Your exploratory trip is your best opportunity to decide where you’d like to settle, what you need to know in advance, or even whether you want to be an expat at all. Here are 10 ways to make the most of your exploratory trip.
Exploratory Trip Tip #10: Visit for a Significant Amount of Time
I say “significant” rather than “two weeks” or “three months” because everyone has different restrictions regarding cost, taking time off work, and other obligations. The longer you can spend in your prospective home country, the better. One week to sample the flavors of one country isn’t enough, plus it takes several days to shake off jet lag! Time to relax, meander, eat local foods, visit different areas, and experience the climate will help acquaint yourself to the community.
Exploratory Trip Tip #9: Spend Time in More Than One Area of the Country
Say you have your heart set on living in Rome, but you’ve never lived in a big, bustling city. I
f you move there without checking out the coastal towns on the Adriatic Sea, hill towns of Tuscany, mountain villages in the Alps – how will you know if city life is for you?
The exploratory trip should include stays in the very different geographic, climate, cultural, and lifestyle locales within your prospective country.
Exploratory Trip Tip #8: Visit More Than One Country
It’s a big wide world out there with so many options! Make the right decision for you by exploring two or three different countries. The upfront costs are worth it.
Exploratory Trip Tip #7: Visit Virtual Expat Communities
Thanks to the old World Wide Web, it’s easy to connect with other expats! Here on TCI, there are virtual communities of long-time expats you can connect with and webinars to take. Read, post questions, check out local happenings, and start virtual friendships. These are your experts, so use them!
Exploratory Trip Tip #6: Talk to Members of the Expat Community Face-to-Face
After you’ve virtually met with the expert expats of the TCI community, why not meet them face-to-face while you’re in their adopted country? Invite them for coffee. Ask them what they love and hate about living there. Find out the best neighborhoods to live in and the ones to avoid. Ask them about visas, laws, mistakes they’ve made, nightlife, holidays – whatever! We love talking about our expat lives and love coffee!
Exploratory Trip Tip #5: Review the Visa Laws
There are visa laws and restrictions that may preclude your living in one country over another. Before visiting, review the visa laws to see how “easy” it is to get a long-term or permanent visa (expat pages on Facebook are great resources for the most current information). In certain countries, expats make “border runs” to renew their visas. In others, you must either have property, a local job, a pension, or a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a visa.
Exploratory Trip Tip #4: Skip Holidays and Festivals
Try to avoid visiting a country during massive festivals such as Carnival (Brazil) or Holi (India). When a country or city is in “party mode” it’s hard to get a good feel for what it’s normally like every day.
Exploratory Trip Tip #3: Avoid Tourist Traps
It’s easy to just follow the TripAdvisor top three, but mix it up and visit places that are not tourist traps.
Leave the city center and visit local neighborhoods, restaurants, shows, and events. Reach out to the local people—not expats—and spend time with them, too.
Exploratory Trip Tip #2: Be Mobile
Rent a car, hire a driver, take local buses—just get out of town and see the surrounding country. There is just as much flavor outside the city as inside it. One thing I love about living in Cuenca, Ecuador is the gorgeous; lush green countryside and mountains just outside the city. Whenever I need to “get away” I jump on my motorcycle and find a trail to hike.
Exploratory Trip Tip #1: Don’t Rush
Sometimes we have this timeline – we MUST decide by a certain date – but moving to a foreign country is not something to be rushed. If you don’t like the country you’ve visited, don’t despair! Just check out another one until you find the right fit.
Living in a foreign country is a huge decision, but with the right research, you can make the best choice for yourself. This is an exciting time – enjoy every minute!
So, when are you taking your exploratory trip? We want to hear all about it.
by: Rachel DeSalvo