Expat Planning: The Exploratory Trip

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

While cycling this summer, I had one of those now-or-never epiphanies.

With laser-sharp clarity, I realized that if I didn’t set off on a 6-12 month Central/South American exploratory trip for a potential relocation destination it was not going to happen.

I have no constraints – parents have passed, my son is self-sufficient and living with a wonderful partner, no grandchildren, I’m healthy and fit, have completed major down-sizing and work online. I have been exploring countries for three months at a time for the past eight years. What was I waiting for? Decision made…go now.

Prepping for this lengthy adventure takes work and coordination. Everyone’s situation is different and there are numerous ways to proceed. Below are eight critical items with specific suggestions and checklists to assist you in your launch of a 6-12 month or longer exploratory trip.

#1 House

What to do with your home – lease, sell, or sit empty?

I own a 1,450 sq. ft. townhome, which I will lease fully furnished. This means that the property must be prepped to be rental neutral and all personal items and valuables stored and locked in my small home office.


  • The road awaits Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
    The road awaits Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

    Install a lock on the office door.

  • Organize and box personal items for storage.
  • Let go and get rid of stuff – sift through closets and drawers creating four bins: keep, sell, donate, and trash.
  • Prepare a description of rental and circulate it with friends, family, and networks. If necessary, list on Craig’s list or an online vacation rental site.
  • Complete all house maintenance projects – this included replacing the drip irrigation, new ceiling fan, repairing the refrigerator filter and icemaker, flushing and draining the hot water heater, cleaning bedroom carpets, replacing the kitchen light switch – all those little things that accumulate.
  • Use all disposable food and clean refrigerator, freezer, and pantry – I leave condiments, cooking/baking items, etc.
  • Clean house
  • If your house will be vacant, put internet/utilities on vacation mode.

#2 Medical – yes, all those appointments


  • Dermatology
  • Vision and glasses/contacts
  • Annual physical, lab work, mammography
  • Dental
  • Medications
  • Health Insurance – I will maintain my Medicare Part A, B, D and supplement although it is not of much use when out of the country.
  • Decide on trip insurance.

#3 Financial

Many countries prefer cash transactions versus plastic so be prepared to access cash.


  • Select debit card to use at ATMs – I use a Schwab Investor Checking account debit card because there are no transaction fees and Schwab reimburses for any fee to withdraw money from ATMs anywhere in the world. Those withdrawal fees can add up!
  • Set up all bills for online bill pay.
  • Call to alert credit and debit card companies of the duration of travel and countries where you will be traveling.
  • Transfer money to travel account to cover expenses.
  • Stop services you don’t need – Amazon Prime, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, cable TV.
  • Prep all documentation for upcoming income tax and confer with your accountant.
  • Meet with your financial advisor as needed.

#4 Vehicles: What to do with your cars?

I own two vehicles, a 1997 VW Eurovan, which I will store, and a 2009 Honda Fit with 85K miles, which I will sell.


  • Prepare a “For Sale” description for Honda Fit and circulate with friends, family, and networks. If necessary, list on Craig’s list.
  • Cancel or limit insurance coverage.
  • Purchase cover for VW Eurovan to protect from the Arizona sun.
  • Determine the storage location.

#5 Phone

International phone plans purchased in the U.S. can be expensive. One option is to carry an unlocked phone and purchase a local sim card from the country you are traveling in. I also use WhatsApp, Signal, FaceTime, and Skype. Googlefi is another low-cost option to use in 140 countries.

#6 Electronics

Making a list Glenn Carstens-Peters
Making a list Glenn Carstens-Peters

Select which electronic equipment you will need and don’t forget power cords/chargers, and power outlet adapters.

With so many electronic devices to choose from it can be tough deciding what to carry with you.

Because I write for work, my 13-inch MacBook Air is always included along with an iPad mini for books and maps and an older mobile phone.

I also carry a small inexpensive travel camera with a 10X zoom, although many mobile phones now have an enhanced camera system.


  • Back up your computer before leaving. I also carry a flash drive to back up photos and working documents or you can backup up to the cloud.
  • Use a password manager app to store all your passwords, confidential information, and documents
  • Make digital and paper copies of passports, driver’s license, bank cards or important documents. Leave a copy with a relative or friend and carry a copy with you.

#7 Mail

I forward mail to a relative or close friend. The USPS will only forward mail for up to 12 months for First-Class Mail, Express Mail, and packages. Cancel periodicals and magazines or change to online subscriptions. These will be forwarded for up to 60 days only.

Ask the person receiving your mail to keep watch for anything that may be important and need attending. They can easily scan the document to you for review.

There are many ways to proceed when preparing for the long explore. Taking care of details before you leave will make for a more seamless and hassle-free journey.

Buen Viaje! Let us know if you have any questions or additions to the list.

by: Gwen Hyatt