If you’ve decided to move, work and travel around Europe then here’s the guide for you!
“All we knew is that we had a dream to not only see, but be a part of the beautiful world around us. Our goal was not just to visit, but to experience each destination fully.” – Erin & Erin
When my husband and I made the decision to pick up and move to Europe, we had no idea where to start. We’ve traveled internationally before, but only on short trips. All we knew is that we had a dream to not only see, but be a part of the beautiful world around us. Our goal was not just to visit but to experience each destination fully. Two weeks of paid vacation just wasn’t going to cut it and waiting till retirement surely wouldn’t either. We decided to say goodbye to the comfortable lives that we’ve worked so hard to achieve, to our 9-5 jobs, and enter into the unknown where ANYTHING would be possible.
So…..where do you go now that you’ve made this life-altering decision that flips your current path upside down and sideways? Good question!
Step 1: Where do you want to go? Do your research!
We decided to make Austria our home base for a few reasons
- We LOVE Europe and feel there is so much to discover – all within proximity.
- The history is fascinating.
- The people are kind and truly embrace life.
- The food’s not SO bad…oh who are we kidding, the food is amazing!!!
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to choose a place based on family AT ALL. It just means you need to put a lot of thought and time into choosing your destination. Every country has so much to offer, but where does your passion lie? What environment will you thrive? Is there a language you are familiar with or one you want to learn? Is your future home central to other places you want to explore? Think long and hard and research everything about the country you choose. Because once you’ve made that decision, you will be moving forward, petal to the metal, with full force and no time to look back.
Step 2: Destination is chosen. The research continues…
Now that you have made your decision, it’s time for MORE research. Every country has different requirements for travel visas and permanent residencies. Which one is the right one for you? Can you work legally with your Visa or do you have to be creative with future income? Visit the Traveling website and read about all of your options. Call the Consular Officer at the Embassy directly and ask every question you want. Research online!
The answers are out there, and understanding all of the legal requirements is imperative to a smooth adventure without having to worry while you’re away. The more you do now, the more you will be able to enjoy yourself.
For us, Europe proved to be a little bit of a challenge. Traveling to Europe for less than three months is simple. No visa is required for a US citizen, and you can travel to any of the 26 countries freely. BUT staying for two years is another story. After much research and after going in person to the Austrian Embassy in DC, we learned that Visa D is our best bet. With VISA D, we can stay for six months and then stay another three months after, with your standard travel visa. At that point, when we know the language, we can either pursue a Permanent Residency OR apply again for a visa D. Nine months is more comfortable than three, so we were satisfied with that solution. On to the next step!
Step 3: Start learning the language.
Learning a language is probably the most enjoyable part of your preparations. Not the simplest task, but by far one of the most rewarding! Now, this doesn’t mean you need to take off to your destination and be 100% fluent, but for you to feel more comfortable in your new surroundings, you need to at least be conversational. There are some ways to make this possible:
1. Rosetta Stone = always the way to go. Their program is extremely effective. You learn by hearing it, saying it, associating it with images – BRILLIANT!
2. Label everything in your house or apartment. Every time you see it, say it! Simple as that.
3. Purchase Pimsleur Language CDs. If you commute to work, listen to 1 lesson per day. You will be able to master conversational German, Spanish, Italian, etc. in NO TIME!
4. Watch movies with subtitles. Pick out a favorite movie, and watch it in your new language with subtitles in your native language. The more you hear it, the more confident you’ll feel, and the more authentically you will speak.
5. Practice Practice Practice! Don’t stop practicing. similar research to your friends significant other, family – DON’T BE SHY! If you know someone that speaks fluently the local language, have conversations with them. After all, practice makes perfect!
Step 4: Organize your money and monthly budget.
Budgeting is by far one of the most important steps as you begin planning. The goal is to make your travel money go as far as possible while experiencing everything that you possibly can. If you don’t set a budget for yourself now, time will continue to pass in the pre-planning and no progress will be made towards your end goal.
First, decide on how much money you want to have in your bank account upon departure. You need some backup funds in case all goes wrong, and you can’t find a job immediately. Your visa might also have a minimum cash requirement in your bank account, so make sure you tackle that in your preliminary research. For example, for our VISA D application to get accepted, we need to have $1,000/month/person – or $12,000 for the 6-month Visa D. So, we set a $12,000 goal and brainstormed how we can save $2,000 per month before July. With our standard salaries, $2,000/month is pretty ambitious. A lot needed to change with our current spending habits, and it was time to analyze where all our money was going.
Whatever you need to do to, whether it’s an Excel document outlining monthly expenses and budgets, or using a web-based financial management service, ORGANIZE! Once you have a visual of where your money is going, you’ll be surprised at how much you can cut out. Those $4 trips to grab coffee add up! Splurging on $30 happy hours ADDS UP! Clearly, you will have moments where you want to treat yourself, so budget for that, realistically but cautiously. A realistic budget that you actually follow will get you where you want to be when you want to be there. It is KEY to your success in moving abroad!
Step 5: Save, save, save.
With budgeting comes SAVING! And the #1 most important thing to remember is EVERY single dollar counts. If you stick to budgeting, you will find saving comes to a lot easier. Stop rationalizing nights out or ordering delivery when you clearly have food to make in your kitchen. Wake up a half hour earlier, make coffee, and pack your lunch to avoid spending money at work. It is so simple, yet we make the same mistakes all the time. Be overly aware each time you swipe your card, and put the pressure on to change these habits.
A great way to put the pressure on is to continually ask yourself: Would you rather…? Every time you are about to spend money, think – Would you rather splurge and order pizza for dinner or would you rather spend a day in Italy enjoying the tastiest pizza in the world? Would you rather order that new outfit online or purchase authentic lederhosen for Oktoberfest while you’re away? DUH! The answer is simple. This question should always be on your mind, and it will never be difficult to answer. The experiences that you are about to embark on will always outweigh the material things you “need” right now.
And finally, when I say making every dollar count, I literally mean every single dollar. SERIOUSLY – do it the ole fashioned way and get a jar or ‘piggy bank’. Put in that extra dollar bill sitting in your wallet. You would be surprised at how much you can save. We have been doing this for about a month and already have $200! Where would that money have gone if we hadn’t saved it? Most likely nowhere!
Be aware, be frugal, and think big picture. All of your efforts will be more than worth it in the end.
Step 6: Sell, Sell, Sell.
Selling all of your things is easier said than done. We become emotionally attached to certain belongings, and it can be tough to let them go. Sometimes selling something can result in adjusting your entire lifestyle. BUT, is it worth it? Let’s use my car as an example. I drive to work every day, and personally, MUCH prefer driving than taking any sort of public transportation. It keeps me relaxed and gives me time to decompress after work. When we looked at our budget and spending, I realized that if I sold my car (leaving us with one car), we would be saving over $500 per month. Now, is $500 per month plus the additional profit I’ll obtain from selling my car worth adjusting my routine and taking the metro or a bus? Uh YES! Decision made, my car will be sold.
The same process can be done for all of your belongings – TVs, furniture, collectables, books, décor, etc. Anything that others would purchase, sell it!
Some user-friendly and helpful sites:
- Amazon – lightly used items, and things you still have in packages.
- craigslist.com – ideal for furniture, televisions, etc.
- Etsy.com – vintage items or crafts.
- Offerup.com – excellent site, and EASY app for your smartphone
- Tradesy.com for selling clothes!
- eBay.com – pretty much everything!
If you are located outside of the US, research similar sites available in your country. I am sure you will find the same opportunities are out there everywhere. Get to work, and sell all that you can part with. Trust me; that extra cash will be worth so much more than the original tangible item.
Step 7: What are my talents and how can I turn them into MONEY?
Now that you are learning a language budgeted, saving and selling, it’s time to brainstorm what you can do while you’re abroad for some extra cash. Realistically, the longer you stay, the more important it will be to make money. Know yourself and know what talents you possess. They will be ,” in helping you survive when that steady paycheck is no longer there. Whether you enjoy teaching yoga, making jewelry, writing, taking pictures – all of these interests can be turned into fuel for your journey.
Otherwise, here are a few references to get you started:
- Teaching English: Teach English Abroad
- Tour leader: Jobs with Explore
- Photographer: Photography
- Virtual assistant: Virtual Assistant
- Travel Blog: Blogger
- Etsy: Etsy
Step 8: Time to make your travel plans.
Now it’s time for all of the fun stuff – planning! First, you need the obvious – a way to get there. Set up travel alerts with http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/ or www.cheapair.com/faretracker to monitor pricing, and don’t be afraid to click “Confirm purchase” when the price is right. You will feel a sense of determination and pride when you click and make it all official.
While you are monitoring flights and finalizing plans, research and purchase travel insurance. You always need to be prepared for the “what if”, because out there on the wide open road, emergencies are a definite possibility.
Then, start finalizing details for your journey! Where will you be staying and what sites do you want to see? Put together that first itinerary, and at that moment, you will see your dreams unfold right before your eyes.
NOTE: Be sure not to plan too far in advance. Put together a general running document of all the places you want to visit. Keep it in the back of your head, but don’t let it guide your every move. A big part of your decision to travel is freedom. Don’t limit yourself from the freedom you’ve created. Go with the flow and be impulsive when it makes sense.
Step 8: GO
The last step in this crazy preparation process is just to GO! You have done all that you can to prepare for this adventure, and the rest is there for you to discover. So let go, keep an open mind, and experience it all. Every single day will be a once in a lifetime experience!
While moving to abroad is a HUGE deal and can be an overwhelming decision, the good news is there are endless amounts of resources out there, so use them! And on top of that, communities of travelers, who have not only written about every step but experienced it, are available to help and encourage you to succeed.
Erin and Erin, Boy Erin and Girl Erin, E-squared, Team Erin are the couple behind this awesome website ‘Surviving Europe’, visit their www.survivingeurope.com or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/survivingeurope.