Are you considering a year abroad or becoming a digital nomad? In this last year, my husband chose to take an academic sabbatical. While we were excited about all of the new adventures, journeys, and experiences, there was a lot of household planning to prepare for! In this blog post, I’m sharing what you need to know BEFORE you become a digital nomad.
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Some may call us crazy, others, foolish, but I have learned so much about letting go and living during this nomadic year! As a efficiency AND control lover, I let my husband of then 11 years convince me to pack up and sell our home, homeschool our children, and set sail for a year across the country for his academic sabbatical, all while maintaining an online business.
As I write this post, we are approaching the year mark since we left our home in Washington state. Last year, I was full of anxiety, losing weight, and fearful of our year ahead and ALL the things we needed to think about and do to prepare for this nomadic move. Suffice to say, I wasn’t the life of the party.
Fast forward a year, as we prepare for another move in 7 days, I am shockingly relaxed and haven’t really begun to pack (we are living in a small home where we only brought personal belongings and very little furniture, so that helps). A year changed me, in ways I probably needed to evolve. And for that, I am so thankful.
While we were preparing for our move, there were so many important things to think about and research. I’ll be sharing those tips here!
Tip 1: Health Insurance
In the U.S., health insurance is such a mess! I used to live abroad, and while it wasn’t perfect, traveling within the country wasn’t something I had to be concerned about. Every health plan, every state, and every area has different rules!
For us, we had to let our health insurance company (which was being provided for by my husband’s employer since this was an employer sponsored sabbatical) know we were going to be gone. Luckily, they had providers in the area that we moved to, BUT our costs increased by nearly $400/mo. While this isn’t fun, having health insurance IS important and it’s important to plan. It’s the cost of taking adventures. 😉
Tip 2: Mail
Since we sold our home, we had to forward our mail (which you can do through the USPS) to my husband’s parents house which was nearby. This made it easier to keep track of important documents and if we knew something important was arriving in the mail, we could easily track its location.
There are also some nomadic mail services that open and scan the mail for you so you can read and respond to it digitally!
Tip 3: Business Addresses
Do you also run a small business? This is where you need to pay attention to your state’s rules and regulations. I assigned my LLC to an agent who was present in Washington because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any notices. Consider getting an agent or trusted person who can let you know if you get important notices!
Tip 4: Housing
Ahh, housing! We been living a big game of musical chairs, but for the first 6 months, we lived with my husband’s parents. This was mostly due to the fact that he was working with university students right near where they lived and we decided it was worth it for our girls (we have three kids!) to be near their grandparents in day to day life for a year!
This turned out to be a great experience for us, but when we moved to another city 6 months later, we rented directly from the university. Expect your rent to vary from place to place and embrace the cost of the adventure. 😉
You need way less housing than you think! We are living in a 1300 sq ft home with three bedrooms and it is MORE than we need! We would have been fine in a 2 bedroom too!
If you are renting your home while you are gone, be sure to let your insurance company know as insurance rates change for rentals and be prepared to have a property manager or a trusted handyman in case there are maintenance issues while you are away. I’d recommend having a statement in the rental agreement where you can check in on the property during the year to make sure it is being cared for well!
If you are ready to sell you home, choose an storage unit and MARIE KONDO the stuff you truly don’t need! I gave away so much stuff and I would say I am a simple minimalist. I realized the cost of storing my items (which you would need to do if you were renting anyway) wasn’t worth the value of some of my items, so I let them go.
Rentals in our area for 10’x15’ was about $130/month. A few friends had upgraded their home so they borrowed a few pieces of larger furniture which saved us a bit on storage fees. Consider getting renters insurance for your stored items.
Tip 5: Schooling for Kids
We chose to begin our homeschooling career a year before our move so we knew this was going to be the easiest aspect of the move. If you are going to another location for a full year, then explore the local school districts and see if they are a good fit! But, if you want full freedom to travel around and dictate your own schedule, homeschooling is the way to go!
I work 20 hours a week, live transitionally, and also take care of our home, so I know homeschooling can be daunting. But, if you have younger kids (mine are 3rd grade and under), homeschooling can be done efficiently, effectively and cheaply! My girls are well above grade level in most areas (not intending to brag, but to quiet any anxiety about whether your children’s education will suffer), love to read, and have never met a local library they didn’t love! If you are curious about my daily schedule with them, you can read more about it in this post: 4 Tips for Managing your Creative Business as a Work From Home Mom.
Tip 6: What to Bring
We brought as much as we could fit in checked baggage. Southwest Airlines allows you to check 2 bags per person, so we had 10 bags, plus carry-ons. When my mother-in-law visited a few months before we left, we also sent a bag back with her to save on carrying so many bags. We also shipped two boxes of books (homeschooling and work related) via media mail. In the checked bags, we mostly brought clothing and separated each bag by season.
I purchased and LOVED these bags from Amazon! Durable yet lightweight for clothing! Also consider space saver bags for compressing your clothes.
Tip 7: Miscellaneous Items
Be sure to cancel gym memberships and subscriptions so you aren’t paying for any services you aren’t using while you are gone! Check in with your car insurance provider too and let them know that you are traveling around for the year (mine has no issues at all with this).
I also brought all of my important documents, like birth certificates, passports, and medical records in one small suitcase! You never know when you need those documents.
Tip 8: Stay Organized
Within each of these tips is a thousand action items and to-dos! I didn’t even include the whole list of selling our home and moving out! My husband and I stayed organized and assigned tasks and due dates using Asana, a project management software that’s free to use! Months before your move, setup action items and decide who will do them (delegate—don’t take this task on your own) and set a due date (and follow-through!). It will be much easier than waiting until the last minute!
While I am tempted to say, “That’s it,” I know how ‘easier said than done’ this list is! Is it worth the effort? Absolutely yes! Taking a year away to explore the country and make loads of new memories with our daughters has been 100% worth the effort! If you are feeling the desire to travel, but worried about the details, then let this be your guide and encouragement that you can do this! I believe in you.
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