How to move abroad

How to move abroad

It can be difficult to know how to move abroad if you've only ever lived in one place. Author Colette Dartford offers her advice:

Opting for major change when life is comfortable and settled might seem like flirting with unnecessary risk (if you’re a pessimist), or embracing new and exciting challenges (if you’re an optimist). I’m an optimist so when presented with an opportunity to take a leap in an unknown direction, I didn’t just seize it, I wrote a novel about it.

In our fifties, my husband and I impulsively bought a run down old house in California’s Napa Valley, painstakingly transformed it into a beautiful home and naturally, we wanted to live there. So, with a heady mix of exhilaration and trepidation, we packed up and headed for a new adventure in America.

Many people harbour dreams of moving abroad in later life, lured by the promise of a better climate, or the frisson of taking on challenge. Or maybe they are in search of a more relaxed lifestyle and see themselves sipping wine as they watch the sun dip low over a tropical horizon. 

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And, drawing on my own experience, in many ways it was – but there were pitfalls too - things we hadn’t anticipated (like global economic meltdown), things we learned the hard way. 

So, if you are contemplating making a move, here are a few tips to consider: 

  • Find out about visas, as well as what taxes you are liable for.
  • Get informed about your eligibility for healthcare – this should be an important factor when deciding where to move.  
  • Be ready for a huge amount of paperwork, bureaucracy and frustration!
  • If your dream destination isn’t an English speaking one, learn the language. Unless you can communicate, you will always be an outsider. 
  • Be prepared to be homesick. However idyllic your adopted home, you will miss the home – and people – you left behind.
  • Check if there’s an expat community – people who have ‘been there, done that’ will be very helpful in offering advice and sharing their own experiences.
  • Have a backup plan. Put some money aside so that if things don’t work out it’s a disappointment, not a catastrophe
  • On bad days and low points remember that you have a wealth of experience and maturity to draw upon and are likely to be highly motivated to succeed, so go forward with confidence.

If you’re struck with a powerful urge to change your life, it’s easy to lose sight of the practicalities. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, rather that you should plan and hope and give it your very best shot.


Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford is out now (Twenty7, £7.99)