore in Vietnam, and the locals are welcoming to foreigners whether they’re visiting or there for good.
Politically, economically, socially… The UK has had a rough couple of years. But the fundamentals of what makes it an incredible destination country haven’t changed.
A zero culture shock, zero language barrier, exciting, fun-loving place to live, the UK is one of few underrated options that’s just a single, relatively cheap plane ticket away.
Moving overseas to the United Kingdom couldn’t be easier. Do it now and you’ll be “buying in” at a low point in the market, established and fully set up to live abroad as the geographical gateway to western Europe (from the US) bounces back in full force.
Most people don’t jump to Estonia in listing their top picks for a new country to live abroad in, but we’d argue that would be a huge oversight. Estonia redefines “up-and-coming”, with extremely modern remote work-friendly policies and perks.
For one, it’s full of natural beauty, and with public transportation free for all, it’s accessible with or without a personal vehicle. With only 1.3 million very happy residents and citizens you won’t be cramming yourself into any packed subway cars or walking miles to find a secluded viewpoint for a picture or a picnic.
Oh yeah, and internet access is considered a basic human right, which means it’s available for free to everyone.
Hong Kong has a special place in many hearts. Many of my fellow expats choose to live there because of the incredible blend of natural landscape and urban jungle, the food, bustling energy, or any of the countless wonders that await visitors and residents alike between the towering skyscrapers.
Few cities on Earth offer as much of a spectacle as Hong Kong—especially at night. It’s a place where you’ll never get bored, and if the energy ever proves to be too much, escapes into nature are always easy to access.
Meanwhile, infrastructure is top-notch, and modern conveniences are state of the art in nearly every measurable category.
The Scary Bits: Challenges & How to Conquer Them
In the face of all this promise, adventure and opportunity are inevitable challenges—the intimidating things moving abroad entails that tends to scare people away.
What You Shouldn’t Be Afraid Of
- How to research visa requirements
- Confronting and learning a new language
- Culture shock
- Moving belongings overseas
- Opening a foreign bank account
- Staying connected to family members
The trick is to just start moving and to keep everything in perspective. This is an adventure. It’s supposed to be new, and it’s supposed to make you feel a little lost now and then.
If you keep that in mind and remember to enjoy the experience, you’ll glide through it all and be looking back in no time with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.
Practically, the key is to make a moving abroad checklist, so I’ve laid out the only one you’ll need to get fully prepared to start a new life in a new country.
Moving Abroad Checklist: Everything You Need To Move to a New Country
Take it from me, moving abroad is way less stressful and scary when you have all the pieces laid out in front of you. It’s actually not even that complex of a process. Once you get past the first key items, the rest is a breeze.
1. Choose Your Destination Country
This goes without saying, but first things first, you need to at least shortlist where you think you might be happiest. That may come down to different things for different people, but for the most part you should consider the following:
- What’s most important to you in terms of a place to live comfortably
- The local economy and how that relates to your profession and/or skills
- How comfortable you are with a new language and some potential culture shock
- How you envision your ideal life, unrestrained by your current circumstances
2. Research Visa Requirements
This step can definitely punch above its weight in terms of making people feel overwhelmed. Visas are complicated, and each country has vastly different rules and regulations.
On top of that, they’re not always well explained, and there are always gray areas in terms of eligibility and validity.
Start by visiting official consulate and embassy websites. They don’t always have the clearest explanations of their country’s visa requirements, but they’re at least trustworthy.
You can then use them as a baseline with which to cross reference the info you come across on other sites and blogs.
You’ll want to get a solid understanding of the stated requirements and eligibility for various long-term visa options as well as the experiences of seasoned expats living in each country you’re considering.
In my experience, what may start out looking like an insurmountable wall of requirements often turns out to be far more attainable in practice.
And when it doesn’t, finding an experienced local legal firm like SVBL can make all the difference.
3. Plan Your Finances & Insurance
While moving abroad from the US or a western European country is very likely to save you money in the medium-long run, the move itself will be an expense.
It’s smart to lay out your costs in advance so you know how much to set aside. That also allows you to prepare a contingency fund in case anything goes sideways during the process and you need to shell out for some professional help, an unexpected flight, or anything else.
Insurance is another big thing to consider. While healthcare will almost definitely be cheaper than in the US, that doesn’t mean you can forget all about insurance.
A smart little life hack for soon-to-be expats is to take out a quality travel insurance policy like one from World Nomads—which can cover you for emergencies for the better part of a year at a time (with concurrent policies possible).
But in the long run you’ll want a strong expat health insurance plan, and likely at least a personal property insurance policy as well. Do some preliminary research in advance, but don’t worry about going the full distance before moving overseas, as you’ll almost definitely learn about smart solutions from locals and fellow expats that you’d otherwise have missed in your own research anyway.
4. Prepare to Bring Your Belongings Abroad
This is one thing you can greatly control based on how flexible you are.
The best thing to do—and I realize not everyone will be open to this—is donate, sell or give away the vast majority of what you currently own.
Do you have to? Definitely not.
Is air freight cheap? Is sea freight convenient and reliable? Do you actually need/love/benefit from 80% of your possessions? Also usually pretty much no.
We get very attached to our things, but as a momentarily famous home organization expert often said, “if it doesn’t bring you joy….”
It’s also worth considering that if you’re moving abroad, one of the absolute biggest benefits is the cleansing effect of starting anew.
Don’t reduce that once in a lifetime experience by bringing a shipping container of stuff from your old life, old country, and old hyper-material value system with you.
That said, there will of course be things you need and very much want to bring with you. And for those important, sentimental or enriching items, it’s key to know in advance how you’ll get them to where you’re going.
Ideally, you’ll pay your airline for an extra checked bag and be done with it, but consider this as well:
- What may be available in a cheaper/better local equivalent.
- Whether you’re impulsively bringing something because it’s a creature comfort, despite it not actually providing much value.
- Any laws that may affect the legality of something you want to bring (medication, etc.).
- How something is likely to affect the costs associated with moving abroad (whether due to air freight, excess baggage, or the cost of properly storing it at your destination).
- Whether it’s easier to have certain things mailed to you for pickup at your new local post office.
5. Plan to Keep in Touch
While high-speed internet and 5G mobile data is not only extremely common but also mind-bendingly cheap in many countries worth moving to, it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time in advance of your move figuring out exactly how and when you’ll keep in touch with loved ones back home.
Moving abroad is involved and entails a lot of unknowns. Whether for your own comfort or the peace of mind of friends and family members, everyone will be glad to touch base at multiple points in your early journey.
Don’t forget, if you get a local SIM card, your phone number will change, as will your time zone, no matter what you stick in your phone.
6. Read This Article
Consider these few points a shorthand quick reference guide to get your gears turning. For a much more in-depth guide that centers around remote work and how professionals can get themselves set up quickly and easily to live comfortably abroad, take a look at this article. It’ll cut out a lot of thorough research.
Key Points: Why Moving Abroad Is Worth It & How You Can Make It Happen
All it takes is one initial jolt—the one that makes you wonder, “why not?”—to start seeing the world for the wide-open wonderland that it is.
And all it takes is the freedom you already have as a remote worker to experience it. So why should you be thinking about moving abroad to a new country?
Join The Many Expats At Iglu
When you realize that moving abroad can actually be your reality, it changes your mindset forever, and presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.
The good news is, despite how scary it may seem at first, you’re never really alone unless you want to be.
When you move abroad as a remote professional, you become part of the expat community in that new country, which means you’ll have a huge community of people with similar life experiences from which to make new friends.
We Can Help You Get Settled
If you find yourself eyeing Thailand, Vietnam, the UK, Estonia or Hong Kong, my colleagues, friends and I will be glad to welcome you.
If you’re a talented professional with a background in tech, business or other specialized fields, we may even be able to directly help you get settled with new job opportunities that allow you to work on your schedule and your terms—in an amazing new country. Get in touch with us today.