So you’ve settled into your expat life. You’ve learnt the language and got a grip of the customs, and have even started to crave the national dish rather than comfort food from home.
Just as it starts to make sense and feel like home, it all changes. The boss asks you to up sticks and set up camp in yet another country.
This scenario is pretty normal to high-fliers in the ranks of global nomads.These ever-mobile moguls are often multilingual experts in their field, moving from country to country as expert engineers, IT consultants or business boffins. Employed by multinationals, NGOs, governments and the UN, these globetrotting whizz-kids have an unusual lifestyle indeed.
It’s not for everybody, but those who join this tribe will have to master an entirely new set of skills to keep life on the road bearable. Whilst many of us look forward to an exciting trip abroad, the jet-set sees this as a commute to work, switching country as regularly as the rest of us change our socks.
In addition to the skills that make them internationally in demand, global nomads have ninja-like knowledge of how to live life in perpetual motion. Take a seat and learn from these masters of the international move.
Internationalise your life
If you know you will be footloose and without connections to one country, you need to work out a few things that are usually connected to your country of residence.
High street banks offer ‘International Accounts’ with gusto, but as The Telegraph notes, it’s “critically important to look beyond the tinsel and hype used by banks to promote their offshore accounts”.
Some of these accounts promise access to your money anywhere in the world, yet don’t assist in transferring cash between countries or currencies. For someone permanently on the move, this could be severely limiting.
There may be advantages in setting up accounts elsewhere in the world. Tax rates vary wildly around the world, so make sure you know the ins and outs of your country of residence and how to avoid paying more than you need to. It could be that you need to set up your services as a company listed in a totally separate country, just to avoid multiple taxmen attempting to take a lucky dip into your earnings. Anyone with links to the US needs to be especially careful of the FATCA legislation that Forbes says, “requires foreign banks to reveal Americans with accounts over $50,000”.
Ever-busy children of the world also need to be wary of insurance, investing in healthcare insurance that covers them for any eventuality in the countries they spend time in.
There are many ways in which you will need to adjust your finances, visas and insurance depending on where you are in the world, so do your research and ask those with experience.
So much advice focuses on practical, professional issues, but none of that is worth worrying about if you are too ill to work. Life on the road, jumping through time zones and skipping through climates will eventually tire you out.
Make sure you don’t run yourself down with a hectic life focused entirely on work. Make time to eat well and exercise. Not only do both these things help keep the body in good shape, but they boost the immune system and help with stress management.
It’s very easy when working hard to forget the importance of time spent doing things that aren’t work-related. Wherever you are in the world, however important the project, make sure you dedicate time to hobbies and relaxation. Don’t book back-to-back meetings; give yourself time in between to enjoy and explore the world.
Self-confessed global nomad Mike Walsh runs a global consultancy. He advises: “the definition of sadness are business trips that constitute airport, taxi, bland hotel, meeting, room service – and then the same in reverse. So take an extra day.
Keep in touch
Much like exercise can help with mental healthy, so can talking to loved ones. Just because you live a nomadic life, doesn’t mean you should sever ties with home.
It can be a lonely life on the road, so reach out to the friends and family that are most likely to make you laugh or support you when you want to cry.
It’s never been easier to reach out and connect to people, send messages with WhatsApp, tell your friends what you’re up to on Twitter, use Facebook to arrange meeting up with friends when you are in town, and get some face-to-face time over Skype.
Technology is great, but don’t underestimate the restorative power of real conversation. Meet up with friends wherever you are and as often as you can, have a drink and a laugh whenever you are able.
Networking events may seem like a hard night of business talk, but they can be a way of meeting people in a similarly nomadic situation.
Travel light when commuting
Chances are you’ll be setting up in a new country and regularly travelling to others for work. Get into the habit of travelling with only hand luggage. Many airlines permit a fairly sizable bag to be stored in the cabin lockers, so make the most of every inch you’re allowed.
This speeds up your journey through airports by a remarkable degree. Combined with self-check-in counters, it should be possible to get to your gate in record time. Not having to check in a suitcase cuts out one slow-moving queue, and being ready at the security point also helps no end.
A bag with built-in organisers should make it easy to remove electronics for inspection, and make it speedy to put them back again. Not having to wait for your luggage to come out of the hold means you can be sat in your hotel room whilst fellow passengers stand at the carousel.
The key to packing light is knowing what you need and what can be left out. Leave behind toiletries and towels, relying on the hotel freebies or buying new ones when you arrive. You may not need your laptop; instead carry documents on phones or USB sticks and make use of hotel business centres or internet cafes.
Keep learning languages and skills
The majority of global nomads are highly respected experts in their field, but if those skills start to fade they can quickly find themselves on the scrapheap.
The world is a rapidly changing place. Systems become more complex and the law is constantly changing, so make sure you stay up to date with trade knowledge. This can be done with digital subscriptions to journals and trade magazines, but it’s worthwhile looking for lifelong accreditation from a recognised body in your field. This not only lends credibility but should give you access to conferences and training courses.
The global economy is also changing faster than most of us can understand, which means subject matter experts need to be ready to respond to the demand for their expertise. Anyone with a smattering of Mandarin would be well placed to trade in China’s expanding economy. Start brushing up on your Indonesian and be ready for Jakarta’s predicted boom.
Embrace minimalist design
Furniture is bulky and heavy, thus expensive to ship around the world. So don’t bother. Accept that your lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to creative interior design; you’re too busy on adventures to seek out bulky antiques.
A 2012 research paper, Liquid Relationship to Possessions, suggests that global nomads are less likely to be materialistic and don’t use possessions as a way to express themselves.
Some employers may offer accommodation as part of the remuneration package, which more likely than not will come with all the furniture you need. The rest of your time is likely to be spent either in the air or in hotel rooms.
Instead invest in comfortable shoes and sturdy luggage to carry you from place to place, a tablet or laptop to entertain you once you arrive, and external power gadgets to keep them charged up.
With this complement of kit, anywhere can start to feel like home.
Digitize your life
We’ve already mentioned how important it is to keep in touch with friends, but the digital world offers a whole host of ways to make work, life and play much easier.
Invest in online storage to keep essential documents secure but accessible. Scanning copies of physical documents means you can quickly replace essential papers should they be lost or destroyed.
There are various online tools to allow users to work from anywhere with Internet access. There’s no need to lug about your own laptop with slideshow programmes installed; use smart online services and have them at your fingertips with the click of a mouse.
Online calendars can be synchronised with phones and computers, sharing your availability with colleagues, clients and assistants. The access levels can be adjusted to share only as much information as you want, but can easily keep you from being double-booked.
Technology can be a help, but only when functioning properly. Get to know the areas in which you work and their compatibility with technology. Some neighbouring nations work with entirely different mobile signals, so it may be worth investing in multiple phones to work easily across territories.
Different nations have wildly different rules about holding dual citizenship and how to go about acquiring it. For many nomads, a second passport makes it easier to live and do business in a territory and can qualify them for legal protections not afforded to non-citizens.
A second passport can make it much more convenient when arriving in security-conscious countries, but be conscious or diplomatic tiffs between territories. An Israeli stamp in any passport can raise eyebrows at immigration desks across the Middle East, regardless of the issuing country.
If your boss is asking you to move and start again, demand that the company helps you out.
They want you to pack your life up and move to benefit their business, so it seems like a wise investment to help you make that happen. It’s not just about your salary; make sure your employer is ready to adjust healthcare allowances to look after you in the new country.
Some employers may be open to part-funding education for any dependants you have. International schools exist around the world, catering to the kids of busy global nomads. Whilst expensive, these do offer school environments to support globetrotting youngsters.
In addition to funding your moving costs, discuss your housing arrangements. Accommodation costs vary wildly around the world, so make sure you don’t find any nasty surprises on that front. Multi-nationals and government employers may already have housing in your destination country, which can be rented at a reasonable rate.
Don’t be shy when bartering. Your employer is asking you to cause major disruption to your life; it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a level of reward for doing so.
Collect air miles
Almost every airline now has its own loyalty scheme, rewarding regular customers with upgrades and cheaper flights. Chances are, you’ll be jetting about for work and pleasure in between these all-too-frequent moves.
Shop around and you will realise that many airlines have reciprocal agreements. You might be flying with British Airways on this trip, but you can put your loyalty points towards discounts on Qantas, for example.
You’ll quickly find that your air miles multiply and the benefits improve. Upgrades to more luxurious seating will become cheaper and occasionally free. Your loyalty card will become a golden ticket, giving you access to the hallowed halls of the customer lounge or upgrades in hotels.
It’s not just airlines and hotels that offer rewards for frequent fliers. Car hire firms may offer their premium vehicles, and there may be bargains to be had on jewellery, fashion and wine. There are apps to help keep track of your points, so check before you spend to see if you can pay in points rather than pounds.
This also works the other way around. Many credit cards offer air miles as rewards to customers, so a sack of potatoes can help pay for a week spent sunning yourself on the sand.
Are you a global nomad? Do you have any other tips to add? Let us know in the comments!
Article by Andy Scofield, Expat Focus International Features Writer