Do you move often and live out of a suitcase? Here are five useful tips for YOU!
Are you in your 20s or 30s and have already lived in three countries or more? Do you
already know where you’ll be heading next? Or, like me, you know another move is in the
pipeline, but you don’t know what your next host country is going to be?
You might be a student who enjoys the international experience, a digital nomad without
geographical boundaries or a young professional seeking international experience in the
corporate world. Or you might be a person who still hasn’t figured out exactly what career
path to take and you’re doing small jobs to financially support yourself while exploring the
world. No matter which profile you think fits you best, for as much as you relish the idea of
moving from one country to the other, you still might find it difficult sometimes to pack all
your belongings and start all over again.
If this is the case, you might want to take the time to go through the following five tips that I
think will make the beginning of your new life abroad easier and each transition phase less
stressful. I haven’t reached perfection yet (who can claim to be perfect, after all?), though
after eight years of a life lived out of a suitcase, I have learned that you should:
1 – Travel With Two Light Suitcases And A Backpack Only
The most concrete of my five tips is to travel with what you can carry alone and not a single
thing more. This means two suitcases (ideally a carry-on hand luggage and a bigger
luggage) that you are able to lift yourself and a backpack instead of an extra bag, or less
stuff, of course. It’s easier to move around when you can be independent and don’t have to
rely on help to get what you need to your next place. This is especially true when you travel
by bus or train or use car sharing options and have to take care of the luggage at each
transfer yourself. If you travel light it’s also cheaper to carry your own belongings with you
rather than sending parcels from one continent to another. Trust me, it’s not even that cheap
within a small continent such as Europe.
2- Start Making New Friends Early
Making new friends is energy draining especially when you’ve just set foot in your new host
country and you’re already stressed about finding a place, opening another bank account,
registering at the doctor’s, getting a local phone number and subscription. And while all of
this is going on, you might also have work obligations and family and friends at home to
send updates to. But it’s important that you make time to get to know new people in your
new host location. If you’ve moved more than three or four times, you may start wondering
what the point of making good friends is if you’re going to move once again in the next six or
twelve months. Believe me, I had this thought as well and when I decided to test this theory
and put it into practice, it turned out to be a very bad idea. I definitely shouldn’t have doubted
the great Greek philosopher Aristotle’s famous quote, “man is by nature a social animal”.
And even if thanks to technology it’s easy to talk to a trusted friend in another hemisphere,
it’s always good to meet someone in person, talk over a walk, or share a meal with them.
Remember too that people back home won’t be able to relate to your new life abroad as
much as someone who is having a similar experience.
If you are not a student and you feel you’re lacking opportunities to meet up with new
fellows, start connecting with international people on Facebook or Couchsurfing groups or on
Meetup. Internations is also a good way to get in touch with like-minded people.
If you are relocating to another place alone and feel you might miss being around people,
consider sharing an apartment before you find a place all for yourself.
3 – Find Ways To Practice The Language
Depending on where you decide to start your new life, learning the local language can be
more or less vital to your survival in the new host country. If you’ve already planned your
next move, you’ve probably done some research by now and have a rather good idea of
what awaits you.
Keep in mind that “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart” – like the famous quote by
Nelson Mandela goes. So, no matter how fluent in English people in your new host country
are, I always recommend that you start practicing the local language as soon as possible. If
you’re interested in language schools, you can check out Migros, well known in Switzerland.
Apart from organized language courses which might not always fit with your schedule, I also
suggest that you find a local buddy who is interested in a language exchange (this concept
was name tandem and later gave the name to the website as well). This way, you could kill
two birds with one stone (see tip before) or that you look up ad hoc events on Facebook and
4 – Make The Effort To Break Out From The International Bubble
If you are the international kind of person I think you are, you will probably agree with me
that living abroad shouldn’t equal living exclusively in an international bubble. If you want to
have a successful transition and smoothly overcome the feeling of nostalgia for the latest
host country and the social life you had there, I recommend that you try to integrate yourself
as soon as possible into the local society. There are multiple ways of doing so, starting with
learning the language, attending events that mainly target locals, learning about the local
history, discovering the surroundings and getting involved in volunteering activities. The
latter is my favourite one. I like it when I can combine “business” with pleasure.
5 – Prioritise Your Health
It’s easy neglecting your own well being when you’re too busy re-organizing your life in a
new city or country. You’re probably extra stressed and on top of everything you’re doing
everything in a language you’re not fully proficient in. You want to get as much done as
possible in the shortest time span, and you don’t want to miss out on social life either
(remember about the tip I gave you earlier?). You basically wish that your day was 48 hours
long, at least. Some of us reckon that their best option is gaining some hours by reducing the
time allotted to sleeping and cooking meals. I strongly advise you against this. Particularly in
this transitory phase, it’s important that you take extra care of your own health, physical and
mental. If you’re interested in knowing more about the importance of regular sleep, check
this link out. Doing exercise plays of course an important part as well. As a very mobile
person, you might prefer sports that don’t require any heavy equipment. You also might not
want to sign up to clubs that require a membership of one year minimum. You still have a lot
of options of course, you just need to find what’s most accessible to you in your new
locations. Many gyms have monthly subscriptions, for example. Also in Switzerland walking,
jogging, or cycling is always a very healthy and inexpensive way of going to work or uni. In
some countries, it’s common to take a shower at the office before the working day starts.
Remember that even if you’re used to moving from one country to another, you might find
that adapting to different ways of doing is sometimes harder than others. Take your time to
let your mind and body adjust to the new environment and try to always make the most out
of your new home and friends during this phase.
Sara Micacchioni is currently working as Academic Intern at Global People Transitions, where she is head of research and
quality assurance projects. At the beginning of 2020, she graduated from an international English-taught master’s degree
in Intercultural Management at the University of Burgundy, France. In the past, she also carried out several short-term and
long-term voluntary work projects in Europe and South America. Sara lived, studied, and worked in seven European countries and
speaks four foreign languages. She considers herself an interculturalist with a real passion for globetrotting. In her mission to travel the
world, she has now ticked off 30 countries globally. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sara-micacchioni/