Wanna Get Away? 5 ways Americans can move abroad

Somewhere between the inauguration of “The Donald” and whatever you call that Honey Boo-Boo inspired propaganda dance those kids performed that preceded a 3+ million person march in most major cities, I finally became aware of Facebook’s not so subtle advertising for Canadian immigration agencies. This, along with my friends’ pleas on Facebook to become mail order grooms/brides to our friends in the Great White North, has consumed my page.Unfortunately, despite Americans stereotypes of all Canucks as hospitable and kind, they don’t take just anyone. But, if you’re determined to still leave out of fear of your taxes building a new golf course in Palm Beach, want a change of pace, or just want to see the world, here are some ideas for you to work or live abroad.

Getting settled will be the hardest part as it requires some money and thick skin. I started with almost nothing in the bank – I was still accustomed to my instant noodle diet from college – and dealt with a few shady employers and unintelligible bureaucracy. However, with an open mind, you’ll get to see the rest of the world and probably realize we don’t have it all that bad in the process.

Teach English

Cairo at night

Shout out to British and American imperialism here (with a healthy dose of guilt mixed in) because English has become the default international language, which has created a massive demand for native speakers across the globe. The highest paying jobs tend to be in the Middle East and East Asia. Armed with a Bachelor’s and a 120 hour TESOL certificate (though a CELTA is better), you can move to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Jordan, etc. and make an excellent living. If oppressive heat, limited access to alcohol, and the occasional authoritarian regime don’t bother you, then the Middle East might be perfect (not to stereotype because not every country fits this idea). Some people can make about $70,000 a year tax-free, all expenses paid, and with nothing to spend it on because you’ll be in your air-conditioned apartment all day. If you wanted to go the Middle East route, I would choose Oman because it has competitive salaries, loads of cultural sites and white sandy beaches creeping into warm, turquoise waters.

Cliffs off the coast of Oman

East Asia tends to be the other “in demand” location. South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and China are the big players who all have their pros and cons. Japan pays well but has a high cost of living. South Korea and Thailand have over-saturated markets, but large expat communities. Vietnam is exceptionally cheap by US standards, but it can be a huge adjustment for people spoiled by western standards. Finally, China is distinct and provides a lot of opportunities, but you run into some shady operations and deal with a lifetime of bureaucracy. If none of these interest you, there are countries all over the world that are in need of native English teachers.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Teaching in all these places tends to be a crapshoot as it depends on your city, employer, etc. It takes some people a year to get settled. Or, right out the gate, you can find a great situation. The important part is to do your research.

Buy Maltese Citizenship

If you’re a millionaire, you can buy your way into EU citizenship. Generally, it’s difficult for Americans to get work permits in Europe because their laws prefer EU citizens. But, if you got €650,000 lying around, want to donate it to Malta’s National Development and Social Fund (I hear they throw the best parties), and invest €150,000 in stocks or bonds while maintaining a property there, then you have bought yourself the right to work and live anywhere in the EU as well. The whole archipelago looks like a level out of Assassin’s Creed that meets both abruptly and subtly into its coasts filled with azure waters. Valletta, the capital, bears a striking resemblance to Venice with a cost of living that’s a fraction of the price. So, if you’re a rebellious trust fund baby who wants to spurn the evils of America for our more socialist allies, then you’re in luck.


Sunset from Valletta, Malta

Uruguayan and Ecuadorian Citizenship

Now, most people aren’t millionaires. If you can buy a home in Ecuador, in 3 years, you can become a citizen. It’s easy to attain the right to work once there, and the beauty is there’s no extradition. So, even if you don’t want to buy, you can still head over with little to your name, and all those “light” treason cases against you will mean nothing in your new home.

Banos, Ecuador

Uruguay’s policy is very vague and says you only need to contribute to the prosperity of Uruguay as a nation monetarily, scientifically or through the arts. So, if you donate a bunch of money or have a skill that you can provide while also being able to speak Spanish – you’re in! Also, like 40% of this country is a vacation resort. So, that’s pretty cool.

uruguayColonia del Sacramento

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m getting pretty sick of winter. This next place – while warm – does indeed have skiing, even if it’s not known for it.

South Africa

Cape Town from Lion’s Head

If Africa is your destination of choice, then South Africa is your best bet. While very much a developing nation it still has a large and relatively stable economy with a few world-class universities. Like the rest of the world, South Africa isn’t devoid of problems. However, it’s a country that boasts wildlife that you can’t see anywhere else on Earth while simultaneously possessing a one of a kind beauty and culture. The top three options for expats are idyllic Cape Town, laid-back Durban, and bustling Johannesburg. There are shortages of qualified candidates in engineering, education, and other skilled fields meaning there is work to be found if you have the ability.

WWOOF, Work at Hostels, Seasonal work, Hitchhike, etc.…

For a lot of people, it’s difficult to pick up and leave for an array of circumstances. But once you get beyond that, hopping into an office job or classroom isn’t the ideal way to see the world. When I travel and meet people, the ones I’m most envious of aren’t the ones living opulent lifestyles nor the people who are hustling to follow their professional aspirations. I admire the ones who have nothing holding them back and venture where they want by working odd jobs and volunteering. Odd jobs consist of working in hostels, the tourism industry, and self-employment (tutoring, au pairing, etc.) though this can stretch the definition of “legal.” Volunteering gives you a much more comprehensive range of options from orangutan sanctuaries in Borneo* to breweries in Chilean Patagonia. Look at wwoof, workaway, HelpX, or google work and volunteer abroad and you’ll be provided the knife to shuck the oyster.

Don’t fret. There is a sizeable welcoming world still out there no matter what people tell you. You may just have to search a little harder to find it.

* do your research on these opportunities because you could be undercutting a local or assisting an institute that doesn’t treat their animals ethically

Marsaxlokk, Malta


19 thoughts

  1. Great post, Dave. I love your writing style. It is suspiciously like your personality, which, of course, I also love. (no bias involved here).

    I have a friend who’s been working in the Middle East and Asia for years teaching English. You’re right. The delight in the teaching and living situation varies. Some good situations. Some not so good. But she’s enjoyed it overall, and has a colorful life story to tell as a result. I admire her spunk.

    As for South Africa, Canada is full of refugees FROM that country (all wealthy WASPS who fled because of unsafe living conditions for that societal group of persons. They are native South Africans but in the end they lived behind bars, literally, and were concerned, especially for their children’s future.)

    As for Canada, it’s a good alternative, even though there have been (probably tongue-in-cheek) threats to construct a wall to keep you all out.

    1. Thanks, Ginny! Some people apparently can’t get enough of it over there; I couldn’t handle the heat. As for Africa, I guess Morocco is more stable, but yeah security is pretty crazy.

      Don’t build the wall yet. I may need to get across!

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Great post and obviously a lot of research went into it. It’s crazy that some people can buy their way into a country when so many have to earn the right. Malta is meant to be beautiful but I think I’d choose South Africa!

  3. Not being US citizen, I can only say that the post seems very useful for all those who think about moving abroad. Didn’t know that that many people were interested in doing so though…

    1. It’s more joking because after every election people always say they’re moving to Canada. So, i wanted to use that joke to actually give info to people who do move, for whatever reason.

  4. What an informative list! Glad to see that some of these options apply to non-Americans too. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if there’s a will, there’s a way – so as long as you take steps to get closer to your goal, everything is possible!

  5. Holding an American passport does give you a good choice of world travel without going through the trouble of obtaining visas. Sounds like great options for you guys indeed.

  6. I love this article. You really go over all the different ways to live, work and, travel abroad. I like the idea of moving to Malta but I don’t have that kind of money LOL…it seems like a beautiful place! My sister worked in China for a year and while it paid well, it was difficult. Like you say, there was a lot of bureaucracy and she did have to deal with some shady stuff with the first employer she was looking to work with. Also it was very cold where she lived and don’t get me started on the internet and staying in touch through social media!

  7. I love this article. You really go over all the different ways to live, work and, travel abroad. I like the idea of moving to Malta but I don’t have that kind of money LOL…it seems like a beautiful place! My sister worked in China for a year and while it paid well, it was difficult. Like you say, there was a lot of bureaucracy and she did have to deal with some shady stuff with the first employer she was looking to work with. Also it was very cold where she lived and don’t get me started on the internet and staying in touch through social media!

  8. Fun and informative! Hope Canada won’t need to build a wall, or the US for that matter, and that you just have to travel because you want to.

  9. I had no idea it was so easy to get citizenship for Malta, Ecuador and Uruguay! I suppose that explains why there were so many American expats when I visited Ecuador – can’t blame them though, it’s such a lovely country.

Leave a Reply