For example, some people dream about living on a tropical island with white beaches and sunny weather all year-round. The image that comes to mind when you imagine this might seem heavenly at first, but on further reflection (and perhaps after one has managed to achieve that perfect tan), the consequences of such a choice on a person's personal and professional life could be less than idyllic.
Being far away from family and friends with only a small community to engage with locally could take a real toll on a person who enjoys regular contact with diverse groups people - in particular those they hold dear to them. Perhaps the lack of access to diverse activities or variation in climate could prove to make day after day of sunshine and spending time at the beach after awhile monotonous. Tropical islands are not known to be hubs of industry, so employment options on an island would likely be limited. And unless you can be assured of good Internet access, the list of options for the aspiring entrepreneur may also be much shorter than anticipated.
Alternatively, for a person who loves nature and does not crave the diversity of activity or community that a big city provides, living on an island could provide the peace and space necessary to pursue their dream of a writer, or the perfect setting to pursue their dream of being an owner of a bed and breakfast.
It is also important to recognize that for some people compromising their professional goals in order to enjoy a rich personal life in another country can be a recipe for disaster. Particularly for people who were raised with a strong work ethic, doing meaningful work can be an important part of a person's sense of self. The loss of professional identity is one of the biggest reasons why people become disenchanted with living abroad and return to their home country.
At the end of the day, we need to be honest with ourselves about what we want in our life - both personally and professionally - and what things we hope to gain from living abroad. Without a clear vision of what we really want and what a fulfilling life in another country looks like, it can be quite a challenge to create a map to get to our destination.
Here are some of questions to get you started building a clear vision of a fulfilling professional life in your country of choice:
- In what city and country would you be living? In a big city or small town?
- What sort of climate, weather and environment are you most attracted to?
- What are the most important elements of the lifestyle that your location and professional life should support?
- What are your core values? Which cultures would be aligned with those values?
- What do you hope to gain from your time overseas? What will you need to do or have to get those things?
- In what industry would you like to be working? Using what skills and strengths?
- What is unique about you that no one else can offer quite the way you do? How could you use that?
- What are you passionate about? What kind of work would allow you use those passions?
- Do you want to work for yourself or for someone else?
- Would you like to work in an office or work from home?
- Do you want to work for a small local business or a multinational corporation?
- Do you want to travel for your job? What % of time are you traveling? Where?
- Are you part time? full time? What are your working hours?
- What language do you need to speak at work?
- Do you want to work with people native to the country you are living in or with other expats?
- What salary level would support the lifestyle you desire?
These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself if you are thinking about moving overseas. Use the answers to start drawing a picture of what a satisfying professional life abroad would look like. Creating a clear vision of what you want is the first step towards making it a reality.