What Kind of Expat Roadmap Do You Need?

woman in car reading roadmapLast week I wrote about the roadmap that wasn’t, and I’ve been mulling and pondering ever since.

I know the kinds of information and guidance I was hoping to find. I wanted something that would combine coaching and practical, step-by-step information.

On the coaching side, I wanted something that would help me think about the reasons for the move and help me identify what’s important to me in my overseas life.

There are obvious decisions like (in no particular order):

  • climate
  • city, small town or rural setting
  • beach, mountains, lake setting
  • language spoken
  • proximity to the US
  • technology infrastructure
  • surface infrastructure (roads!)
  • cultural activities
  • shopping
  • entertainment
  • cost of living

On the practical side, I wanted something that would:

  • Outline the actual, practical steps involved in moving from one country to another.
  • Give me a timeline. Tell me how far ahead of the move I need to hit certain milestones and accomplish tasks.
  • Give me practical information — reams of it — about visas, moving companies, moving my pets, immunizations, the kinds of documents I should take with me, and on and on.

Forget the Stories

What I don’t want are stories about happy expats living in their new country.

Not that I don’t like those stories, because I do. They provide inspiration and hope that I can become one of them, after all.

But they’re the wrong kind of stories for something that calls itself a “blueprint” or “roadmap.”

By the time you pull out the map, you’ve already decided to go. That’s not the time for the stories about what a great place your destination is. You already know that.

Roadmap stories should be all about the journey, not all about the destination.

If you want to tell me a roadmap story, tell me about someone who discovered three days before the move that they needed some vital paperwork that takes a month to process. Then tell me what they did about it and how they managed to move anyway.

Or tell me about the family whose dog was denied entry because the vet didn’t sign the paperwork properly, and what they did to get Rover released.

Even then, the stories should be little extra tidbits, not the main fare.

When I start a road trip here in the US, I don’t expect to know ahead of time where the green lights and red lights will be along the road. I do figure out roughly where I’ll need to stop for meals and I like to make arrangements in advance for overnight stays along the way.

I don’t expect an expat roadmap to answer all my questions, but it should be enough to get me from here to there, and help me figure out the stops along the way.

My Challenge for You

Here’s my challenge for you. Tell me what kinds of step-by-step information and guidance would help you make your overseas move. What do you need to know most of all to take your very next step?

We’re all at different places in our journey. My husband and I decided a couple of years ago to move abroad, and we’ve been (slowly) getting closer. We’ve been organizing and getting rid of stuff. Our next steps are putting our house on the market and visiting the country that’s #1 on our list, Panama.

Perhaps it’s premature, but I’m researching now about what we’ll need to do to get our dogs moved there when we go. I’m not crazy about the idea of putting them on an airplane, but I’m even less crazy about driving. So I’m looking into the upside and downside of each and that requires a fair bit of detailed information.

Maybe you’re all packed and ready to go. Perhaps you’re just now starting to think about the possibilities and reading about different countries that might meet your needs. Or you might be somewhere in between.

Sometimes we need the maps that give a broad overview. When I drove my daughter from Florida to college in Massachusetts last fall, I needed a map that showed the major highways. But if I’m going to sightsee someplace, I’ll want the detailed map for that city.

Perhaps you’re still trying to decide which part of the world you want to live in. Your map needn’t be as detailed — yet — as for someone who’s settled on a specific country. Or maybe you’re planning to move in five years time, so your next steps will be different from mine.

Wherever you are now, today, let me know about your next step and what kinds of information you need to make it happen.

You can add a comment on this page (if you’re reading this on the website), or go to our Facebook page. I’ve set up a new discussion topic here.

I think we can make our own roadmap!


  1. My advice would be to double and triple check the documentation you’ll need to take with you, as organizing that once you arrive can be time-consuming and expensive. For example, when we moved to the UAE we needed to get various documents notarised and attested both here in Canada and the UK (where we were born) before we left. Couriering documents back and forth to government offices (none of which were in our home city) was complicated and expensive even while we were still here but doing it from the Middle East would have been a lot worse.

    As someone who now helps expats move to Canada, I frequently have clients arrive without the necessary documents to exchange their driver’s licences, and again doing it once they are no longer in their home country takes a lot more time and effort.

    • Excellent point, Judy. This is why having a real roadmap — a step-by-step list of what you need to do — would be so helpful, especially to those expatriating for the first time.

      I realize such a roadmap couldn’t possibly provide detailed information about each and every country, but it COULD include a list of commonly needed documents, and a referral to the appropriate consulate or embassy website or contact for more detailed information.


  2. I was so thrilled to find this article. We are moving to Singapore from Australia in May and I’m feeling very lost about the whole thing. We will have a relocation agent soon as it’s a corporate move, but i’ve found the internet rather lacking in ‘basics’.

    I think you’ve covered most of the topics i’d like covered in your post.

    Great web-site!

    • Best of luck with your Singapore adventure!

      You mention you’ve found the internet lackng in ‘basics” — what sorts of basic information would have helped you to plan your move better?


  3. I know exactly what you mean.

    I moved from the U.S. to Uruguay last year and found that there were a lot of practical day-to-day things that no one ever mentioned. Since I knew some other people who were considering moving overseas, I started writing up notes on my experiences for them. I eventually ended up writing a fifty page book.

    The two biggest things that I found were to always have several backup plans (it seemed like some small thing was always going wrong) and to make sure that you talk to your bank beforehand, so you can get everything in place to get your money to you.

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