Thinking about moving abroad? Read this!

Ever since the presidential election in America picked up steam, many people have joked about moving to Canada if the ‘wrong’ person gets elected.

But seriously, have you thought about living in another country?

For many Americans, a brief vacation overseas or a semester abroad during college is the extent of their time spent outside their native country. As a thirty-something who has lived abroad in Europe and Asia for a total of 6 years, I know what’s necessary to successfully work, study, make friends, and learn to live in a foreign country.  The benefits of living abroad are many and far-reaching, and I want to help others explore the idea of living abroad. We can act as informal ambassadors of our country, building bridges across languages, religions, and cultures.

Last week I published my Guide to Living Abroad on Amazon, which helps you approach living abroad in a holistic way, preparing you to reach your goals and have an enriching time.  The e-book takes you from when you first have the idea, all the way through your return home with useful worksheets and flowcharts as well as anecdotes from my own time abroad.  Some of the ideas covered in the book include:

  • Is moving abroad the right idea for you?  What can you do to prepare?
  • What should you take care of before departing?
  • What things will help ease the transition to your new home?
  • What can you do to align your daily life abroad to your bigger picture goals?
  • How can you ease your transition when you head home?

My e-book is available both for purchase and as a loan through Kindle Unlimited.

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Why not try a new way of life abroad? (Venice, Italy 2016)

 

Thankful for What I Got: November’s Capsule Wardrobe Challenge

Are you a fan of the simplicity/minimalism movement?

Me too.

Are you successful in all your minimalist habits?  I know I still struggle to know what’s worth adding to my closet or home, and what’s not worth purchasing.  But I’m working on keeping my wardrobe to a small, but effective, size.  I’ve been trying to do so for the past few years.  Right now, I believe I have around 35 items in my work wardrobe.

As we celebrate Halloween and don our costumes that we probably won’t wear again, I think this is the perfect time to address the clothing that I have in my normal closet.  Wouldn’t it be great to wear everything I own before re-wearing anything?  This would make my closet an equal opportunity employer.

So my idea is to document each day, starting tomorrow, what I wear and keep track in my closet of what I haven’t worn yet.  As I wear each item, I can make a note of what I think works and what doesn’t anymore, and brainstorm ideas for future item purchases that might be versatile and work with many of the items I already own.

Do you have a capsule wardrobe?  Or do you struggle to find something to wear even though your closet is overflowing?  Maybe a simplified closet would help you to keep only your best clothing and get rid of the rest!

Check out this YouTube video that inspired me to tackle this challenge:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foqfxo7nMLE  She’s got a different ‘Shop Your Closet’ challenge than me for November, but I think her idea is a great one– use and be grateful for what we already have!

Reading Update Q3 2016

My reading goal for 2016 was to read a book each month.  This was fine, a reasonable decision for a busy professional such as myself, and totally doable… until I started reading and listening to Shantaram in April.  This book is a hefty 946 pages.

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Our reading nook 

I read books mostly by borrowing them from the public library as e-books or audiobooks, so sometimes I have to wait until they are available if others are ahead of me in line.  So that is part of the reason why it took me so long to finish it, another reason is that it’s poorly written and very slow to get into.  But I recently finished it! So to date, I’ve finished 7 books this year, with two currently in the works as well.  See below for the books I’ve completed, and the others still on my list to read this year:

Go Set a Watchman  DONE!

In Other Words DONE!

How to Be a Productivity Ninja

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle  DONE!

Sea of Poppies

Last Man in Tower

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern  DONE!

Cutting for Stone

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Shantaram  DONE!

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Positivity Attracts

The Winter of our Disconnect  DONE!

Food: A Love Story DONE!

Hagakure  In progress

Savor  In progress

I found Hagakure after watching the movie Ghost Dog with my boyfriend, and really appreciate the book’s link between behavior and values.  It’s also a quick read, at less than 200 pages.  I’d like to read a few shorter books to catch up with my goal.  5 more books before the end of the year is an ambitious goal, given that it’s almost November!

I’m also still reading the daily devotional book Savor.  I was good during the first few months of the year to read and write briefly about the essay every morning, but haven’t done it regularly since then.  Every once in a while I read the day’s essay and think about it, but I think it would be nice to get back into that habit to reflect a bit more every day and keep things in perspective.

What are you reading this year?  Do you have a reading goal on Goodreads?  If you’ve read any of the books I list above, what did you think about them?

Budgeting to Move Abroad

It was our European vacation in August/September that gave us the itch to move abroad.  No sooner had we returned home after our 3 week trip that we started talking about our next trip, or rather, the idea of moving abroad for a few years.

Being financially able to move abroad is a big consideration before we’re ready.  Some of the things we’d need to pay for include: savings to cover our transition abroad, an emergency fund in case we need to get home fast at any time during our stay, expenses to cover the time we’re finding a job abroad, which should enable us to afford our basic expenses as well as ‘extras’ like regional travel, language classes, covering storage of things we leave at home, or other expenses in our home country.  These are all things that must be accounted for before it makes financial sense to move abroad.

Besides the less fun financial planning and saving, there are the questions of what you’ll do abroad, where, and for how long.  Once you have the main game plan sketched out, you will know how much you need to save up.

These are details that might be easy to figure out, or you might need a lot of discussion and research to iron out the details.  Since it will be both my boyfriend and I moving abroad, along with our two cats, we both need to be included in the decision making and financial preparations.

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Cozy lights shine from shops in Kyoto, Japan (March 2015)

Have you ever thought about moving abroad?  How did you decide where to go, for how long, and how did you afford it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Budget Update: Rolling with the Punches

We returned from our trip to Europe with suitcases full of chocolate.  It’s been really great to share Swedish, Swiss and German goodies with friends and coworkers back here in Hawaii.  We had a wonderful time with my parents and sister and her fiance, and highlights of the trip included spending time on the farm, seeing some larger cities by boat, biking around picturesque Reichenau Island in Lake Constance, and going on an amazing food tour in Venice.

But one thing that hasn’t been the most fun has been dealing with the aftermath of the trip’s effect on my budget.

I think I did very well budgeting and saving for the trip, and overall the expenses we ran up were only over my saved amount by $125.  I’ve decided to devote half of this month’s regular monthly transfer to my travel account to covering this overage, and by the time my second paycheck is deposited, the credit card bill should show up.  So I won’t carry a balance on my credit card, which is great!

The thing I didn’t take into account was the effect my vacation would have on my paycheck.  Because of some rules regarding when my vacation hours can be spent, the hours I earned in August and September couldn’t be used on my vacation that took place in August and September.  So I had to take leave without pay for nearly five days of work!  This means that essentially my first paycheck for this month is 3/4 of what I would normally get.

In order to deal with this sudden lack of income, I decided to not contribute to my travel fund (which had already been reduced to half to cover the trip overages) or my emergency fund for the month.  All my other costs are covered, which is good in terms of feeling secure, but it’s a little disheartening that my goal of fully funding my emergency fund (of 3 months’ worth of living expenses) will be delayed by a month.

For an overview of my budgeting system, see my video and original post on fikaflicka on my one number budget.  How do you budget, both on a regular basis and for a goal such as going on a trip?

 

Original Budget Post

 

Photos from Europe 

Copenhagen: a good choice was to see the city by boat. Beautiful weather, a little cool but perfect with a windbreaker!

Småland, Sweden: treasures found in the forest! Very lucky to have wild blueberries, lingon berries, chantrelle mushrooms and Karl Johan mushrooms available for the picking.

Stockholm, Sweden: another city you should see by boat! We took a ferry into town from Drottningholm palace, and had my friend Christina with us who could explain the different islands. Perfect, sunny weather.

Venice, Italy: such a fascinating city that has no cars or bikes! Loved walking here, where every crumbling building and canal was so picturesque.

Zurich, Switzerland: we spent an afternoon here to meet up with a friend who originally stayed with me in Honolulu as a couchsurfer a few years ago. Very fun to check out the city’s fancy shopping area.

Reichenau Island, Lake Constance: perfect place and time for a bike ride. So. Many. Flowers. Great fish sandwiches and iced coffee at a few cafes.

Pre-Vacation Prep

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walking iris

The countdown to our European vacation is on!  The suitcases are half-full of presents for the family and random things I’ll need on the trip, such as socks.  Living in Hawaii, I rarely wear socks so I had to unearth them from the closet.  Clothing and toiletries still need to be packed.

What else am I getting done in these last 3 days before we leave?

  • Funds: Call the credit card and regular debit card companies to let them know about the trip so they don’t flag my card when I charge something or take out cash at ATMs in Rejkjavik or Venice. Check with the debit card company on their rate (turns out mine is 1% for cash withdrawals), so we can compare that rate to another possible card that isn’t connected to my personal accounts.
  • Work: Wrapping up work projects feels good.  To do: hand off details, locations of files and paperwork to coworkers who are taking over my projects while I’m gone.
  • Insurance: Do we need travel insurance?  It might be a good idea.  We had a friend recommend Allianz Global Assistance to us.  She had to make a claim when her luggage was damaged and said they were responsive.  Need to check if my medical insurance works abroad as well, and note down the numbers for contacting them in case I need to see a doctor or visit an ER abroad.

While the above items seem boring, I think having this information ready if needed will save a few headaches and even some money by avoiding paying more for changing money or going to a non-participating partner hospital.