By Waylon Kenning
On his deathbed, my father wished he could have seen Hong Kong. Some people’s wishes are hard to achieve. But seeing Hong Kong? That was within his grasp.
And therein lies the rub – none of us know how long we’re around until we’re on our deathbed. My deathbed wish was to live overseas. I envied people who did it. I planned to do it 13 years ago, to go to Japan to teach English. I romanticized it. A boy from a rural town, now a worldly traveller, seeing sights that those at home would never see
But one thing leads to another, and it wasn’t until 13 years later that I finally got the chance to move overseas. Was it worth it? No. But that satiated my deathbed desire. Now I know.
There’s a sweet spot when it comes to traveling, somewhere between a vacation and moving. A place that provides most of the benefit, with the least number of downsides.
And there are downsides to moving overseas. Sure, there’s the costs. Flights of course. Insurance. Moving costs. Rental deposits. All the same as if you were moving in your own country. But then there’s costs of putting on hold your financial life. Deposits to retirement funds, repayments of Student Loans. Those are likely to get paused while overseas. And those loans aren’t going away.
Your friend’s lives don’t go on pause – they keep living and evolving while you’re away. People get married, divorced, have babies, have health scares, move themselves. And the less time you’re around, the greater the effort required to remain connected. Sure, you might be friends forever, but if you haven’t seen each other in ten years, it gets a little old to keep remembering the same good old times.
It’s not all downsides. There’s living life somewhere else. Experiencing new things. New cities, new food, new people, new customs. And that’s all exciting. Until it becomes normal again. And it should. If everything was new all the time it would become a bit of a chore.
And one thing I didn’t expect was a deep-seated longing for home that manifested itself in food. Each country has their own comfort food. Poutine. Mince and Cheese Pies. Pierogis. My country has cooked spaghetti and little sausages in a can with tomato sauce. How do you explain that culinary disaster to someone who hasn’t grown up eating it?
So, the happy point I’ve experienced was being based overseas for a month, working online. A halfway point between a holiday and living overseas. Not every job lends itself to working online, but some do. And if you can do it, I recommend it. It’s pretty much all the upsides of living overseas without having to uproot your life to do it.
Pick a place you love. Japan, for example. Now, ignore the largest cities. Tokyo. Osaka. Yes, exciting, but also expensive. Take something a little less well known. Say Fukuoka, the largest city in Kyushu, one of the largest islands of Japan. A month in an Airbnb would cost about $2000 USD. And while that’s expensive, it’s a lot cheaper than a hotel, and includes long-term living amenities like a washing machine and dryer. Now you have a home base.
Finally, you get a chance to work online. Sure, the time zones compared to home might be worse, and you might need to work weird hours. But when you’re done with work for the day, look around. You’re somewhere new. Go explore your new city. It’s exciting. Soon you’ll have your regular little coffee shop around the corner (I recommend Manu Coffee in Fukuoka!). On the weekend, take a road trip or a bullet train somewhere new. And enjoy your extended break. Because it’s temporary, and that’s OK.
When you return home, you’ll find your life is much the same. You still have your rental apartment or flatmates. You still have your furniture and job. No need to change phone numbers or get a new Internet provider. And while you may have had to pay rent at the same time as having and Airbnb, you’ve saved the moving and storage costs. And most of all, you can have your cake and eat it too.
This story was written by a guest contributor, Waylon Kenning. If you enjoyed reading about his experiences, check out and subscribe to his 2-minute travel vlogs here . And if you’d like to become a contributor for Essential Millennial, please contact us and we’ll help you share your stories far and wide.