Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

More Things To Do Before Traveling Abroad (Digital Nomad, Expat)

by Kristen Suzanne in Digital Nomad, Expat, family, travel
 
A few things I’m organizing before we move abroad that are still on my “to-do” list.
 
Travel Insurance:
We will definitely get travel insurance while we are abroad and I need to research the following companies. The first one, World Nomads, is very popular. Reading other digital nomads and expats I see that many get travel insurance but rarely use it as many places around the world have such inexpensive (and excellent) health care that they just pay for it out of pocket. 
Credit Cards
It’s smart to have a proper credit card for traveling outside of the US. I’ll be looking for one that has no international fees on purchases for starters. Also, though, if we find ourselves traveling to more places in a more frequent fashion (not our original plan because we envision Slow Travel), it could mean more air travel so a card that has nice travel benefits will be a good fit. I hear a lot about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for racking up miles and such. I think they also offer free Global Entry credit. 
 
Organize flight options
After deciding where to land first… is it Playa or Tulum in Mexico? Or maybe central Mexico in the mountains? Guanajuato perhaps? I will look at flights and keep my eye on them to find the best prices. 
 
There’s a lot written on ways to smartly buy airplane tickets that can save a lot of money. I have a whole research file on just that. 
 
Furniture and Donations
Sell and donate remaining furniture over the next 14 months. Once our lease ends, store anything else at our moms’ houses.
Sell Mercedes now. Sell Prius May 2018.
 
Cell Phones and Technology
We need to figure out the best cell plan for the area. As of right now, we left expensive AT&T for Ting which has been awesome so far. Now that I pay for only what I use, I’m waaaaaaaaay more mindful of my cell phone use when not on wifi. It’s a benefit for many reasons: less screen time, safer driving, and more mindfulness overall. Once we move, I’m not sure if Ting will be the plan as I hear a lot about T-Mobile being a good choice (Ting might even use T-mobile towers?). We’ll see because anything can happen over the next year.
 
Passports / Visas / Global Entry
  1. Get Global Entry? I hear this can be useful. I need more research on it.
  2. Update Kamea’s passport later this year.
  3. Renew my passport? Greg’s? 
  4. Make “Copies” and have “Originals” of marriage certificate, passports, air tickets, insurance, list of emergency contacts, driver’s licenses, bank cards and credit cards.
  5. Research visa options for where we want to go to plan how long we can stay. Mexico allows six months at a time. 
 
Health
  1. Take a self-defense class, for peace of mind I suppose. Just seems like a smart thing to do. 
  2. Learn advanced first aid. 
  3. Check in with our naturopath before we leave to discuss our travel and get any possible medications or advice. 
  4. Research area of travel for preventative health. For example, avoiding areas with tropical diseases or other potential issues as of now. 
 
Language
Start learning some basic words in the language of our future destination. For us, that’s Spanish because we’re thinking Mexico is our first stop. I’m using Duolingo on my iPhone for now and I like it a lot. 
 
Once we land there we will hire a tutor and go to a Spanish immersion school, but it’ll be helpful to know a few things before going.
 
Packing
I have an enormous list for packing which includes things for various destinations. I will whittle it down once I know for sure where we’re going. But for now, every time I think of something I just add it to my list. 
 
My goal is to continue Minimalism as a guiding principle, but dammit I want to bring my Instant Pot. And chef’s knife (and sharpener and hone). And vitamins. And technology. And And And.
 

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Monday, March 13th, 2017

My Research Protocol For Moving Abroad

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, travel

I want to travel the world. Worldschool.


The Process
A short while back I wrote that the light bulb went on for me, with respect to having the freedom to up and move abroad, after reading the book, Global Student. Suddenly, it started coming together as a reality. We could really do this. We can move abroad and travel the world. For as long as we want.
 
That reality, back then, meant that our time was T-18 months before moving. (It’s now about 15 months.)
 
Having 18 months to plan this adventure of digital nomadism and expat life is proving to be extremely helpful. We have tons of time to:
  • Research possible locations.
  • Get passports, banking, and things of the like taken care of.
  • Take in every present moment right where we are, Carefree (AZ) which we love.
Once the idea hit us about moving and we had a target date of June 2018, I started with Pinterest.
 
Pinterest!
From Pinterest I found hundreds of articles for different destinations that I could later dive into for research. I spent a few nights… Pin Pin Pin Pin. I created boards for Europe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand… of which later I created more specific boards: Mallorca, Tulum, Italy, France, Portugal, etc.
 
It was super fun. Here’s one of my favorite pictures I found on Pinterest. (source: Annelibush.com)

That sums it up for me. I’m going there.

 
Once I had my Pinterest boards figured out, each with plenty of Pins, I checked the various articles linked from them. That started a deeper dive.
 
Evernote!
It wasn’t long before it started to become overwhelming and I wanted a better way to organize it. Therefore, I chose to create notes in Evernote to keep it clean and handy. At first I had a Master list of regions with corresponding links to research later. It was one whole list of possible destinations with whatever links I thought might be interesting for each place. I set it all up to research at a later date (which I’ve since done) – deleting and adding destinations as I learned more.
 
From there, I added lists with links for things like:
  • packing lists
  • airfare sites and tips
  • expat experts
  • travel visa info
  • digital nomadism
  • technology for travel 
  • travel with kids
  • housesitting
  • rewards credit cards
  • travel insurance
 
Books!
Through my internet research, I learned of some great travel books and read a few with respect to saving money, traveling with kids, and housesitting. I even bought a book (couldn’t find it at the library!), The Art of Risk, which I’m hoping encourages me to push beyond my comfort zone. That will be helpful living abroad.
 

She’s a great travel writer and blogger.

 
Google Alerts!
I also set up google alerts of different towns/regions so I can get more familiar with them, including any potential safety issues. For example, we had Playa on our list for Mexico, but late last year there was some violence that caused me to keep an eye on the area over the next 15 months. I also learned about a supposedly amazing place for pizza in Oaxaca using Google Alerts, so there ya go.
 
Podcasts!
Both Greg and I are listening to podcasts of expats and digital nomads. It’s nice hearing the real life stories of people doing exactly what we plan to do.
 
For the first couple months I spent all of my spare time doing this research. After narrowing down our immediate destinations (looks like Mexico first and then Portugal or Italy), I’m able to look deeper in those areas and hold off on the other places. Side note: crazy awesome story is it looks like I’m eligible for Italian citizenship which would be game-changing for us.
 

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Minimalism Time: Minivan to Prius Downsizing

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, Minimalism, Motherhood, travel

Big-ass minivan

 
Living a life with a minimalist emphasis is a work in progress, naturally.
 
Even though I’ve sold and donated many things and happily reduced my overall consumerism footprint, I’m continuously finding new things to let go.
 
For the next step in our minimalism adventure, I wanted to look at our two cars. We have an old Mercedes (sedan) and a pretty-new Toyota sienna minivan. Greg drives the Mercedes, primarily. I drive the Toyota minivan.
 
I told Greg that I thought we could survive with one car, because we’re both home a lot. He works from home and I’m retired (I homeschool our daughter and play domestic goddess, but I don’t report to anyone –> retired).
 
I figured there might be a bit of sacrifice with a one-car plan, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. I loved the idea of getting a bit of cash for the Mercedes, too.
 
He was reluctant though.
 
Since the Mercedes is paid for (though it frequently hates us and has issues), he thinks we should keep it around. Just in case. 
 
Then, he dared to suggest something. Since we’re interested in saving money, and going minimalist, I should pursue the idea of reducing the impact our awesome, gorgeous, fun, big minivan has… by going for something smaller. He offered trading in the minivan for a used car that is smaller and less expensive. 
 
Oh shit. I didn’t expect that.
 
Ummmm…. I. Love. Our. Minivan.
 
I squirmed and got a bit uncomfortable, berating myself for opening this shit-can of worms.
 
Whoops.
 
Fast forward only a day or two later and that damn planted seed was taking root in my soul. 
 
Why do I even have a minivan? Well, I know why I bought it originally. I didn’t care about gas prices. We like road trips. It’s new and has a nice warranty. It can handle a lot of groceries. I can move a table in it. And… for everything else… just. in. case.
 
Hhhhmmmmmm….. well. Let me be honest with myself.
 
I rarely move tables. I don’t buy that many groceries. I DO (now) care about gas prices and the impact a larger vehicle has on our earth. And, although we like road trips, we’re planning to move abroad in a little over a year so we will be selling (both) cars by then anyway.
 
Fast forward another day and I’m driving our BIG minivan with Kamea in the back to run some (local) errands. Wow. There’s a lot of space in this vehicle for ONLY TWO PEOPLE. Kamea and I are the primary users of this BIG minivan and it has a LOT of room in it for only us. Even with Greg, it’s still overkill for three people, especially given our future abroad.
 
Well, whaddya know? I’m starting to dislike my minivan. I’m starting to feel wasteful driving it. I’m starting to give it the stink-eye.
 
WTF? Less than a week ago I was loving it, and now I can’t wait to downsize. 
 
Off to the Internets I went to car shop. 
 
Long story short, I fell in love with Prius cars because they’re hybrid, smaller, made by Toyota, and fucking cute as hell. 

Let’s Dance.

 
Done. Minivan traded in. Used Prius bought. 
 
I’m crazy happy with our choice and wish I’d done it sooner. 
 

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The Book, The New Global Student, Lit A Fire Under My Ass

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, kamea, kids, Kristen Suzanne, travel

This book inspired me to move abroad… sooner than later.

Image credit

I bought the book, The New Global Student, to inspire my family’s future travels around the world. I don’t recall how I came to know of the book, but when I read the description, I knew it was destined to be in my library.

From Amazon.com 

In 2005, Maya Frost and her husband sold everything and left their suburban American lifestyle behind in order to have an adventure abroad. The tricky part: they had to shepherd their four teenage daughters through high school and into college. This hilarious and conspiratorial how-to handbook describes the affordable, accessible, and stunningly advantageous options they stumbled upon that any American student can leverage to get an outrageously relevant global education. 

Sounds good, eh? 

It is, though I didn’t devour the book in one sitting. Actually, I started and stopped the book a few times over the past year (or two?).

I guess I didn’t feel a need to rush through it, seeing as my daughter was only five years old at the time. I figured I had a while before I would take action on anything I was reading. Not only that, I didn’t see the reality that we’d be moving abroad any time soon, because, like, THAT seemed a daunting idea… so why rush reading through the book? I could take my time.

As I was reading it one day, however, I wanted to share some of it with my husband, Greg. So I did that. We were driving to my mom’s which was about 45 minutes from our home and I started reading some of the really cool things I’d highlighted. As expected, he loved what I was reading to him, and his excitement served to inspire my continuing the book. 

Over the following weeks, I read the book at a faster clip. It became more and more exciting, as I imagined the life we could give Kamea… helping her become  The New Global Student. Wow, the advantages were numerous and awesome. 

So. Yesterday, I wrote that we’d always known we would travel the world. Honestly, though, I never knew when that would be. I really didn’t know how to make it happen. It seemed like a dream. It was a dream I felt would come true, but I didn’t know when “someday” would be. 

I mean… how does one just up and travel the world or move to another country?

The New Global Student was enticing me with fun stories of families traveling all over the world (many of whom didn’t even homeschool, by the way). Still… while I was reading it, I didn’t really make a connection of how I could relate to the stories I was reading. For example, I read about families selling their houses, cars, and/or businesses. They sold belongings, got rid of tons of stuff, and then had money to move somewhere else in the world. One family even bought a sail boat and took to the oceans for their epic adventure (turns out that’s a thing). 

Well, I didn’t have a business to sell. I didn’t have a house to sell either. I didn’t want to buy a boat (Greg gets seasick.) 

Hmmm… I just kept reading the book, figuring that someday we’d figure it out.

At the end of the book the lightbulb came on for me. At this point, the author’s husband chimed in and itemized the savings and expenses the family incurred while living in Mexico. I was blown away by the savings and cost of living that was possible. The book also illuminated the notion that any age is a good age to start (with respect to kids), emphasizing that younger is good and totally doable!

I salivated at how much money we could save living in Mexico (or other parts of the world). Savings plus the obvious awesomeness of immersing ourselves in other cultures, learning languages, and helping Kamea be a Global Student was just too good of an opportunity for which to wait. 

Turns out I wouldn’t have to… I realized that since we rent our condo, there would come a time when the lease ends and we won’t be obligated to pay that rent anymore. (Um, duh, Kristen. Why hadn’t I thought of this before now??) At that point, we could sell belongings (not a whole lot since I embrace minimalism these days), including cars. We could donate stuff. We could put anything leftover into storage (um, hello mom!).

Bam. We could take this dream of living abroad and make it happen when our lease is up. 

I know this sounds silly, but it just never dawned on me that we could simply not renew the lease. The veil had been lifted. The light was turned on. I could see our worldschooling path before my eyes.

At this point, I closed the book, having finished it, and called Greg into the bedroom.

The topic of living abroad was not new to us, as I’d just been reading him The New Global Student a few weeks prior. But, when I told him that we could actually do it when our condo’s lease ended, I think I took him by surprise. I filled him in on the details, and told him about some areas in Mexico where we could begin our adventure… and the wheels began turning in his head.

Now, mind you, he wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement (yet) like I was; but, truthfully, I’d had a whole hour to chew on it before I told him. :)

He raised a few questions about whether he could transfer his work successfully to a laptop only. He already works from home, and I told him we absolutely could (exciting details on that for another blog post). However, to make it easier on him, the lease wasn’t going to end for a good long while. We had time to figure it out and make it work.

The fire was lit under my ass… my deep dive into living abroad research began. Expat life is within reach.

It’s been about three months since that conversation in our bedroom, after I finished reading The New Global Student. I’ve gone from knowing nothing (other than it was possible somehow to do this because clearly other people are doing it) to knowing quite a bit about the how, when, where, and why for our adventure. 

I’ll share in the next post what I’m learning with my deep dive of research.

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Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Digital Nomad Expat Prep: Google Alerts For Travel

by Kristen Suzanne in Digital Nomad, Expat, homeschool, travel, Worldschool

One of the things I’ve done to research future expat destinations is setting up Google Alerts. 

What is a Google Alert? As you can see in the image, a Google Alert is

“a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results – such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs – that match the user’s search term.”

 

Lifehacker says this about Google Alerts:

Google Alerts is one of Google’s hidden gems. It’s a really powerful tool to keep track of trends, interesting topics, or anything really new that appears on the web. 

A Google Alert is easy to set up, and it’s a good way to monitor the web for desired topics being written about.

Once you set up a Google Alert you will get a daily email with links to articles on that particular alert for the day. For us, that’s various travel destinations. 

For example, after Playa del Carmen (one of our chosen places to live) had violence in a nightclub last month :( I was able to easily follow the news on it with Google Alerts. As a result, I’ll follow the alerts for the next year to see how Playa fares but we’re also going to check other locations now.

Even though we aren’t leaving the United States for a while, Google Alerts gives me a better feeling of the places we’re interested in living.  

Worldschool here we come!

Digital Nomadism here we come!

Adventure here we come!

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