Should you move abroad? More importantly, what should you have for lunch?

by Jobbatical August 16, 2016

I’m here to help you answer these two questions (I assume) you ask yourself daily


Decisions are hard. Some decisions are harder than others:

What do I want for lunch?

Sometimes it’s so impossibly difficult to choose between a million trivial options that an actual life-changing decision feels like a walk in the park in comparison.

Not surprisingly for those of us who know what a scumbag the brain can be sometimes, insignificant decisions appearing tricky is another one of your brain’s neat little ways of making life a tiny bit more difficult. Thanks, brain! You’re a true friend!

I want Mexican! No, Indian! No, Mexican! I’d rather stay home and starve than make a decision at this point. Take that, brain! Photo by Joshua Resnick via Shutterstock

According to a study (“Decision Quicksand: When Trivial Choices Suck Us In,” by Aner Sela and Jonah Berger),

“Metacognitive inference can make unexpectedly difficult decisions seem more important, which, in turn, increases deliberation time. Ironically, this process is more likely to occur for unimportant decisions because people expect them to be easier.”

With the exception of the phrase “metacognitive inference,” most of that sounds pretty straightforward. Now that you know your brain is trying to trick you by attaching significance to silly non-issues, you can outsmart it and free up all of that precious decision-making brainpower for something important. Let me make it extra easy for you: You should have tacos for lunch, for sure. Tacos are the best. (Check back here tomorrow if you find yourself struggling again. It’s still going to say tacos, though.)


With that successfully out of the way, let’s journey to the other end of the spectrum—an actual life-changing decision. Here’s one we ponder quite a lot here at Jobbatical:

Should I move to another country?

Spoiler alert: I think you should. But don’t just take my word for it (although you totally should).

Which one of these makes me look more decisive? Photo by ibreakstock via Shutterstock

There are countless guides available on the internet to cover all your decision-making needs. In case you can’t decide (hehehe) which one you should use for figuring out whether or not to move abroad, here’s another one!

Do some soul-searching

So you’ve had a brilliant idea—you want to move abroad. That’s great! Now ask yourself:

Why am I doing this? Am I ready to leave my life behind?

What’s your motivation? Did you rob a bank and now need to leave the country in a hurry? Are you faking your death to commit insurance fraud? Yeah, don’t do any of those things, probably.

If this is you, you’re not the intended audience for this blog post. But feel free to keep reading. I’m not going to argue with a gun-wielding maniac. Photo by Elnur via Shutterstock

Now, if you’re looking for a life-altering experience that will enrich you in a million different ways and knock you right out of your comfort zone, that’s a whole other story. Maybe you want to learn a new language. Maybe you want to take your career to the next level somewhere exciting. Maybe you want to experience the world not as a tourist, but as a local. Those are pretty cool reasons. Go with those.

Think about the consequences too: What would this move mean for your family and friends? How long would you be away? Are you emotionally and mentally ready to uproot yourself and settle in somewhere new?

Also do actual research outside your soul

After the big existential questions, it’s time to think about the more practical stuff. What’s your ideal destination? What are your options realistically? What are steps B-Y between A (your current situation) and Z (living abroad)? Make lists. Charts. Color-coded spreadsheets (if you’re into that).

Manage your expectations

Unless you’re sitting on a pile of gold (in which case, congratulations—you’re independently wealthy and most of this doesn’t apply to you!), you’re going to need some sort of employment and a realistic idea of what your life is going to look like in country x. Who’s hiring? What kind of salary can you expect? What’s the standard of living like? Average salaries and standards of living vary so much from country to country that basing your expectations on numbers without putting them into the right context is pretty meaningless. You’ll probably benefit from more lists, charts, and color-coded spreadsheets here, if that’s your thing.

Will you get by with your language skills? Do supermarkets sell gazpacho in cartons?* What are the compromises you’re willing to make? Oh, and you’ll probably have to start your social life from scratch. Work permits and visas are a thing. You’ll need a place to live. And you’ll probably get lost a lot at first.

It’s safe to say it probably won’t be like this 100% of the time. But that looks like it would be really bad for your back anyway. Photo by Leonid and Anna Dedukh via Shutterstock

Take a step back

Yeah, so that’s a lot to keep track of. Don’t drive yourself crazy by overthinking it. Distance yourself from the decision for a while. Take a week off from thinking about it. Do a crossword puzzle. Read a book. Learn to play an instrument.

I recommend the bagpipes. Guaranteed relaxation for the whole family! Photo by Gorosi via Shutterstock

Armed with your freshly adjusted set of expectations, see if you still want to do it

Now that you’ve considered all the boring and potentially problematic things and mulled them over, does the idea still get your heart racing (in a nice way)? Was this just a passing fancy or is it the actual next step on the magical journey that is your life? Do you still long for that rush of taking the plunge into the unknown? Are all the potential problems starting to look a whole lot like opportunities right about now?

I’d say you’re ready for the next step:

Optional but strongly recommended because I’m biased: Do it!

Congratulations—you’ve made an excellent decision! Reward yourself with tacos! (This is also optional.)


Are you planning to move abroad? Which stage of the process are you finding the most challenging?

Are you living abroad already? What’s it like? Do supermarkets sell gazpacho in cartons? Leave a comment! (Comments unrelated to soup are very welcome too.)


*I may be obsessed with store-bought gazpacho. This might not affect your final decision, but no judgment from me if it does.

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