Is moving abroad a good idea for you at mid life? It’s better to be prepared than surprised when making a big life change and these tips will help you decide if it’s right for you.
Are you hooked on a romantic notion that you’ll only have wonderful feelings once you’re in a new and exciting home?
Perhaps you’ve spent idyllic vacations blessed with perfect weather and now you’re ready to continue this dreamt of existence on a full time basis. Here’s what you need to know to move to England.
Although they’re a taste; vacations won’t give you the same experience as you’ll have being a full time resident. Think of a vacation as the appetizer. What you need to know is if it’s the main course will it still be the right fit? Here’s what to consider:
Dreaming of living a life in another country?
- How well do you know the country you’re thinking of moving to? Research areas and towns to live in first and make plans to visit during different seasons. Think through “what if this happens” before you take the plunge.
- What kind of life change do I expect from moving abroad? Will you be happy on your own before you build a support network?
- Do you have enough money set aside to make the move? Put together a budget for your moving expenses and don’t forget to budget for unexpected expenses like deposits and travel delays.
- Will your children/grandchildren be willing to visit? Check in with your family to set expectations for how it will work once you’re living abroad. Plan out different visit scenarios.
Ready to make a move?: Move Abroad Checklist
1. How well do you know the country you’re thinking of moving to?
Before making an expensive long distance move, it’s smart to do some research. Identify the towns you’re interested in ahead of time and plan on spending extended periods there before making a decision on the ideal place to call home. Get a head start on planning a visit to the UK with these tips.
Understand what your non-negotiable needs are. Will you need access to public transportation or will you have a car to drive? What about living near family or friends; is that important to you?
I’ve found that living within an hour or two of a major airport helps ease travel and back and forth visits.
What if you just want to spend part of the year in a new country, aka the best of both worlds? This is what I’d planned on doing.
But life has a way of throwing us curve balls.
Let’s start with 2020 and the inability to travel because of the pandemic. In my case throw in the end of a relationship that couldn’t survive the enforced separation. Now instead of living in two countries, I’m effectively a full time resident in England. Which is fine, but not what I had initially planned for.
Make sure you think through all contingencies.
Let’s say you’re considering moving permanently from the US to the UK or Europe. Use a transition period as I did before committing to full time residency. Take exploratory visits to get to know your new home country.
As a US citizen you’re allowed to stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa.
Research places to stay using terms such as “short term rental” or “holiday lets”. In some areas you may be staying in transient or non-residential neighborhoods, but you’ll get more of feel for living as a local than if you stay in hotels.
Not planning to move abroad permanently? If that’s the case the stakes aren’t as high but I still recommend visiting first before taking the plunge.
Research local real estate websites or talk to realtors (known as estate agents in the UK) to find out what it costs to rent or buy in the area. Pick up a local or national paper and find out what’s important news. Stop into a church of your denomination and talk to the vicar or priest. One of the reasons I love getting around by train and on foot is getting the chance to talk to locals. Learning what your new neighbors care about will tell you; is this where you’ll fit in?
Spend as much time as you can visiting during different seasons. England’s weather is pretty horrible in January/February. Wet, cold and damp with frequent storms off the Atlantic and the polar east, winter can be downright depressing. Yes the culture, history and gardens are still there, but if you’ve only visited during the sunny warmer months, you’ll be in for a shock!
2. What kind of life change do I expect from moving abroad?
Ask yourself what life change you hope to find moving overseas. Do you expect the move will heal a heartbreak, provide an instant life makeover or create a diversion from reality?
Are you excited about living somewhere new to challenge yourself or fulfill a life long dream of living abroad? Whatever your motives, living abroad can add immensely to your quality of life but it’s not a magic wand. When we move we take ourselves and our problems.
As someone who has moved countries and states I know big moves can be a powerful catalyst for change. But it can take years to make friends, find your tribe and feel at home. Are you ready for that challenge? Be very honest with yourself about what your expectations are.
If you’ll be leaving your support network behind are you capable of creating a new one or willing to do what it takes to keep in touch with your family and friends back “home”?
Are you happy in your own company? This is important because you’ll need to be more resourceful than you ever thought possible! I’ve spent the better part of the last year on my own and it hasn’t been easy but if I wasn’t OK with my own company I’d have been miserable. Be honest with yourself about how far you want to push yourself and what you’re willing to take on with this move.
3. Do you have enough money set aside to make the move?
Although it’s possible to move on a budget, overseas moving expenses can easily add up. From the cost of putting down deposits on a new home to travel expenses and necessary travel documents, it takes money to move abroad.
Can you afford to travel back and forth while making the transition from your old home in the US to a new home in the UK or Europe? Check out the cost of round trip flights from your nearest airport. Flying in the off season can cost half as much as peak travel times like May to September. If you must rent a car, estimate those costs as well.
You’ll be able to drive on your US drivers license for up to 12 months in the UK, but after that period you must get a UK license and believe me it’s quite a process!
Fortunately there’s very good public transportation in the greater London area and most metro areas in the UK. Take advantage of it and you’ll save the cost of driving. I’ve used a car sharing service to rent a car by the hour using my US driving license. However most major European car rental companies want to see your return ticket to the US if you use a US drivers license.
Your biggest expense will be travel and accommodation. Price short term rentals or Airbnbs for your initial visits. Check out the major real estate portal Rightmove.co.uk to get accurate costs for renting or buying a flat (apartment) or home. I highly recommend you rent or “let” a property before you buy. UK real estate transactions are handled very differently than in the US. Most US states are very buyer or renter friendly but that’s not always the case in the UK. Fortunately a recent law change means estate agencies (realtors) aren’t allowed to charge huge tenant fees as they used to. All of this information can be found on Rightmove. Get to know it!
Let’s say you’ve decided on a two month visit. Add up all the costs you can expect including air fare, car, accommodation plus a contingency amount for those unexpected expenses. A simple budget helps to get costs down on paper so you have a good idea of how much money to set aside.
4. Will your children/grandchildren be willing to visit?
For those of you who have kids or family in the US, leaving them may be the toughest decision you have to make. Talk it over with them and see how they feel about it. At the end of the day, it’s your decision, but figure out how you’ll be able to visit and keep in touch. Can your kids home be your US address? Is there a way to share expenses to make this work?
Are they adventurous enough to travel to the UK or Europe to spend time with you in your new home? Not all kids may be ready to hop on an international flight, but there’s a good chance if you’re brave they will be too. It does get easier with practice.
When I first started flying back and forth in 2016, I was a total newbie and it was daunting at times to navigate all the new challenges of international travel. Fast forward to 2021 and I feel like I can handle most of it without freaking out.
Find out what round trip airfares are from the nearest large international airport at different times of year. If you’d like to keep spending holidays together, check out what it will cost for the whole family to fly. I’ve found knowing what to expect ahead of time, gives everyone time to adjust to a new “normal” and prepare for it.
Communicate your fears, hopes and expectations clearly if you can. Don’t get guilt tripped into giving up your dream! It may not be your kids or families first choice for you to move away, but it’s a change that can be managed.
This can be an exciting adventure for the whole family. The world awaits and there’s so much to see, learn and explore. Don’t let a pandemic or fear of the unknown stop you.
Let me know if you think moving abroad is a good idea for you. I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts and I’m happy to answer any I can.