This is a fun project because it involves setting up a vacation. It’s not a regular vacation because you’ll be doing more than researching hotels and restaurants on the front end.
Before You Go
Pick a place you think you and your family could live for extended periods of time or on a permanent basis. Check Amazon to see if any books have been published recently by people who live there and have expatriated. Type in the name of the city on Google with ‘expat’ as an additional keyword.
Take some time to read about your potential new home to be sure that, on paper, it’s what you think you need. Ideally, it’s a place that has a lower cost of living than your current home. Check out the tax and banking system and look up the crime rates. If it’s a large region or city try to book accommodation in the kind of neighborhood where you would consider living based on your research, rather than on tourist hotel row.
Tip. When you’re doing your initial research online make sure the information you’re reading is current. Reading an article from 2008 on your potential new home could be misleading. The world changes too quickly. Use search tools on Google to search for articles on your topic in the last 12 months only.
Have a reconnaissance mindset when you visit. Decide you’re going to dig deep on this trip. It’s not just a vacation because you’re there specifically to see if you could live there. So while you want to have fun, you also want to ask questions, chat with other expats, and check prices for everyday things.
Here are some ways you can peel back the layers and see what your potential new home is really like. Most of these things can be done without having to set up an appointment. In many cases you’ll discover more by seeing where your spontaneity leads you.
On The Ground
Once you’ve found an area you like, pop into a real estate office and inquire about long-term rentals of 6 months to year. Check the upfront costs for move in and the documents you’ll need for a lease. Try to view at least one property to see if the pictures match the description. Not all countries have “truth in advertising.” This will give you a better idea what you’ll get for your money.
Drop in on a local bank or two and see what’s required to open an account. Banks often vary in what’s required to establish an account. Some just need a passport and others will require local ID and proof of address in the country.
Find the local hangout for expats and drop by for a chat. This is often enlightening as expats can tell you what no guidebook ever will and that information has great value. They’ve all been where you are right now.
Research the private and public schools before you go and make an appoint to see the facilities and talk with an administrator. Find out what they need to get your kids enrolled.
Food and Entertainment
Feed and entertain your family where the locals do. While it’s great to connect with expats the richer experience lies with local interaction. Visit the grocery store the locals use as well as the market stalls and small shops. Look at selection and prices and see if you could be happy with what you’d be taking home.
Once you’re back from your trip, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what life is like as a resident of your chosen home. Take some time to let the information sink in and repeat the process if needed in a new city until you’ve found the right place to make your move.
Again, so much of the entire ‘Plan B’ process is mental. You have to find the ways to get your head seriously into the game and to have a clear image of what you’re working towards.