Moving blind

Posted By on 22/08/2012

This is the third post in a series about one expat's experiences. You should also read the first post and the second post in the series.

As I wrote the other day, I became an expat without a whole lot of advance planning. I had decided to leave my native United States and move to Latin America, but I moved to Bogotá, Colombia, only about a month after deciding to move.

In that month, I did research on my new home, and I took care of lots of practical and logistical considerations necessary for an international move. I saw doctors, got vaccinations, set up the right bank accounts, and said goodbye to friends and family who I wouldn’t see for a year or more. But I didn’t do very much to start my Colombian life before I arrived.

In many ways, I was going into the experience blind. I had never been to the country I was moving to, I knew no one there, and I spoke decent but not great Spanish. There was relatively little I could do before arriving. As I wrote in my last post, I figured I would work as a freelancer, so I wasn’t going to look for a full-time jobs. I also didn’t know much about the city I was moving to, so I had no idea how to find a place to live, especially not from abroad.

In the end, I moved with a three-day hotel reservation and nothing more. I hoped that, once on the ground, I would quickly figure out how to find the things I need to find (work, apartment, friends).

My hopes became reality as I got to know Bogotá. Using CouchSurfing’s Bogotá Classifieds group, I quickly found a room in an apartment, which I moved into in my first week there. The same day, I had an interview that led to my first job. Real friends came a little slower, but that’s to be expected.

Of course, many, if not most, expats go about the expatriation process oppositely. Many are relocated by work, with jobs being the reason for their moves. Many move with family, to be in a spouse’s home country or so their kids can have a new experience in a new part of the world. These expats have to do much more preparation than I did, since they are moving with other people, or at least with greater immediate challenges.

I’m not sure whether my experience can be instructive to that kind of expat. Many expats have no reason to do anything I did: If they already have a life set up before they go, and they have the money to afford a more elaborate move, it makes sense for them to invest much more time and money into the process than I did.

But I think that many expats could benefit from a little easygoingness and experimentation, before and/or after a move. And think that’s part of the spirit behind Expatistan. Expatistan aims to be easy and fun to use, and to be a cheap (free!) alternative to products offered by bigger companies for thousands of dollars. Many expats, or their companies, will find a reason to pay so much money for a corporate report, but many others—in fact, all of you reading this—see value in what Expatistant provides. And you might be able to extend the spirit of Expatistan to all the planning and life-arranging inherent to the process of expatriating.