How I Pulled Off Living and Working Abroad
When you work full-time domestically, there are some grim statistics to consider: Most US companies have a standard of two weeks’ vacation a year, three if you’re lucky. Even worse is the fact that a majority of Americans don’t even take their paid vacation due to pressures at work. But what about those who are self-employed? If you work from home, consider yourself a very fortunate person. I have been freelancing for the past year and half, and I’ve never been happier. Sure, I don’t get paid vacation or sick days, but I am also not chained to a desk — chained to my laptop, perhaps, but I can take that anywhere. And I have.
In a year and half of being self-employed, I’ve gone to Mexico, California, St. Louis, Florida, New York, Korea and, most recently, Paris. The biggest challenge is managing to work on your clients’ or employers’ nine-to-five schedule when there’s a six-hour (or more) time difference. While on the West Coast and working on an East Coast work schedule, my work day was 6am to 2pm. When in Paris, I was juggling two different work schedules (East and West Coast), so some days consisted of working 3pm to midnight. But that just meant I did all the fun stuff earlier in the day. It might sound taxing, but there are worse things than working at a Paris cafe at 8pm.
If you’re ready to take that huge step and work abroad, you don’t have to be your own boss to be able to live and work elsewhere. There are a slew of educational and teaching jobs available worldwide. Additionally, here’s a list of companies across a variety of industries that employ remote workers, including American Express, Apple, American Heart Association, and General Electric, among others (just make sure that they’re okay with you going abroad before accepting an offer!).
Finding housing abroad isn’t as difficult as securing work, but it’s definitely tedious. There are many factors to consider, such as determining the standard cost of living and rent, so it’s crucial to thoroughly research the city where you’d like to live. One website that can help is Expatistan.com, which offers up-to-date information on the cost of living in various countries, in addition to states here in the US.
Since you may be on your own in an unfamiliar country, connecting with reliable and trustworthy people who live in the area is a must. For me, it helped that while living in Paris — and not speaking French — I had one friend that I could count on in case of emergencies. However, prior to setting off for there, I used Facebook to get contacts from people I already knew, posting that I was looking for housing in Paris as well as wanting to meet locals. It’s beneficial to have referrals for housing so you know someone who’s connected to the source of where you’re staying just in case there’s ever an issue.
While students have more options for finding suitable, affordable living quarters, for non-students it could be a little more difficult. Thankfully we live in an age where lots of options are just a click away. I was referred to HomeAway, a site that offers rentals (an estimated two million homes in more than 190 countries) that you can search and book as easily as looking for a hotel room. Once you research the neighborhood where you want to live, you narrow down your search and contact the home manager. HomeAway is an extension of popular rental sites VRBO and VacationRentals.com. Having previously stayed at a stunning home in Querétaro, Mexico, via VRBO, I knew HomeAway would be reliable because of the affiliation. I also noticed that the home managers in Europe post their rentals on HomeAway a lot more than other rental sites, meaning this site is what locals use. My studio apartment in the 13th District in Paris did not disappoint; I paid a little extra but it was worth knowing I had a reliable contact and would be staying in a secure apartment.
The most important thing I would advise anyone who is seeking to live and work abroad is to inform family and friends about what you’re working on, who you’re working with, and where you’re living. While it’s great to be fun and free-spirited while you’re on your international adventures, you should still be responsible and cautious, and always stay safe.
(Photos via Araceli Cruz; featured photo via Getty)