How to Start a New Life Abroad (with No Money)

american flag at golden hour

If you’re wondering how to go abroad with no money, check out our advice below! ☆ Let’s face it, no matter who you voted for in 2016, the last few years have been tough on us all. Being from the good ole’ U.S. of A. is still marked by a certain exceptionalism, but it probably doesn’t inspire quite so much resounding self-assurance nor so many feelings of righteousness as it did for generations past.

new york city traffic at rush hour
Also, rush hour just really starts to grind your gears, doesn’t it?

They keep saying the economy is working for Americans, but you’re not feeling the trickle down. You barely have time to pick your jaw up off the floor and wipe the tears from your eyes before another racist comment or an image of a child in a cage has it happening all over again. And it’s hard to believe it took the Commander in Chief to make Millennials understand the importance of proper spelling on social media.

All these shiny, happy feelings about “America”—or at least the Trump-led portion of this massive continent—have certainly inspired a lot of threats to decamp to Canada where our uber-polite neighbors to the north will shower us in healthcare, maple syrup, and handsome heads of government. Still, few have put their money where their disapproving mouths are. Will you be one of the brave ones? 

Can I start a new life abroad with no money?

Let’s be real. The realest. This is not going to be an easy task. Figuring out how to leave America with no money is going to take a lot of hard work, determination, patience, creativity, resilience. You may have to seriously cut back on some greater and lesser luxuries to which you’ve become accustomed (read: your bespoke, off-menu espresso drink habit your parents are always on your case about).

overhead shot of lattes and cold brew
Yes, you might have to give up coffee if you want to start a new life abroad with no money. This is your sign to get that barista’s number NOW.

We’re not saying it can’t be done. It certainly can. This country was populated by plenty of people who were once in the same boat (no pun intended). But be realistic and be prepared to play the long game, because this may take a little while.

How to move to another country with no money

Step 1: Figure out where you’re going.

The first step of how to start a life abroad with no money is to decide where you’re headed. Pretty much everything else—your budget, your visa requirements, your employment options, the wardrobe you’ll pack—will all be determined in large part by this choice, so set your intention early and keep your eye on the prize.

How to choose? Consider the cost of getting where you’re going and the cost of living when you arrive. Not only does the exchange rate favor your USD more in Mexico than it does in New Zealand, but it is also a whole lot cheaper to fly to the former than it is to fly to the latter. Money is, of course, not the only object. Consider choosing some place you’ve been before for a more realistic picture of what your new life will be like.

You might also want to consider your language skills and/or your sense of adventure and how those will impact your sense of belonging and employability abroad. Do you have any friends or family abroad who you could count on as a support network in a pinch? Working backwards from these goals will help you stay focused while you figure out how to go abroad with no money.

[Related: How to Save Money for a Trip in 4 Months]

Step 2: Put in on your calendar.

What’s a realistic timeline for your departure? Is there a graduation date approaching? Do you need time to save money? Will you wait until your current lease runs out so you don’t have to pay any cancellation fees? How long will it take you to process the necessary paperwork and sell everything you don’t need to take with you? Are there any important milestones on the horizon for your loved ones that you absolutely can’t miss?

Ask yourself these questions to help put an end date on your time here in the land of the Cheeto-in-Chief. Give yourself enough time to get your life in order, but not so much time that you make it easy to get cold feet. 

Step 3: Set aside some dough.

With the countdown to your new life started, you’ll want to be prepared financially. Pay down any lingering debt. Get serious about saving that cash-money so that you have the start-up funds you’ll need to find a place to live, buy some basics for your new casa, and some left over for some wholesome fun.

You’re going to want to make new friends! Be realistic about just how comfortable (or not) you are with where you’re living while you get yourself established in your new hometown. Plan generously for how much time it could take you to find a steady stream of income to support yourself once you touch down in your new locale.

We know it’s not fun, but now’s a good time to cut back on some of your extravagances and guilty pleasures. Not only will this help you save some money to prepare for your move, it will also help you adjust to living lean, which you’ll probably have to do for at least a little while.

Step 4: Consider how you will eventually make money.

woman holding fan of money in front of her face
You’ll have to support yourself eventually, unless you’re okay with watching your savings drain down to 0.

Sooner or later, the path to how to start a new life abroad with no money is going to lead to…making money. How will you do it? Options abound for teaching abroad, au pairing, and the hospitality industry, but you can certainly find jobs in any field that is your specialty if you’re patient and determined.

If you’re aiming for a destination where it’s hard to get a work visa, consider options for working remotely instead. And remember, not all wages are created equal. Australia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, and France have the highest minimum wages for hourly work in the world. Switzerland, Canada, and the Nordic countries offer excellent public health care.

Be realistic about what you want and need out of your new life abroad and what that will cost you. What are you willing to sacrifice? We hate to reduce your bold, adventurous move to a bottom line, but trust us. If you start planning now for your overseas career move, you’re less likely to feel desperate when your start-up funds get low.

Step 5: Commit. 

You’ve put in the forethought. You’ve started your preparations. Eventually, you’ll feel like you’re reaching the point of no return. Go with it. Moves this big can generate a lot of uncertainty, but constant self-doubt is no way to start a new life abroad with no money. You got this.

wayne’s world thumbs up
Party on, my dude. (Within budget, of course.)

Step 6: Now tell everyone you know.

Seriously. All the people. Ease your loved ones into the idea of you living far away. Put out your feelers for advice, connections, and support that they may be able to offer out of the kindness of their U.S.-politics-loathing hearts once they know your intentions. Let them hold you gently accountable to your plan, so that when you have those brief moments of panic and ask yourself. “Am I doing the right thing?” you’ll have someone there to remind you of the answer.

Step 7: Make sure you’re on the up and up.

The trick to how to leave America with no money is to make sure that wherever you go, they won’t send you back to the U.S.A. until you’re ready. Inform yourself about the processes, procedures, and costs associated with establishing and maintaining legal status in your country of choice. Make sure your passport won’t need to be renewed for a while. Find out if you need a visa before you leave.

Or can you enter as a tourist and file to change your status later? Do you need a job lined up to sponsor your visa, or can you go on your own? Take copies of pertinent documents that may be required when you file for your status in your new country: birth certificate, marriage license, social security card, vaccination records, passport, drivers’ license, diplomas and professional licenses, proof of employment or documentation for your small business/self-employment.

Consider getting them legalized in advance with an apostille. The costs in time and money of handling these things after you arrive could really mess with your mood, if not your plans, so it’s better to think ahead.

[Related: What is Crowdfunding for Travel? How Does it Work?]

Step 8: Get cultured.

Start familiarizing yourself with the place you’re headed. Read books and newspapers from the region. Watch TV and movies. Listen to music. The interwebs have made this so much easier to do than it was in the days of the pilgrims. You don’t have to fly blind! Prepping yourself for the culture shock that awaits and developing a repertoire of cultural references that you’ll share with your adopted compatriots will help you make friends, sell yourself and your skills appropriately in job interviews, and feel at home sooner.

Step 9: Start your self-care routine now.

Despite all your great preparations and bright-eyed optimism, there will be days where navigating how to start a new life abroad with no money will get you down. Before you’re in the thick of it, start thinking about what makes you feel good when you’re tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, or homesick. Build your toolbox for self-soothing and reframing tough situations. Bonus points for identifying self-care that costs little to nothing since your budget may be a bit tight at first, and you don’t want to choose activities that add to the stress later.

woman journaling with a coffee cup
Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re abroad—it may be a stressful journey.

Keep a journal about your experience. Practice mindfulness. Go for a walk outdoors and take deep breaths. Save your ex-roomie’s Netflix password on your browser so you can binge-watch Queer Eye when you need a reminder of the brighter side of the new Americana. Calling home can help, too, but don’t rely on this too much. If you’re not present in your new environment, you’ll never figure out how to move to another country with no money and stay there to make a real go of it.

Step 10: Create a FundMyTravel Account.

There are plenty of sympathetic, like-minded gringos out there who will be happy to help you out. Start a FundMyTravel account and tell your story. Every little bit will help to get you closer to your goal while also giving hope to those of us whose brains have been too numbed by the 24-hour news cycle to figure out how to leave America with no money ourselves.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems…so good thing you don’t have any!

toy airplane on a globe
If you’re determined to start a new life abroad with no money, you can make it happen!

Or, if Pac is more your speed: even though you’re fed up, you gotta keep your head up! 

Take that frustration and turn it into focus. Since you began thinking about how to start a new life abroad with no money, you’ve probably also realized that this is not for the faint of heart. Then again, neither is waking up to the latest non-headline ripped from an ill-informed, ill-composed tweet. But with a bit of careful planning and a whole lot of gumption, it can be done. So get to it! (And don’t forget to apply for your absentee ballot before the 2020 deadline.)

Make a FundMyTravel Account Now…So You Can GTF Outta Here

amelia dietrichThis article was written by Amelia Dietrich. Amelia’s day job keeps her busy helping study abroad professionals grow and improve their professional practice in order to help college students have safe, high-quality educational experiences abroad. When work travel isn’t enough, Latin America is her destination of choice thanks to a past life as a Spanish teacher and bilingualism researcher.

Comments (3)

[…] Where can I get the best exchange rate for dollars? The answer isn’t always straight forward, but it can help the wanderlust-y among us to squeeze the most miles out of our budget. Plus, sometimes it leads us down unexpected […]

Hello, First of all, Your work is very useful for me. And Your Article information about traveling abroad is very amazing. Keep it up and Thank you very much.:)

Thank you so much. It helps me, Although i start a new life in another region far from my mother land..!! Thank you again

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