You’ve decided to let go and move overseas. It’s time to sell as much as you can, if not everything! I sold stuff at a flea market, in the newspaper, using Craigslist, and on eBay, and I had a garage sale. I donated some household items and clothing, and the rest of my stuff I just gave away for free. These methods helped me get rid of everything I owned in the U.S.
But what about staying in contact with your home country? You know… a phone number, voice mail, and a mailing address? Sure you can use your parents address or another family members address and this would be the most affordable way, but sometimes it feels good not to have to rely on anybody to get things done. Here are some steps on how to make it happen on your own terms.
- Get a new address first using a 3rd party service. You could use the service Mailboxes Etc, but it’s not convenient. I recommend an online service such as Earth Class Mail. They’ll email you, scan your mail, even forward things to you. It’s important to do this first because once you decide where you’ll be getting your mail you need to get a notarized copy of USPS Form 1583 to authorize the service to receive mail on your behalf. Get this done at a notary or your local bank. But watch those fee totals! You’ll be paying a monthly fee + scanning fees + mail forwarding fees. Last year I spent a more than $1200 USD on this service. This year I’m estimated to spend about $800.
- Keep one credit card with a small limit. This is my recommendation so you can shop online more securely. You don’t want to become a victim of fraud where somebody drains your Bank Debit Card and you have to fight with your bank (while in Japan) about how to get your money back. You can check your credit score free at Credit Karma and they also can recommend credit cards based on your score.
- Get a bank account you want to keep for a long time or forever that offers nice online banking and minimal fees. You’ll need this to pay bills that may come up, etc. I have a checking account but I also bank with Capital One for savings (high yield money market account) and the cheapest withdrawals. I also just got a Charles Schwab savings account. They told me they don’t charge a conversion fee and reimburse ATM fees worldwide. I also signed up with mint.com to track all of my bank accounts from one login.
- Get a PayPal account and tie it to your bank account and any credit card you need to. Sometimes it’s a convenient solution to paying people or to buy products, but you should consider getting it even though you might not use it. I can access Paypal on my iPhone!
- I run my business online (from my ‘virtual office’ aka laptop) so I also have a fax number. I got a free fax number from j2.com so I can receive faxes. I also then use a send-only service like Green Fax to send outgoing faxes using my email.
- More than 90 days before moving, renew your driving license for the longest time possible. This way you can use it to get an International Driving License, and when you return home it might still be valid. Why 90 days? Well sometimes if you have the proper visa it can be transferred to a Japanese license. Please don’t ask me about this, I have no idea how to do this or the rules because I use the subway. On a side note – make sure your passport is current!
- Secure your internet connection. When you do online banking, work, and even Facebook it’s a good idea to use a VPN. I use TunnelBear’s VPN service on my laptop and my iPhone. TunnelBear works great in Japan and gives me a dynamic USA IP address. They do offer a limited free version, but I pay for the premium membership for unlimited speed and server locations. Before using a VPN I’ve gotten locked out of my PayPal account a handful of times and my regular bank account. And wow, it is a pain to get the accounts verified and re-verified when you need your money asap. I’ve even had to verify orders I make in America or the UK over the phone because my IP was coming from Japan or wait for mail to be delivered and scanned. The benefit of using a VPN service is you’ll be able to encrypt your internet connection at home, at an internet cafe, wifi hotspot, and even on your smart phone. We’re talking serious business here… 2048 bit VPN encryption for my laptop and 128 bit for my iPhone at the same time (it’s basically 2 accounts for the price of one)! TunnelBear let’s me choose the server I connect to each time (USA, UK… for now) I’ve also been able to use geographically restricted sites like Hulu and U.S. network TV and even listen to Pandora online.
- Secure your laptop. Most likely you’ll have everything on your laptop (banking, contact info, important documents, photos, etc) and it’s stuff you can’t afford to lose. It’s a good idea to sign up for LogMeIn (even the free account) in case you lose your laptop or it gets stolen. I used to use 2GB of free online storage with DropBox and treat it as “My Documents” but then I switched to SugarSync that offers 5GB of free storage and multiple folder backup, then I back everything up using Carbonite in case my hard drive crashes.
- Get a phone number. One that you can receive calls to and originates from your home country. I recommend doing this through Skype. It’s a solid VOIP company and I haven’t had any problems over the last 3+ years. For $60 a year you’ll have a number your friends and family can call to talk to you, leave voice mails, and you can use it to call phones for an unlimited amount of to the US and Canada. If you’re from another country then visit their site for more details on what they offer. I can use Skype on my iPhone! So that’s an added bonus.
And there you have – those are my tips for moving overseas and living in Japan or a another country abroad while still having a presence in the United States. It’s all about living a location independent lifestyle! If I think of anything else I’ll update this blog entry. If you have any useful tips please post them in the comments section.