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As I sit here staring out the window towards the most beautiful city skyline in the world, it dawned on me that a year ago a lot of things in our life looked different.
It was full of cars, a house, lots of stuff, and a scary consumeristic road that wasn’t in line with our goals.
Time has flown quickly since I met my wife and all of this was set into motion to get where we are at today.
Mrs. Fifty Week Vacation (FWV) and I met through work years ago as we both lived in the same city in the US. Things moved along nicely, and you guessed it, we got married and lived happily ever after.
With marriage came conversations of priorities.
Recently Mrs. FWV had made a career change. She had made the change and wanted to move up the new company as fast as possible.
Priority number one was in motion.
Our second priority was to travel as much as possible.
If you want to travel a lot, you need some cash.
We weren’t born into great wealth; we don’t have trust funds, we are quite normal people who just want to travel the world.
I devote a lot of my site to personal finance because of this. I think it’s important to understand so that you can fund your life of travel.
Perhaps with a little planning and luck, you can do it a lot earlier in life than most like we are.
The goal is to inspire and prepare you so that with a little planning, you can do it a lot earlier in life than most like we are.
While married life was great, we found ourselves in auto-pilot doing “what you were supposed to do.”
We were in danger of living the consumeristic lifestyle and letting good get in the way of great.
Overall our actions and goals of travel were not aligned.
Something had to change.
I had family in the military that traveled extensively. I thought, “how can we do something similar to them?”
This question led to months of discovery on what options were out there, and it seemed that expat assignments were a potential avenue for us.
Fortunately, Mrs. FWV works for a larger global company with offices in more than one city. I bugged her relentlessly to ask her boss if an expat assignment was possible.
Europe seemed pretty dreamy considering the ease of travel we could do on the weekends. Then again South America sounded pretty awesome as well.
I never thought that we would end up in China. We couldn’t be happier.
I remember the day after our first wedding anniversary when Mrs. FWV called me to say that her boss asked if we were serious about moving abroad for work.
Heck yes, we were! Suddenly, here it was, the moment of truth…. We were headed to Hong Kong! Woohoo, yippee!
Hong Kong seemed like the perfect opportunity for us once we realized exactly where it was and how close it was to paradise.
The tricky part was my job and letting the boss know that “Hey… I’m moving to the other side of the world”.
I was extremely anxious to see if there any chance that I could work remotely.
Fortunately, the answer was yes, but it did come with a pretty substantial pay cut all things considered.
Looking back, the ability for us both to keep our jobs was huge.
If you go Google digital nomads or where to travel cheaply, there is this little area called Southeast Asia that is number one on about every list.
Ironically, we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, yet are surrounded by countries in Southeast Asia where your dollar goes quite far.
When you move around the world, one of the biggest advantages is that suddenly your “home base” changes and you can more easily travel to those exotic locations.
A few years back for our honeymoon we had thought it might be cool if we could go to Bali or Bora Bora, yet the thought of 24 hours and three plane flights wasn’t exciting.
Two days of travel just to get there and back? Yikes. (It was a bit too expensive in hindsight, and we were working on limited vacation days after all.)
Now that we are in Hong Kong, suddenly it is much easier to hop over to Boracay and back for the weekend.
If Boracay is not your jam, you could go to Bangkok or Singapore instead.
These places are out of your reach if you are limited to your two weeks of vacation and having to fly around the world each time to get there.
Why not change your circumstances and location?
After all, contracts usually only last for a few years. Did I mention that they pay for your flights to and from your assignment?
We have to work for the time being, like most people.
To achieve our goal of perpetual travel, it is easier for us to have W-2s so that we can finance rental properties much more easy to get us to that point of financial independence.
Everyone has a choice, and while it would be more fun to travel non-stop in our youth, for our long-term goals, this makes a lot more sense to flip this work travel ratio around in this manner.
You can do this, and I would recommend that you ask your boss, HR, or your boss’s boss if there is an opportunity to go abroad. If you want something, sometimes it is as easy as asking for it. Few people do just that.
However, if you do decide to pursue an expat assignment I do have some advice:
Your salary, vacation days, and bonus structure are all potentially on the table. There are other things you can negotiate, too.
Some people get housing allowances, cars, drivers, storage for goods back home, a private school for their kids, medical coverage, one-time assignment bonuses, cost of living adjustments, money or flights back home once per year.
They might even sell your home for you, rent your home for you, or none of the above.
You have to be your #1 advocate and cheerleader. Remember that most people are too scared of leaving the comforts of their stuff back home. You have to let that go.
Try to set up an exploratory housing trip and negotiate vacation days as you integrate back in the business on the back end.
While many of those days were spent in a jet-lagged haze, they still were a few more pseudo-vacation days.
On the back end, you will get a few days to get everything settled, but why not ask for an extra few days to layover at the beach on the way home?
The answer if you don’t ask is already a ‘no.’ So just ask!
Say yes to as many reasonable opportunities as possible once you move.
There is an expat community wherever you go, and you’ll meet some awesome people. They will show you the ropes and be part of your new community.
Plus, they know all the tasty restaurants and happy hour specials. ☺
Whether you move 100 miles or 10,000, it is the perfect opportunity to get in shape, eat better, or learn a new language.
Use this opportunity before your bad habits follow you to a new place.
As Nike says – just do it. You’ll thank yourself later.
This is an incredible opportunity to learn.
For a lot of people, this may be their only expat assignment so you shouldn’t waste it watching Netflix.
Remember that it’s not all going to be sunshine and unicorns, but it will be worth it and an experience you will never forget.
There will be hard times, and it does require sacrifice.
We get to see our families so much less now, and that is a sacrifice that is part of the deal.
Hey, there is FaceTime and Skype on the plus side.
I want to leave you with a thought that you do have a choice on what to do and where to live.
Expat assignments can open doors that you never thought possible.
If you want to explore the world, then do it.
If you can’t, you can always try what we are doing.
Don’t settle for average in life.
Make it amazing and try something different.
You might be surprised what doors open next.
What comments or thoughts do you have about working overseas to reach your travel goals? Would you do it? Where would you want to go? Leave a comment below and let us know. The crazier the destination the better! 🙂
Read More: 7 Easy Ways to Travel Cheap
Zack is one of the co-founders of FreeUp and is in charge of setting the strategy for the blog and managing the day-to-day operations. When he isn’t plotting new ways to create awesome blog content, he likes to geek out about global affairs, ride motorcycles and can probably be found hiking somewhere during his days off.