First let me be upfront and say that I don’t think this will work for everybody. It’s just based on my own experience. I’m single, don’t own a ton of things, and I have a job that can be done from nearly anywhere because all I need is a computer and internet access. That being said I think many of these ideas will actually be useful for anybody who intends to sell their possessions and leave the country (even if it takes more than a month)
Let’s talk about money because it’s important. I spent the better part of the year religiously putting away money into a savings account at ING direct. I even broke it up as follows: emergency fund, vacation fund, world travel fund, and others. In fact any time I wanted to buy something this year I would setup what ING direct calls a sub account for the item, and just contribute a certain amount to it until I had enough. If I hadn’t done that, this wouldn’t have been possible. You’ll have to get religious about this and stop buying useless crap. I think about 50 dollars a week was going into my Round the World Trip Fund. So it doesn’t take much. Over the course of a year that’s about $2400, more than enough to get you to your first destination.
Selling Your Stuff
- Declutter: The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out just how much useless crap you own. This is actually a really useful exercise to go through even if you are not selling everything and leaving the country. You’ll be amazed by how much of what you own you NEVER use and is just taking up unnecessary space. This is really important. Just think of this way. The new life you’re about to create is a masterpiece in the making and you can’t create a masterpiece without a blank canvas. So dump all the stuff that YOU KNOW you never use and probably won’t be of use to anybody else either. This should be the very first thing you do once you’ve made your plan to leave the country. One caveat here. There are things that you might consider useless but could be sold so consider selling them. Don’t forget that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure The goal is to squeeze as many dollars as possible out of the things you own.
- Inventory: Now you need to figure out what useful stuff you own. By useful, I mean the kinds of things that you use on almost a daily basis and that would probably be useful to somebody else too. For me that included the following: couches, coffee tables, dishes, a flatscreen TV, bookshelves, a surfboard that would have been a pain to travel with and a bed. The only two things I didn’t want to sell were my flat screen (which I bought earlier this year) and my bed, so those both went back to my parents’ house. If you don’t live somewhere that you can have free storage, I recommend getting rid of everything. This list could range from 20 to100 things depending on what your living situation is. Note: Selling your media collection (DVD’s, CD’s, etc) is not something that will happen in the span of a month so I recommend leaving the collection with a friend. You also really don’t make much off this when you add in the hassles of shipping and all that.
- Take Photos of Your Stuff : Once you have figured out what you plan to sell, you’ll need to take photos of all of it. A simple point and shoot digital camera will do for this. This is no time to explore your photography skills. I recommend creating a Flickr account and having a set on Flickr for everything you are selling. Having good photographs of all your items makes it much easier to sell them.
- Post on Craigslist Every Other Day: I learned this lesson in the first few days. I tried a few times to sell my couches and reposted every 3-5 days. In Southern California a surfboard will sell much faster than a couch. Mine was gone in less than 24 hours and the buyer paid more than my asking price. But as far as your stuff goes, you really need post your stuff every other day so that you show up at the top of the search results. This will help you to dispose of your stuff much faster. Make everything a first come first serve basis. I had some guy tell me he wanted everything and said he would come a day later and never showed up.
Choosing Your Destination
- Figure out Your Needs: You might have some really romantic notions of living on a remote island somewhere, eating fruit, lying in a hammock, writing all day, and making love between sentences. It sounds poetic doesn’t it? Unless you’re F.Scott Fitzgerald on the French Riviera in the 1920’s you’ll need to figure out what your needs are. For me infrastructure was a big deal. Reliable internet access is important because I’m a blogger, internet marketer, and podcaster. Without reliable internet access I’d be really screwed. I actually conducted a skype call with my buddy Mark Harai in Costa Rica just so I could get a sense of what the connection would be like. The other thing I knew I needed was a place with good waves. It would make absolutely no sense for me to relocate to somewhere completely landlocked no matter how cheap it was because I’d go nuts if I couldn’t surf. Once you’ve got this handled you can work on how to lie in a hammock all day and make love between sentences and chapters.
- Choose a Place That’s Easy: Needless to say if you’re trying to leave the country in less than a month, then don’t choose a difficult country as your destination. Many countries require nothing more than an American passport to enter. In Costa Rica you can stay up to 90 days without a Visa, and you can just cross the Nicaragua border every 90 days, so the time period starts all over again.
- Connect With People Before You Go: This blog has been a huge asset in terms of making this process quite a bit easier. My friend Maria Brophy sent me the surfer’s guide to Costa Rica and has even connected me to some people that have set me up with housing. Mark Harai offered to pick me up from the airport and there’s a handful of travel bloggers on the ground. So needless to say having a network on the ground is incredibly useful. That being said, don’t be afraid just to reach out to people and ask. The beauty of the world we live in is that people are more accessible than ever before and they WANT to meet new people.
- Travel as Light as Possible: If there’s anything going through this entire process will teach you it’s that you don’t need anywhere as near as much as you think you do. Brad Pitt wasn’t kidding in Fight Club when he said “The Things You Own Own You.” Considering you’re in the process of selling everything you own, why on earth would you travel with a bunch of things? Colin Wright is one of many minimalist travel masters and I took a few notes from his playbook. For me, the biggest thing I’ll be traveling with is a surfboard. So I decided I would just throw all my clothes in my surfboard bag so I wouldn’t have to carry any additional baggage. One thing you do want to make note of is baggage fees since airlines seem intent on squeezing the blood out of a stone. I knew my surfboard was going to be the most challenging issue and I had to look very closely at airline baggage fees for surfboards. You can more or less get anything in any country in the world at this point, and if you can’t get it, chances are it’s really not that essential to your survival.
Last Minute Logistics
- Banking: Nowadays you can use your ATM cards almost anywhere in the world so this doesn’t need to be super complicated. A few years back I went to Europe and I took a bunch of travelers checks and that was a giant pain in the ass, so I don’t recommend you do that. To be on the safe side, call your bank and find out what the deal is. Sometimes when you withdraw money in foreign countries the fees from your bank can be exorbitant, so you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of that.
- Cell Phones: I’ve been doing lots of research on using my iPhone in Costa Rica and it turns out this can be a bit of a pain. Apparently you can jailbreak your phone and unlock it. But one thing I’d recommend based on previous experience is calling your cell provider and freezing your account, which will reduce your monthly charge to about $10.00. That’s something I’ll be doing with AT&T. In most locations you can get a cheap cell phone, which is what I recommend.
- Paperwork/Passports: This is kind of no nonsense travel advice that anybody will tell you. But I figured I’d included it in this post. Make a photocopy of your passport because it’s just a smart thing to do. Last thing you want is to be caught in some foreign country and not have anybody believe you’re an American Citizen, which is possible for somebody like me since I’m brown. A great joke I heard at a conference I spoke at last week is that the Brazilian passport is the most sought after passport in the world because you could put virtually any picture on it, and it will still pass. Gotta love that melting pot.
So there you have it. It took me roughly a month to go through this process once I made the decision to relocate abroad. As I said, it may not work for everybody, but you can take bits and pieces from it as you make plans for your own exodus.