How To Leave America 101, A Masterclass!

I’m being called on more and more often to coach new world travellers on how to get started on a global journey!   I am always glad to pay it forward!

At best, this will be one of the least exciting technical aides I have ever penned. Though, however academic, you will find joy in that if you ever plan on travelling or living abroad, this will be the most comprehensive list of things you need to do to get started that you will ever read. ~>

Bookmark this page! Just like the American Constitution, this is a living document.  I will add new, relevant tips as fast as I get them!

I don’t care where you start, just start!

  • Get Google Voice or some other reliable VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)

At least one month before leaving, set up a Google Voice account, for free.  Then add Google Voice to your phone.  From your phone, you can have a second phone number in the USA, however, that’s not why you need it.

You’ll be able to make phone calls from your laptop or computer, anywhere in the world you have internet, from the Google Voice web page. The number that appears on Caller-ID will be the second/Google Voice number you set up in the USA.  You’ll also be able to send and receive text messages on that number!

This is absolutely critical, because at least one month before you leave, change every single professional and personal contact and verification number to the Google Voice number so that when you call the USA or across accounts you aren’t blocked and seen as a cheater/scam artist accessing an American account from abroad.

Don’t forget to switch all of your 2-step verifications, email verifications, contact phone numbers from places that call you, to the Google voice number.

I have had to help friends go through the process of trying to access accounts and not have a valid US phone number.  Most of the time it doesn’t work because of security.  When it does, most reputable businesses will make you wait one month before the new phone number is seen as “valid”.

  • Buy a one-year subscription to a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Pick a VPN that has a great reputation and price.  The job of a VPN is to mask your computer.  It tells the internet where you are logging in from, every time you are online.  Click -> What Is My IP Address.  As you can see, there is a fairly accurate description of your location, no matter where you are while you are reading this.

A few reasons why you need a VPN:

  • Whenever you do online shopping, banking, or for some websites, the simple act of logging in, the computer tells the company and its servers where you are.  If where you are when you log in does not match the country where you opened the account and logged in for the first time, it blocks you.  Usually temporarily, though you will have to go through quite a few phone calls to find someone at the website’s main office who can unblock it.  That’s if you can find a phone number to customer service at most major companies.


  • Your bank or financial institution will almost certainly not allow you to log on from another country.  If you can find the time to call and email your way through the blockade of online and offline paperwork, good luck.  It is almost impossible to prove that you are who you claim to be online and in another country.


  • Working remotely/abroad often means making sure your company or the company you are applying to does not actually know you aren’t in the USA.  A VPN lets you communicate with them, and apply for jobs as if you were still in the USA.

A VPN will simply tell the internet that you are logging in from any country you choose.  Once installed, your VPN will let you pick from several countries all over the world to pretend that you are logging in from, every time you log in.

That means you can do business online the same way abroad as you would sitting in your living room back home.

Be certain the VPN you use has an app you can download on your phone and tablet. 

A huge bonus that some, but not all VPNs offer is being able to switch the country you are in, then login to Netflix and see an entirely new set of movies! Email your VPN company before you buy to see if its a bonus they offer. Netflix does not give every country every movie, so when you log in from the UK, for instance, you will see an entirely new library.  Try It!

Note: If you find a reputable company that does not offer the Netflix trick, use that company anyway.

  • Hard Copy

Order and pack a physical second copy of your Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Drivers License (lie and say you lost the original), Non-Drivers State ID card (every state has one, easy to get), FBI Criminal Background Check, & State Criminal Background Check.  You may never need all these things, but when you do you will save a lot of time and money by having one in your suitcase.  Even more likely is that you travel to a country that you want to stay in long term.  In that case, you will need nearly everything on this list!

  • Scan everything!

Owls Odessy gave me my H.R. Giger inspired decoupage suitcase, click it!

Scan the back, front, and inside pages of every passport, visa, credit card, debit card, letter from the company you will or may be working for abroad, Social Security Card, driver’s license, travel ticket, access and any other document that is specific to you and your travel.

Go overkill!

Upload them to a folder in your email account, give access to that account to a friend or relative that you trust.

Then create a separate folder that’s identical to the first and give access to it to someone else that you trust that doesn’t know the other person.

If anything happens to your documents, you may need them to print a copy and take it someplace in your city on your behalf so that you can have a new one mailed to you.

It’s called “redundancy”, and it has saved me from disaster more than once.

Don’t use a scanner app on your phone. Either use a friend’s scanner, a personal scanner at home or take it to a print shop and pay them.  Don’t do it at work and don’t leave them with anyone else to do it for you.

  • Set up a second, and preferably third money account.

I said money account because that does not necessarily mean bank.  You need to have two separate accounts.  Let’s assume that one is a traditional bank Account with a debit card, the others should be PayPal with a debit card, Paypal Debit Card,  Bitcoin (because it can be used anywhere in the world), Bitcoin with a debit card or local ATM, or some other place that you can hold, deposit, and withdraw money easily.

Mark my words, there will be a day when your phone runs out of battery, your bank hasn’t fully processed the info you gave them on why you are spending money overseas, and you are in a place where you don’t speak the language.

If you are an adventurous traveller, that is!

When that happens, the difference between panic and calm are knowing that you have options.  You can use an app like UBER or 99 Taxi, which has the main and alternate account attached to it, or simply use the alternate card to pay for what you wanted.  Then you won’t be in a rush when you calmly sit down with your laptop, click on the VPN, and sort out the problems you had with your main card.

  • Say hello to a nice Account Manager at your bank!

At 9 am, go to the best neighborhood in your city, dressed professionally, as if you were interviewing for the job of bank manager.  Sit down and ask for an account manager, when you meet, tell them that you are travelling overseas and that you “need to be certain that it states clearly, on record, that the bank knows you are abroad and won’t freeze your account”.

The person you will be talking to does not care about you, you are simply a number to them, potentially a person they can sell something order to fill a quota.  That’s OK, we all have a job to do.  What you can’t do is allow yourself to believe that just because the person you spoke to assured you that they would take care of it, that they would.

Ask them to write down the number you need to call in a week to verify that the bank has taken in and processed your request on the back of their business card.  Be sure the card has their name on it.

It’s important to have them write the phone number on the business card because it is irrefutable proof that you spoke.  They know it and you know it. If what you said is not processed in two weeks, go back to the bank in person, with the card (that you should have scanned) and ask “What can I do to help this process move along more quickly?”

Be nice to the banker, once you have verified that the bank has it on record that you will be travellingdo the Stamp Trick and write them a letter.

  • Freeze your credit.

I suggest doing this even if you aren’t leaving the country.  Freezing Credit and/or placing a Security Alert on your credit info, at all three of the major companies (Experian, Equifax, & Transunion) stops anyone who has your information from being able to steal your identity.

Identity theft usually isn’t discovered until the victim needs to use credit for a loan, house, etc…

By then it’s far too late.

You will have to pull your information from all banks/credit agencies, alert them to the fraud, but you will also have to prove that you are you!  This will be one of the worst nightmares you will ever have or experience.  I guided several clients through this during my previous career as a financial professional. Everyone cried, often.  They cried even more, and harder, once they found out that it was a close relative and/or friend that did it.  Most identity theft is done by someone you know and possibly love.  Privately, talk to your friends and ask if they or anyone they know has gone through it.

Consider this, you are far more likely a target because everyone you are close to knows you are out of the country and most likely not checking old accounts.

  • Give a friend $50.

Ask a different friend if they would be a mail-drop for you.  Tell them you need to change your mailing address to his/her house so that they can mail you anything you need that comes.  Replacement documents for example.  The $50 is to cover the cost of mailing.

  • Get a professional resume.

Hire a professional.  That means that you can hire me, or someone equally qualified and experienced.  This means that no, your friend who is a writer or good with words is not qualified.  A resume is a specific instrument.

While abroad you will have opportunities presented to you, both where you live and in other countries.  Be prepared!

  • 3-6 months savings.

I don’t care if your new job advances you money or you have friends and family that will support you.  Save your own money and do not depend on them! You need to calculate what you need and have 3-6 months of living expenses saved up and divided, even if unequally, among two or three of your accounts.

Having money saved means that if and when something goes wrong, you are not bound to a job that you aren’t happy with.  With your resume in hand, you can spend time looking for a job in your new host country that fits you.  Alternatively, you may not be what your new employer needs.  They are under no obligation to keep you.  You can be let go fired at any time and without warning.  Don’t be in a position that leaves you stranded and dependent on others to support you at all, ever.

  • Get CE!

In my business circle, CE means Continuing Education.  Most people do it for professional organizations or governmental regulations.  I do it for myself because it keeps me professionally relevant and makes me more money.

Learn something that is portable and that you can do from anywhere in the world, BitCoin is an excellent example! The internet is a treasure trove of the greatest universities and business professionals teaching courses and skills that you can be certified in or at the very least apply to your business ideas. 

I have friends that have become successful in businesses that range from Computer Programmers and Virtual Assistants to Bitcoin Traders and Travel Professionals!

I did an in-depth breakdown of how I broke into the Editing and Proofreading business that you can dive into, as an example of one successful method.

  • Lie about dates.

If I am, hypothetically, arriving in on the first day of the month, the only people who know are my close friends and close family because the friends I have when and where I land will want to fill my arrival with fun and parties.

Parties and celebrations before securing your location is poor prioritization! Instead, I lie and tell everyone in my new city I am arriving on the seventh. It gives me a buffer to make sure I have my banking, housing, phone number, internet, and any small incidentals that aren’t hard, but important, taken care of. It will also give me a time to learn my neighborhood and relax into my surroundings.

  • Passport Card!

Never walk around with your passport, I don’t care what anyone tells you, its a bad idea!  Instead, get a Passport Card.  Its legal ID and you can keep it in your wallet/purse with everything else and if it’s stolen it’s easy to replace.

Speaking of Passports, make sure that you renew your passport on, or before it has six months to expire!  Many countries won’t allow you to have a Visa if your passport will expire soon.

  • Shut The Fuck Up!

People who travel the world, or are in the process of beginning to travel enjoy sharing insights with the people they care about.  


Unless they specifically and directly ask you, do not bring up your international ambitions, goals, or achievements because it will only build resentment and alienate people, friends, and family around you.

Something folks who travel loose sight of, is that it takes an extraordinary amount of planning, courage, and determination to succeed in opening the world up for yourself.  Very few people have what is needed to do it. An unfortunate part of the human condition is that jealousy is quite real.  It’s not reserved for movies stars and the obscenely wealthy. If you are accomplishing your dream of travelling the world there will be a lot of jealousy and bitterness directed at you.  Not because you are travelling the world, but because you are living your dream.

This is an unfortunate and harsh truth.


If what I shared here helps, send $5 in BitCoin to this address.
It’ll buy me coffee to fuel my mind while I write!



Bitcoin: 1AAEBJW9gC1bt6U6UjBWS4g6A6zDLhKMCb

Litecoin: LaSfZW9EdmhNbzgeUNdQQ8o5nKyWqjGnWn

Ether / Ethereum: 0x0de9a17de1ce7f65df21d05307c2a07757572cb5


YusefWateef (at) Gmail (dot) com


  1. kemkem

    Nice list! I would add hard copies of any papers you might need, bank statements etc. I was amazed how hard it was to find copy machines when we lived in Malta without an hour journey downtown and of course everyone required duplicate copies of whatever. Getting to know a banker is crucial. They can help you out of jams with a phone call. You should also try and learn a few phrases of whatever language you will be speaking. You would be amazed at how much warmer your reception is. If you have separate names as a married copy, be sure and carry a copy in your wallet. It has made things so much easier at airports and hotels. Make sure to look up bloggers who might be in your future destination and ask questions. None of that top ten list stuff that will paint a rosy picture. You want to know what day to day life is like.


  2. Diva Lyri

    I could go on an on about some good things to add…BUT!! I come from the perspective of leaving the country to be self-sufficient, so it would be a little different. But I think you did a good starting job on it. I wouldn’t be about telling the bank I’m leaving the country though. I had issues with PayPal. They were trying to control ish with my account. Telling me I need to tell them what country I go to. I don’t like that at all and refuse to do that. Where I go is my business and not theirs. And other than PayPal, I no longer deal with banks.

    I like hiding the network with the VPN…It would be good if you listed two or three links that offer the service.

    Above that, I can say the thing that has really saved me is my MagicJack which gives me the ability to call anywhere in the United states for free. They cost about $60 for the unit, and then $35 per year. As long as you have internet, they work very well. People don’t know that I’m outside the US unless I tell them. I can be anywhere in the world.

    Good job.


    • YusefWateef

      I haven’t ever used Magic Jack, because I use WhatsApp and WeChat. Those are free phone apps that let us call each other over WiFi. To call a regular land line I call through my free Google Voice account. Since it’s always best to have more than one option, I may pick up a Magic Jack as well!


    • YusefWateef

      100 correct! I know of very, very few people that were encouraged to go see the world by someone that hadn’t done it. People/friends/family that warn you about the perils and dangers abroad truly believe they are helping you. It’s best only to share your travel ambitions with other travellers. That way, even if they warn you against something, it’s a warning that comes from experience and not what the TV told them.


  3. Maria Haukilahti

    Leaving a country for a longer period of time will surely affect your status e.g. in the welfare system of your native country. Make sure that you know all the aspects, especially if you plan to return after years: there might be big surprises how frustrating all the paper work can be only because you think you are just “coming home”. Insurance policies in the native and the target country is good to know. Make sure that you understand the differences in health care systems – the further you go, the bigger the differences are. As a foreigner with lacking knowledge and language skills, you will surely pull the shortest straw.


    • YusefWateef

      Interestingly enough, Americans may be the most eager to learn about the health insurance programs in other countries because they are most likely better and more affordable than what we have in the USA. No, that was not a joke. In terms of healthcare, we pulled the shortest straw a long, long time ago.


  4. Ann Reid

    I now live in Mexico. I have traveled Europe. My bank has never had a problem with me logging on anywhere I have been. This has been true through several different banks. Same with my internet shopping. I don’t agree with the need for a VPN.


    • YusefWateef

      It’s good to hear that things are going so smoothly for you. Where in Mexico have you moved to? Where are you from? Please, tell us about your life as an Expat!

      I over engineer everything and always plan for the worst. I’ve even been known to wear a belt and suspenders at the same time!


  5. Brian Wilson

    Join at least 5 Facebook groups in various areas, directly related to your new country ( expat community, work opps, politics,education,travel) months prior to your departure. This will give you inside information of both people who are doing as you aspire to do and priceless detailed information from the native population. Also get a marketable skill ( teaching English, consulting, culinary,etc) or 2 that will enable you to make a living and adapt to the new culture in ways that are as close to home as possible.


    • YusefWateef

      Good points! I completely forgot o talk about how important it is to join relevant online groups. I’ll even expand on that and say Following, on Twitter, people that are journalists, relevant social personas, and other expats living in the country you plan to move to is a good idea as well.


  6. Lovenia Leapart

    Looks like between you and the comments, most have covered everything I would have said. I do agree about the self-sufficiency (entrepreneurship) angle been best for wanting to leave long term, especially if teaching is not your thing. That’s not the say that other employment can’t be had, but I feel you have maximum flexibility/freedom (which is kind of what most of hope to attain at least in some measure in deciding to live abroad) when your income is not dependent on finding employment/being employed by someone. The only other useful info I would add is this site for comparing travel insurance policies. If you are still in traveling mode (not yet settled on a particular country) or a nomad, this site can be very helpful.


    • YusefWateef

      I have never researched Travelers Insurance because I am usually covered by the country I am in no matter what country it is. I think all of us need to learn more about it. Thanks for the link!


  7. teaharbor

    What are some tips for divesting myself of decades of stuff? I don’t want to put things in storage. I don’t want to pay excessive fees to cart things with me. Yet I’m already grieving for my extensive book collection. I tried selling a few things on Craigslist with no success. I’ve considered doing an estate sale because I have quality solid wood furniture. I hate to just give it away. Suggestions?


    • YusefWateef

      Excellent question! Sell what you can, below cost, as soon as you have a firm departure date. Ebay and craigslist are the first, and best options. Everything you can’t sell, give to friends, family, or charity. To be clear, it will be very uncomfortable, 30 days before you leave, you should be living out of the same 3 suitcases you are taking abroad!

      A big thing lots of my friends deal with is thinking that they need to take all their American toys with them. Take clothes and medicines you need, but learn to live like the people who are in the country you are going to. The food, the furniture, everything!


  8. Quinisha Anderson

    These are all really good tips. I didn’t have a comprehensive guide when I set out on this journey but in retrospect I’d def say all of these make sense & thankfully I checked most of these boxes off. The VPN has been super clutch – I’d also add, add two step authentication to as many things as possible & while you may not have the same phone number as you bounce from country to country, each app/service will usually offer an alternative way to authenticate.

    Here are some things I’ve learned since bouncing around Southeast Asia for the last three months:

    YouTube Channel:
    Southeast Asia Essentials for Long-Term Travel:
    Black in Vietnam:

    I also share my musings, travels and tips on my blog


  9. Thamika

    Excellent tips! What are some ways to cope with being homesick while living abroad? What are some challenges that one might face when moving abroad? Yusef, would you ever consider moving back to the states? Why or why not?

    Liked by 1 person

    • YusefWateef

      Good questions! Down the line:

      1) Technology is great, I can call my family, by phone, from my computer. I can talk to anyone, anywhere. My family never feels far away. Reference: Google Voice ->

      2) The biggest challenge is realizing that it is not as hard as you think. Most people want to believe that it takes lots of money and resources. All it takes is courage and research!

      3) I have no firm plans on moving anywhere, I like to live in one country until I feel like moving on. After that, I talk to my friends, research my options, weigh pros and cons, then decide on where to live next.

      Where do YOU want to go?


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  12. Gilda

    Love 💕
    Thanks for sharing, your advice has definitely changed my thoughts about this process. From hence forth I’ll be more intentional with my actions, or lack thereof.


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