Our Story on How We Moved Abroad
It has been just over a month since Kyle and I moved abroad to Chiang Mai, Thailand. It took us over a year to plan our move here, and it’s hard to believe that we are actually here! All the stress and anxiety of worrying about money and our pets have paid off. So far we are enjoying living here, and being with my family.
Related post: Our decision to move to Thailand
Yes, I have family that lives here but it doesn’t mean that we didn’t have to plan in advance and save like crazy. It was still stressful and at times we were worried we weren’t going to be able to do it. I am a planner, I like to know what our next ‘step’ or ‘adventure’ will be so to say the least I still worried we might not be able to achieve it.
How We Planned
We had talked about it and talked about it, I have always told Kyle early on in our relationship that I knew that someday I would live in Thailand. Being Thai is a part of me, and I knew that I had to take the opportunity to live there and learn my own heritage, whenever that may be. I just didn’t know it would happen now, and so young- so soon. I’m especially lucky that Kyle was so willing to do this for me, together. Admittedly, I could not have done it without him.
I think us moving abroad at a young age has been the best decision yet. We are not tied down to a mortgage payment or any car payments (which I’ll discuss later). Kyle’s first trip to Thailand was in the summer of 2014. I was nervous for him to visit because I thought he might have a little culture shock. Thailand is a second world country and nothing like our small town.
Related post: All about Chiang Mai
He actually loved it and I was so happy, so then when we came back home from vacation we started talking more seriously about moving. We never really knew when we would do so, but it was always in the back of our minds that it was going to happen. The turning point for us, was when my grandfather passed away in 2015 and we made a trip back here for the funeral services. At that point, we really started to talk about it and began planning.
My brother is going to graduate high-school May of 2018, so I knew we had to at least be there for his graduation. (He has been living here in Chiang Mai for the past two years, something he really wanted to do) Kyle and I had always discussed marriage, but never really talked about when. We had already been living together for some time and knew we could tolerate one another – so to me, we were basically already married. In July of 2016, Kyle popped the big question, and we were already planning to move sometime the following summer of 2017.
Of course, we wanted to get married in front of our family and friends prior to us leaving the country, so we planned our wedding and our move accordingly. We set the wedding date for June 10th and planned on leaving a month or so after.
To actually live in another country isn’t so easy – there are certain law and visa requirements that are needed in order to live abroad. So we had to research how we could live there, and which visas we had to apply for. It wasn’t as simple as our summer trip in 2014 when we did a ‘Visa on arrival’ for a tourist visa.
Instead of coming over here to work, we decided to not work and save up money. Neither of us had yet finished our Bachelor’s degree programs so it didn’t seem feasible for us to find a job in Thailand. This kind of shocked people when I told them we planned on quitting full time jobs, and would be living on savings. To me, this was such a silly question. Since we aren’t working we plan on focusing most of our time on our schooling but also traveling as much as possible. And obviously spend time with my family 🙂
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Chiang Mai is a great ‘hub’ for other travels in South East Asia. There is so much culture and activities to do in Thailand. So we will take every opportunity travel since we don’t have full-time jobs.
Leaving Our Doggies Behind
At first, we planned to bring our doggies with us. Roxie is a 18lb puggle, and Milo a 12lb cockapoo. We researched extensively on airlines that allowed dogs, the vaccinations required, the requirements for the vet. It was extremely overwhelming, to say the least. We would sit on the internet all night reading reviews on certain airlines that allowed pets, and other pet owner experiences. Obviously, we read some horror stories and we became terrified.
Absolutely set on our bringing our dogs, we almost hired a pet relocation service. Which basically did all the hard work for you, but at a cost. Since we have only planned to be here for a year, we kept asking ourselves if it was even worth it to bring them for just one year? Should we risk their safety?
We are extreme dog lovers, they are literally our children, so our main concern was whether or not it was worth the cost to have them here and risk their safety.
Ultimately we would have had to fly them underneath the plane, in a crate. With the long layover we had, who knows where the dogs would go? We wouldn’t be able to see them during the layover. Plus our dogs have horrible anxiety, I would be so nervous that they would have a panic attack. I’m not being dramatic – it’s just the dog mom in me.
Finally, our decision was to leave them behind as sad and hard as it has been. Kyles parents finally told us that they would keep them for us. So. Incredibly. Thankful. I know in my heart that it was better for them, and as much as it kills me to leave them for so long it’s better in the long run. Even if we would have been able to fly them over, we would have had to put them in quarantine, for who knows how long. With the constant changes in CDC regulations, who knows if we would have been able to bring them back.
Related Post: What You Should Know About Owning Dog in College
Saving, Saving… Spending?
After finally settling on arrangements for the dogs, the next thing was creating a budget and saving money. I am going to 100% honest and say we did not save the exact amount we intended. However, we have saved up enough money to live on for a year and be able to fly back when we’re ready. It didn’t hit me until a few months before we left, that spending my money on little things is going to add up, and I’d rather save my money on trips and adventures.
I’m an avid shopper, I will admit. I worked way too close to Target and it was bad. Have you ever walked into Target and ended up not buying a single thing you actually needed? Yup. Exactly. In order to get over this, you really need to change your mindset and priorities. I constantly had to ask myself, “Would you rather buy these meaningless items you’ll forget about, or save your money on traveling?”
On top of saving, we also had to spend. We had to spend money obtaining the marriage license(s), applying for a new passport for myself, having that expedited, and spending money on the fees for Visas. Then we had to spend money on airfare. We booked directly through the airline we were flying through and bought separate tickets on our leg from KC to SFO. The initial day we flew out from KC we, had to spend that evening in SFO since there were no early morning flights with enough time to board our flight to Singapore. So there was another expense – a hotel in SFO which was extremely overpriced in my opinon. After our 16 hour flight to Singapore we had a 13-hour layover, and luckily the airport had a hotel paid hourly- but that was another expense. On top of that don’t forget the overpriced food and coffee in the airports, just something that you can’t help but know is outrageous.
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So yes, my biggest regret is not saving as much money. This just means Kyle and I are on a strict budget every month so we can do the things we would like to. However, we don’t have any obligations or payments we are tied down to. Both of us made sure to sell our vehicles, pay off credit cards, and make sure my textbooks for classes were purchased (the ones that I couldn’t buy as e-text). Luckily food here is so cheap, and we don’t need to buy souvenirs or anything of that manner since we’ve done it once.
Our Biggest Worry: Visas
As I stated earlier you need to research the documentation requirements and visa requirements for the country you’ll be living in. I cannot stress this enough. Since we were getting married, we couldn’t apply for visas in advance. We had to wait until we received our certified marriage license, and could change my last name.
The visas we applied for are non-immigrant visas. These allow us to stay here for up to a year as long as we stay with family and do not try to seek employment during our stay. The requirements for a non-immigrant visa included: our marriage documents, proof of family relationship, a bank statement showing X amount of dollars in our bank account, and mailing our current passports.
In order for Kyle to live here legally, we had to be married. With being married, we could prove that my mother is Kyle’s mother-in-law. To be honest, we weren’t sure if that’s how the visas worked – if he could live here based off that. I called the consulate in Chicago numerous times. It wasn’t easy to get ahold of them but they basically told me we were going about the process the correct way.
The hard part was not knowing. Not knowing if all the documentation, research, and fees were enough. We both told our jobs we would be leaving and set dates to give our two weeks notice. Both of us talked and decided it was best to give ourselves a couple of weeks to prepare for the move and not work.
Scariest thing: quitting our jobs and having no idea if we were approved for visas.
All of this was done between June to July and was extremely stressful because we needed to purchase plane tickets ASAP otherwise the prices were going up every day. We couldn’t apply for our visas until I received my new passport, which had to be expedited. Luckily I received it back in 2 weeks by paying the extra fee to overnight the mail.
I think Kyle and I checked that we had all the correct documents in the envelope at least a dozen times before sending it to the Royal Thai Consulate. After it was mailed out, it was just a waiting game on whether or not we were approved for the visas. If we weren’t, we would have been SOL. We were counting on that one visa to allow us to carry out the plan we’ve had for so long.
We Did It!
Well, obviously we did receive our visas because we’re here now! I’m so thankful that everything has gone smoothly so far. Immigration still requires us to ‘check-in’ every 90 days, but that will be a piece of cake compared to the initial visa process.
Someone asked me, what do you think your advantages are/were for moving abroad since you have family there?
That’s a great question. We didn’t have to find a place to live and we don’t have to worry about transportation or buying a vehicle while we are here. Of course my mother is bilingual so it’s easy for us to get around having her translate. Although, Kyle and I do try to speak Thai and communicate when it is possible. We know most of the basics, especially how to order food. My mom is pretty adamant about us doing this as well. I still can’t get over how she switches back and forth between languages so quick.
A lot of people move to other countries where they know nobody, my suggestion would be to research expat groups or expat bloggers of that particular country to see how they did it, how they found a place to live, if they decided to buy vehicles, etc. When you settle in, enroll in some language courses. You meet new people and can start learning the language. I’ve never taken one so I’m not sure how successful they are, but it depends on how you learn. I learn best by immersing myself in the language and picking up words I recognize and try to put sentences together. Whereas, Kyle learns best with an instructor. We both plan on finding a Thai language course to take.
Although we had some advantages, it still wasn’t easy. We had to quit our jobs at the right time so we had enough money but not too early that we would have spend it. Before we left we both had to sell our vehicles so we weren’t tied to any more payments – meaning we won’t have any vehicles when we decide to move back.
So yes I find that we have been incredibly lucky to have family here, but moving abroad to a completely foreign country not knowing a soul can be done. On my favorite bloggers post, I mention Helene from heleneinbetween who has been such an inspiration to me. Her and her husband moved abroad to Germany which you can read about here. Our next adventure would be to move to a completely foreign country as well. Who knows? Maybe it’ll happen in the near future.
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