Back to Back Issues Page
Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Expat? - Women on the Road News, Issue #062
April 09, 2013

Women on the Road NEWS #62

Have you ever considered becoming an expat? Living la bella vita in Rome or Florence or buying your baguette at the boulangerie each morning in Paris? It's a wonderful idea and for many - including myself - it works beautifully.

It's not for everyone however and sometimes it is more a question of the grass being greener on the other side. But how can you tell if moving to another country is the thing for you? It is a huge investment in time and money and emotions so you would have to be pretty sure the move was the absolutely right thing for you.

This is a great moment to introduce Kaleena Quarles, who is guest editing this edition of Women on the Road News. Kaleena has just moved to South Korea as an expat, where she teaches English to middle schoolers and is adjusting to a fast-paced life in the land of kimchi. While she was looking forward to some excitement, Korea is in the news these days in ways she hadn't bargained for; still, "I don't regret it for a moment," she says. Kaleena will edit a few more issues this year. This month, she is responsible for the section on becoming an expat, the book review of Wild, and the Cause of the Month. In the meantime she blogs about her adventures at Kaleena's Kaleidoscope. Welcome aboard, Kaleena!

If you're dreaming of traveling but you haven't yet left home yet, is it because you don't know what to do next? Is fear holding you back, or money or what others are saying? Whatever the reason, two books can help.

If you're in your 20s or 30s, I'd recommend The Art of Solo Travel, which shows you the way if it's your first solo trip.

If you're beyond your thirties, my own Women on the Road: the essential guide to baby boomer travel demystifies travel for you and takes you by the hand, step by step, from deciding where to go, to getting there. (If you've already read it and found it useful, I would love it if you could leave a review over on Amazon.)

baby boomer travel

Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #62

Are you ready to become an expat?

Many of you may dream of packing your bags, closing up shop, and jetting off to an exotic place to start a new life. It's not as crazy as you think. If you are considering becoming an expat but aren't sure if it's for you, these questions can help you decide:

Do you want the potential for a higher quality lifestyle?

For many, the primary motivation to move to a foreign country is to make money. While you may not actually earn a higher salary than in your home country, the lower cost of living may stretch your cash much further. And even if you’re not making much more, you may be able to do, see, and have more of what you want. 

Are you looking for a challenge?

There’s no doubt about it, moving to a new country is hard. If you’ve relocated where you don’t speak the language, even the simplest tasks - ordering food or doing laundry - can feel nearly impossible. You must be prepared to face the challenges of everyday life head on, and not let them get you down. 

Are you flexible?

Life in a new country can prove unpredictable. Whether it’s last minute changes at your job or finding out that all supermarkets close on Sundays after you’ve traveled 30 minutes to get to one, you have to be willing to roll with the punches. If you’re flexible and understand that you need to expect the unexpected, your life will be easier and less stressful.

Are you adaptable?

Of course you can move to a new country and continue to do things your own way and live in your expat bubble, but what would be the purpose - or fun - in that? Try to adapt to the local culture. Pay attention to local customs and try to practice them; learn a few words in the local language - you’d be surprised how much people appreciate that kind of simple effort, and it may land you some new local friends. 

Are you friendly?

While you don’t necessarily need to be outgoing, being friendly is essential to successfully acclimating to your new home. You’ve moved to a place far away with few or no acquaintances, so you’ll need to make friends. Make an effort to talk to your neighbors, chat with other expats, and be open to conversations that a local may start with you. Often a simple smile and hello can be the start of a great relationship.

Are you independent?

When you turn up in a foreign country, you probably won’t know many people, meaning you will have no one to rely on. You must be resourceful and independent enough to figure things out on your own. Each time you do, you’ll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Are you willing to deal with homesickness?

After the "honeymoon period" of loving everything about your new home wears off, you may find yourself missing your friends, family, and the comforts of home. Most expats deal with homesickness at one point or another, but you must be prepared to weather it through and find ways to cope. Use technology to keep in touch with loved ones and bring mementoes to give you a touch of home.

Are you willing to miss out on events back home?

Life back home doesn’t pause when you go away. People will get married, have babies, pass away, graduate, and hit other big milestones that you will not be around for. Be sure that you can handle missing out on these experiences and that your absence isn’t going to sever any ties that are important to you.

Do you have a backup plan or a plan for when you return home?

Let’s face it: life doesn’t always go according to plan. Once overseas, you may realize that it’s just not the lifestyle for you. Dangerous political climates could force you to evacuate, or you might lose your job and run out of money. Consider making a contingency plan and setting aside a reserve of emergency cash in case you need to return home earlier than expected.

Are you ready for an amazing, life-changing experience that will give you a new outlook on life?

Moving to a foreign country may be the best thing you’ve ever done. Regardless of how the experience turns out, it will be a unique adventure that will most likely alter your perspective on the world, people, and life. You will learn a lot about yourself in the process and, if nothing else, collect some interesting stories to tell. 

Are you ready to become an expat?

If you enjoyed this newsletter, then please tell a friend about it!

What's happening at Women on the Road?

I mentioned this last month but I'll say it again - please DO NOT FORGET to include your email address when you use the Contact form to write to me. Yet again I received several emails I would have loved to answer, but couldn't.

And now, last month on Women on the Road has been - exciting and packed with stuff!

  • In a more controversial vein, I asked you whether you should be charged more to fly if you're overweight. If you have any views on this, please leave a comment on the page.

Many of you are joining me on Facebook and Twitter - close to 5,000 so far - so if you haven't clicked LIKE yet please wander over to or Twitter at @womanontheroad and join me! I've also got a great Pinterest page if you love beautiful photos.

Women on the Road Recommends

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

When most women are dealt tragedy, they tend to turn to friends, chocolate, and days at the spa; but Cheryl Strayed did not. Instead, she chose to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail - completely solo. In her attempt to come to terms with her mother’s death, her recent divorce, and a crumbling sense of self-worth, Strayed traversed the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountains at the age of 26 without any hiking experience. Wild is the hauntingly beautiful and honest memoir of her journey as she dodges rattlesnakes, stares down bears, treks through treacherous snow, and reflects on her life. The tale will leave you in awe of the capacity of the human spirit and yearning for an outdoor adventure of your own. (review by Kaleena Quarles)

How to Become a Housesitter and See the World by Pete and Dalene Heck

Fellow bloggers Pete and Dalene have put together the ultimate housesitting resource. They've been paying their way by housesitting for years and now they're sharing everything they know with you! So if you've ever wondered how you can travel and live in the lap of luxury while you do it, you'll have to read this.

And if you haven't yet picked up my own women's travel book maybe this is the month you'll do that! Whether you're a baby boomer or not, you'll find step-by-step guidance on how to build your solo trip without having to jump on the first tour that comes along.

Travel News from across the Web

10 Essential Travel Items for Digital Nomads
You've Never Seen Water Like This
The World's Greatest Road Trips
12 Great Museums You've Never Heard Of
25 Places That Don't Look Real - But Are
How to Find Cheap Transport
Deconstructing the World's Friendliest People
10 Toughest Countries to Get Into
St. Petersburg: 12 Best Sights in the City of the Czars
The Battle of Budapest's Famous Baths
10 Fabulous Fountains in the UK
The Complete Guide to Hitchhiking in Southern Africa
The Fleeting Glory of Semana Santa in Guatemala
10 Most Beautiful Temples in the World
21 Places You Have to See by Water

9 Things I Learned From a Month Backpacking Around SE Asia
Hyperlocal Tours in NYC
Ireland: The Perfect Country for Your First Solo Trip
Burma: Believe the Hype
In Praise of Small Moments: A Love Affair with India in Pictures

For food lovers...

No Chance at Noma? 6 of Copenhagen's Other Great Restaurants
The 10 Best Hot Chocolates in Paris (in French - but just grab the addresses)
24 Hours of Food in India (video)


Dinner in the Dark

Cause of the Month

Literacy for Women in the Middle East

In October 2012 Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani schoo girl, was shot twice in the head by the Taliban after demanding education for women in her country. Literacy rates for women around the world are low, but parts of the Middle East have some of the lowest levels of women's literacy on the planet.

Studies have shown that an educated woman will have fewer children, a healthier family and community, and will contribute to a more stable local economy.

Despite opposition to women’s education in many places, there are fortunately several organizations working to increase the number of literate women in the Middle East.

For more information and how you can help, visit these links:

Afghanistan’s Journey to Literacy
Afghanistan Relief Organization: Women’s Literacy Program
UNESCO: The Alarming Situation of Education in Pakistan
The Alkhidmat Foundation in Pakistan
The IRC in Afghanistan
Women for Women International: Afghanistan
And Malala's own recently-launched fund

Next Month in Women on the Road NEWS?

How to capture your memories when traveling


© Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road™ News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.

Back to Back Issues Page