Everything I'm doing to prepare for moving abroad as a "digital nomad"



In case you missed it: I'm moving abroad! And whew has it been a non-stop journey to prepare everything for becoming a "digital nomad" (an annoying, overused term, but also pretty darn accurate). Every day I think of a new item to add to my to-do list, and it's been quite the race against the clock to figure everything out. In hopes that I may help out someone else in the future who is preparing for this journey, I'm writing everything down in one place so that you don't have to hunt through various blog posts and giving you some discounts on all the things that have made my life easier! Will I get there and realize I missed something? You betcha. But hey, that's part of the fun in taking a leap into the unknown. Here's what I've got for you so far (oh, and by nature of being a U.S. citizen, this one is pretty U.S.-centric. Sorry!):

1. Get travel insurance

2. Pick your state residence

3. Store your belongings

4. Open a bank account with no ATM fees

5. Apply for a credit card with no int'l transaction fees + earns flight & hotel points

6. Cram in all your appointments

Want more details on any of these things? Read on for my master list of insights.




1. Get travel insurance

Don't skip on this! You never know what's going to happen. One of my best friends got into an electric scooter accident in Myanmar that caused her to have to be flown to Thailand for surgery and then end her trip early to come back to the States to recover. I was really hit over the head with how easily these things can happen and you could be stuck with a bill to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars at the end of it amidst lost money for the portion of your trip you didn't go on. Not worth it when there are cheap plans out there with excellent coverage!

After reading lots of blogs and forums, I narrowed it down to the ones that by far and away were recommended the most: World Nomads and Allianz. Definitely check out the different plans yourself, but my basic summary of the difference between the two is that World Nomads has more robust coverage at a higher price point (I was quoted at $1,153.72 or $1,464.19 depending on plan I chose when I guessed I would go to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, France, Morocco, South Africa, and Israel. Whew!), but it covers up to $100,000 in medical bills amongst other things. Allianz has a far simpler plan for people who don't fully know their itinerary (me!), and you pay a one-time yearly fee that covers all international and even domestic travel. They have a selection of plans that range from $125-$459, with the $459 plan covering up to $50,000 in medical expenses and cheaper ones covering $20,000. My friend's accident cost $13,000 in medical fees (doesn't even include the transportation costs!), which were thankfully all covered by insurance. Because she was in Southeast Asia, which is basically the cheapest region for medical expenses, I figured I could easily blow through that $20K cap, but $100K seemed crazy high, and at such a higher price point, seemed like more than I truly needed. Therefore, I ended up going with Allianz's "AllTrips Executive" plan at $459 for a year (when you go to their site, select "Multi-Trip Plans"). World Nomads might be the better option for shorter trips where you're mostly staying in one place.




2. Pick your state residence

Not everyone really has the luxury of doing this, but in my case, my employer could hire me to be based out of any state, so I had to make the decision of where to be based out of, which ultimately came down to California (where I'd spent the previous 5 years and consider my home in the U.S.), Texas (where I'm originally from and where my parents live), or Florida (where my company is based, and we have a company apartment that I could put as my permanent address).


First things first- you'll probably want to examine the list of states with no state income taxes for some big savings. It can be frustrating paying taxes to a state where you're not even residing. In order to change residency and not pay state income tax, you'll need a permanent address in one of the following states: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington or Wyoming.


You'll see Texas and Florida on that list of no state income tax. Meanwhile, California taxes you on any income you make, even if your company is in another state, and my estimated yearly taxes were going to be $3,550- yeah, no thanks. In my case, it was pretty easy because my parents live in Texas, don't mind handling my mail, and that's honestly the most permanent address I have right now anyway, so I went with that.


Before you so quickly switch though, a couple things to think about:

1. Are you going to want in-state tuition for a public school any time soon? In California, for example, you have to have been a resident for the three consecutive years prior to your application to get in-state tuition to any of the University of California schools. If grad school is in the cards for you soon, and you are interested in a state school, you mind end up saving more in the long run by paying the taxes now than paying out of state tuition later.

2. Where do you want to vote? I'm pretty bummed to not be voting in San Francisco elections, to be honest. I so deeply care about the city, and it will be weird to not be a part of making decisions that affect it. BUT, I'm more excited about working to turn Texas blue!! So it worked in my favor. ;)


Can't figure out how to get a permanent address in a state with no income tax? Check out Escapees mail forwarding service. Escapees allows you to have a permanent address in Texas, Florida, or South Dakota, will scan your mail so that you can digitally see what has come in and request a scan of the contents if you need to read it, and they can forward your physical mail to you at any time. It was established for people RV'ing around the U.S., but this program is actually perfect for digital nomads as well!

So how do you actually go about switching residencies? There's no "formal" way, but you'll have to update your address in as many places as possible so that you have "proof" of the switch come taxes time. Some basic places to switch it that will pretty easily make it clear you have a new home: 1) USPS- set up mail forwarding to your new address, 2) Your bank, 3) Your credit cards. You can also get a driver's license in your new state and/or register to vote. Remember: do not vote in your old state!!!! The states don't do a good job of talking to one another, so you may still get the ballot of your old state, but don't fill it out. That's voter fraud if you're considering yourself a resident of somewhere else.




3. Store your belongings

I went back and forth on what to do here a million times. At first, I considered selling everything, but I have so many irreplaceable items from my travels around the world that I simply didn't want to get rid of, and with the possibility of returning in not too long of a time, I didn't want to have to come back and just buy everything all over again. I then looked into standard storage options such as Public Storage, but that gets pretty expensive when you're gone for a long time. That's where Sharespace came to my rescue. I am their biggest fan!!! Sharespace connects people in your neighborhood who have extra space (closets, garages, etc.) with folks looking to store things. I am paying only $25 for a 25 sq. ft. storage space per month, and I love that I'm helping a long-time San Francisco resident earn some extra money to pay his bills and continue living in the city rather than putting it into the hands of a large corporation. It was stupid easy (you can easily text their Customer Support people throughout the whole process), and I loved meeting a new neighbor and knowing that someone was watching my stuff. It's also insured up to $10K, which is way more than my belongings are even worth. Do this!!


Use my Sharespace links and my code "CATCALL" at checkout, and you'll get $20 off if you sign up for a 50 sq. ft. storage place for 6+ months. Not moving yet but interested in hosting? If you rent out 100 square feet for 12+ months, you'll receive $100 after moving in your first renter. I also get a small kickback that helps me keep my blog running. :)




4. Open a bank account with no ATM fees

The first time I went to Barcelona was when I was in high school on a family trip. My dad went to the ATM to get out a whole bunch of cash to cover us for our trip, and on his very short subway ride back to the hotel, a group of circled him, bumped into him from all sides while a local yelled at my dad, "Careful! They're pickpocketing you!" Sure enough, as soon as the doors opened at the next stop, the group ran out and threw his wallet to the ground so there was no evidence that, yep, they'd taken ALL of his cash- around $400.

That's all to say, I now HATE getting large sums of cash out at the ATM even if I'm immediately going back and locking it in my room, but with most debit cards, the ATM fees start adding up significantly when you continue going back to take out cash (and so many countries don't use credit cards as widely as the U.S.!).


I went with opening a high-interest (2.25%!) online checking/savings hybrid account with SoFi Money. There are no physical branches, but you don't need that if you're traveling anyway! You can use any ATM, and they'll reimburses all ATM fees. There is no minimum amount needed in the checking account (and no fees at all in general! not even foreign transaction fees!), so you can add this account on as just for your cash withdrawals if you don't want to cancel your exiting accounts. Make sure to put your new "permanent" address if you're changing residency!




5. Apply for a credit card with no int'l transaction fees + earns flight & hotel points

I've already written about this at length and am pretty adamant about this being my #1 travel tip. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I almost never pay for a flight anymore, have stayed in a former Egyptian royal palace for free, and have free lounge access around the world. Check out my credit card post for the full details and sign up here.

If you do sign up, I'd super appreciate if you use my Chase Sapphire Reserve referral links. You get 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, and I get points as well that help me keep this blog going. :)




6. Cram in all your appointments

If you're leaving a full time job, make sure to take advantage of all of your benefits. In my case, I have a new full time job, but the benefits don't kick in until after a month, and I wanted to be all set before I left for going abroad. Doctor, dentist, vaccinations, eye doctor, etc. - take care of it on your U.S. insurance while you can!