This post has been updated on October 3rd, 2022.
People often get caught up wondering about ‘which country should I live in?”
With that in mind, in this post I’m going to share why you may be struggling to figure out your next geographical location and some initial steps you can take to find clarity.
WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A COUNTRY TO LIVE IN
Deciding which country to move to is far from an easy decision, no matter why you want to move or where you’re thinking of moving to. That’s because…
1. MOVING countries feels like A BIG CHANGE, even if you’ve done it before
The decision to move abroad is equally as complex when it’s your first time moving abroad as it is when it’s your 4th or 7th time.
People love to feel comfortable and safe, expats included.
So even when you are not 100% happy with where you live right now, the evil that you know is still better than the devil that you don’t know.
As a result, it’s not all that easy to pack up and leave one’s comfort zone, no matter how fed up or ready for a big change you may be.
It’s all the more difficult to leave your comfort zone if everything in your life abroad is seemingly good. You worked hard to get to a place where you have a good job, a place to live, a community around you, and you may even feel relatively comfortable speaking the local language. How could you just throw it all away?
But just as seasons change, your life may be at the precipice of a new chapter as well.
When change is calling your name, it’s easier to pretend like you don’t know where you want to move rather than face the mountain of things you’d have to change about your life should you go through with that one option you secretly know you’re more excited about…
2. YOU believe you don’t KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Knowing what you want from your life is an ever-evolving process. Something that you pursued with such determination 10 years ago may leave you feeling completely bored today.
So when you’re struggling to understand what you want, consider whether:
- your needs have changed and you just haven’t noticed
- you do know what you want but you’re scared to pursue this new path in life
- you feel guilty for wanting something that your friends and family may not support nor understand
I am yet to meet someone who genuinely doesn’t know what they want, even if they themselves believe that to be true.
Typically, it’s the beliefs they hold about what’s possible for them and the (perceived) pressure from others that makes them resort to the belief that they simply don’t know what’s best for them.
QUESTIONS TO ASK yourself WHEN you’re considering moving countries
When I was travelling solo for many years, I was a bit of a wild card, I must admit (with the wisdom of hindsight). I literally didn’t do any homework about my destination countries.
That’s because I knew I wanted to live abroad and nothing was going to stop me. If there was at least two or three things interesting or appealing about the destination country, it was enough for me to decide to move there (and I can tell you, they were as superficial as ‘they have great chocolate there’… ahh, youthful folly!).
I never had a job lined up nor a place to live. I just made things work through sheer stubborness. But that sort of approach can wear anyone down pretty fast.
I made some epically bad decisions that way, even though I will never regret the adventures that I had along the way because of it.
These days I’m all about doing my homework and being very intentional with my choices when I’m deciding where I should move and whether I should move at all.
The most important first step is to…
1. Forget about geography altogether
People get very caught up with the minute details of the different country or location options that they have in mind.
Why is this a bad idea and one that will not help you decide?
Comparing the features of the places you have in mind is far removed from you understanding your needs and wants, and specifically in this phase of your life.
If you’re looking for adventure, your options will be very different from someone who’s looking to settle down.
This is why it’s crucial that you first forget about geography altogether and spend some time reflecting on who you’ve become over the years and what you’re looking for in this next phase of your life.
If this feels like something you need help with, check out my online workshop on this very topic with the steps and prompts all laid out for you.
2. DEFINE YOUR NEEDS
How do you want to spend your days?
What kind of work do you want to do?
What do you want to achieve in this next phase of your life and what opportunities do you need to have available to you?
Do you want peace and quiet or hustle and bustle around you?
These are just a fraction of the questions you could ask yourself to get as specific as possible about what you’re looking for.
Once you have your list of needs and requirements, that’s when you can look at the question of geography.
Now you can use your list of requirements as a benchmark against which to assess the options you have in mind.
That said, it’s easier to do that when you’re doing it based on real-life evidence rather than your fears and imagination on what it would be like to live somewhere.
This brings me to the final point…
2. RESEARCH YOUR DESTINATION
This can take the form of visiting the places you’re considering moving to. It’s a completely different experience visiting a city or a country with the intention of discovering how it would be like to live there.
The kinds of questions you’ll be asking and things you’ll be interested in doing will be very different from a normal touristy trip. You’re not going to find any answers visiting tourist traps and museums!
Doing your research can also take the form of doing a deep dive into blogs, social media and expat websites.
However, living abroad is not a one-size-fits all experience. Different people can have vastly different experiences in the same place. So exercise caution when you take in other people’s experiences.
Being thorough about choosing a country to live in ensures that you’re making an intentional choice, with eyes wide open about the things you’ll be gaining by moving there and the negatives that you’d have to learn to accept and live with.
Katherine is a retired world traveller and former serial expat of 15 years. Based on her professional and personal experience as well as PhD research, she now helps expats, travellers and location independents decide whether to stay or go, whether to move back home or where to settle down.