One of the most difficult parts of moving abroad is settling in and getting your bearings straight.
I remember the first time I moved overseas in 2011 it took me a while before I was able to start enjoying my time over there because I was constantly worried about trying to organise everything.
However, after implementing a routine into my day to day life, I was able to avoid this problem…for the most part.
You might be thinking “why is he writing about routines? I know how to create a routine.”
If you’re thinking this you’re right, however, your routine overseas is bound to look completely different to your routine back home.
Why Is Having a Routine Important?
If you’ve ever lived overseas before, then you’ll already understand the importance of creating a daily routine that can not only help you settle in easier but give you the chance to take advantage of the opportunities that surround you.
I see too many people who move overseas expect everything to just fall into place. While this does happen for some, the reality is that for most people you’ll need to plan some form of routine into your daily life.
Less Decision Making
Having to make constant decisions about what activities to do every day, who to see, where to go etc. can be extremely stressful.
However, by having a routine that you stick to most days, you don’t need to constantly think about what the next thing you need to do is.
We can use less of our brain in that respect so we can put it to better use learning languages, working and appreciating living overseas with our friends.
By following a routine you’re able to have a schedule of everything that needs to get done.
Have you ever noticed how much more productive you are during the week at work than at home?
The reason is because you have a routine in place that will make sure that work is done at a specific time, whereas at home, you make excuses and let meaningless tasks take priority.
Personal Sustainability Model
What the hell is a personal sustainability model?
When you move overseas, you often become highly dependent on locals and public services to assist our process in integrating into society whether that be with our finances, relationships or hobbies.
It’s highly important to break away from this process that will prolong your experience of being an ‘outsider’ and get to work yourself in setting up some activities which will get you onto the path of independence.
So what sort of things should you include into your personal sustainability model? Take some language classes, volunteer at local events, do some form of exercise etc. This is fundamental in achieving a smooth process when moving abroad.
What Should You Focus On?
While there are a number of different tasks and activities you can implement into your routine, I’ve found these to be the most important.
Financial – budget/spending
While this isn’t necessarily part of a routine, being on top of your finances is imperative.
You need to practice getting into the habit of spending less. I’m not talking about being stingy but rather careful. There is a great tendency when you’re living abroad to spend money unnecessarily and not watch your costs.
Have you ever gone on a holiday and spent thousands of dollars in a couple of weeks and asked yourself “how and why did I spend that much money?”
The reason is when you’re on holiday overseas you usually spend a lot more money than you would when living at home. But living abroad is completely different to being on a holiday abroad.
Get an idea of the costs of certain things and start creating a budget. I use a budgeting app called TrailWallet to keep track of my spending and will review it every month to see where I’m making unnecessary purchases.
Starting new relationships with people is hard. Often times you will create relationships with people you don’t necessarily like just to have friends.
Make time in your routine for meeting new people and creating new relationships. Yes, it may be harder than at home because of the cultural differences, but it’ll be worth it.
Making friends can be done several different ways but the best way is to meet people at language classes, playing sport, dancing etc you get the picture.
Maintaining existing relationships with your friends and family back home is also important. However, you don’t want to fall into the trap of talking to them too often and neglecting the opportunities you have to meet people around you.
The truth is that some of the existing relationships you have back home are going to die, and that’s only natural. You’re going to grow as a person and start to think about the world differently by living abroad, so be prepared for that.
When I first moved back home after living abroad for four years, I found that many of the relationships I had with friends just weren’t the same when I returned.
What are some of your favourite activities? Playing sport, martial arts, cooking, watching a certain tv series?
Whatever they are, it’s important to have some familiarity with your life back home, so try to include some of these activities into your daily routine.
Once again, you don’t want to fall into the trap of spending too much time doing these activities and neglecting other parts of the routine that are important.
This is probably the most important aspect of the routine.
If you’re living in a country where you don’t speak the language then you need to spend time learning the language. This could involve going to a language school or taking private language classes (which are generally cheaper).
On top of this, you might want to spend a little time studying every couple of days so that you can really cement the basics and become fluent quicker.
You’ll find it much easier to make friends and get involved in a new culture when you can speak the language.
What about new hobbies other than learning a foreign language? What’s an activity that you wouldn’t normally do at home? What specific activities are common in the country you’ve moved to?
For example in Latin America, dancing and playing the guitar seem to be two very common activities that people do. They spend hours having fun and doing these activities.
You’ll find it a lot easier to hang around with these people if you make an effort to learn a local activity. Most people will be happy to see that you’re making an effort and be happy to help you improve.
What exercise do you enjoy doing? What did you do back home? I think it’s a great idea to implement the same form of exercise that you enjoy doing at home. It’s a nice comfort of home to bring along with you and implement in your daily routine.
At times while living abroad I’ve really lacked in this department. By making this a priority in your routine, you’ll be sure to stay fit and healthy.
Too many people neglect this, stop working, run out of money and have to return home earlier than they thought.
Unless you’ve saved a lot of money, working and making an income is how you’re going to live abroad for longer.
You have to be really strict with yourself in this aspect of your routine. I’ve found that scheduling a few hours of work every morning really helps improve productivity because it gives you the rest of the day off.
Whether you want to learn a foreign language, play sport or hang out with friends, you’ll have enough time as long as you do your work in the morning.
If you have to find a job after arriving abroad then you have a distinct advantage.
The great thing about working abroad is having the opportunity to earn money, practice speaking a foreign language and make friends all at the same time.
I also suggest learning how to start a travel blog because it allows you to document your crazy travel adventures and potentially make money from it.
What Does My Routine Look Like?
Although your routine isn’t going to look like mine (and it shouldn’t), by looking at my routine, you can get an idea of the type of things to put in your own.
I’ve just moved to Guatemala and have found that creating a routine for myself has been incredibly useful.
While my routine isn’t the same every day, I will generally try and include at least 80% of the following in my routine in this order.
Wake up between 7am-8am
Exercise (generally running)
Cook a proper breakfast (this is something I did every day back home and is important to me)
Work on the blog
Work online (research, SEO writing)
Afternoon (1pm Onwards)
Walk around the city to discover new places
1-2 hours of Spanish lessons
Socialising with friends
Local Activity (I am taking salsa classes starting next week)
Travel Planning (this can involve anything from looking at new places to visit or organising accommodation, setting up bank accounts, administrative tasks etc.)
To get the most out of living abroad it’s important that you include some form of routine into your daily life.
While there are many different things you can implement into your routine, there are certain activities and tasks that are essential.
Try and include some form of work, language learning, exercise, familiar activity, new activity and socialising to take advantage of the amazing opportunity you have living abroad.
By using my routine as an example you will get some ideas of things to put into your own routine and go from there. If you’re able to follow through with at least 80% of your routine every day then you’re doing a good job.
You definitely don’t want to include too many things into your routine so that it’s too intense so take a deep breath before you get started and think about what’s most important to you.
What does your routine look like? Is there anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!