If the idea of moving abroad fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Moving home is more stressful than getting divorced or having a baby (Yopa, 2021).

But while moving can be frustrating, anxiety-producing, and worryingly expensive, it doesn’t have to be.

If you do the research and come up with a clear plan in plenty of time, you can turn the complicated, constant grind of moving abroad into a relatively pain-free process.

It’s completely understandable if you’re feeling stressed. Take a deep breath, trust in yourself, and follow the tips we’ve laid out below. Everything is going to be okay.

stressed woman next to cardboard boxes

It doesn’t have to be like this

Plan ahead

Start the process as soon as possible. We know it’s a huge prospect, and it can feel overwhelming, but the sooner you begin, the easier it’ll be.

For instance, choosing your removal company at least two months in advance will be miles better for your state of mind – not to mention your wallet.

You’ll be able to compare quotes and choose a cost-effective supplier, rather than being forced to take an expensive option because you’re running out of time.

Start filling in the relevant forms early too, since bureaucracy can be painful no matter which country you’re moving to.

Figure out where you’re going to live, what you’re going to do about health insurance, and – if necessary – apply for a visa, all in good time.

You’ll almost certainly be caught off guard by certain steps along the way, especially if this is your first international move – so give yourself enough time to work through complications.

Make a moving list…

A helpful step in this planning process is making a list. That may sound obvious, but it’s tempting to think you won’t need one.

It can feel easy when you start off, spinning a couple of plates – and then before you know it, you’re attempting to spin an entire dinner set over your head.

We recommend dividing the list into sections like “Book a shipping company”, “Get a visa”, and “Learn the language”. Then, under those headings, list each specific action you’ll need to take to achieve that objective.

Having everything written down will help, as will having a plan – though you should bear in mind that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to control everything.

Unexpected obstacles will have to be dealt with, but that’ll be much easier to do when you can fold it into your pre-existing plan.

…and a ‘what I’m excited about’ list

Moving abroad is stressful, but it’s also a fun, thrilling, adrenalin-filled leap into the unknown – and it’s important to remember that while you’re calling embassies, moving money around, and saying goodbye to friends and family.

You’ve chosen to uproot your life and plant yourself in a new destination, meaning you must be excited for at least some parts of the life that awaits you – so write them down!

Are you pumped to try the local food? Make new friends? Progress in your career? Travel all over the region? There are a myriad of reasons to be excited. Commit them to paper.

You won’t get them all right. Your stay in a foreign land will surprise you in countless wonderful ways – ways you can’t begin to imagine now. But that’s not the point.

The point of making a list like this is to keep your focus on why you’re moving, and what you have to look forward to once you’re there.

Take a break

If moving abroad is all you think about for most of the next year, it will take your joy and your sanity – so take a break every so often.

When you feel like you’re underwater, clear your thoughts, take a deep breath or five, and give yourself a moment to be silent.

Then consider doing something else for a while, before you tackle the next moving issue. 

Have a bath, go for a walk, watch some Schitt’s Creek – whatever relaxes you. You’ll be better for it, we promise.

woman reading a book

Take a deep breath – you’re doing fine

Book time off work

In the same vein, don’t force yourself to do it all, constantly. You’ll burn out, and plates will come crashing down around you.

Book some days off work to go to embassies, take virtual tours of potential new homes, deal with shipping companies, and do whatever else needs doing.

And, if possible, book off some time from both your office job and your home relocation job, and switch off from the world.

Whether that’s at home, on the beach, or in a cottage on some windswept moor is up to you – wherever you decide to spend it, you’ll be better for the holiday.

Cast off your cast-offs before you cast off

An international move is the perfect time to shed all that unwanted baggage that follows you from place to place.

Whether you’re selling your home in the UK or not, you can take this opportunity to make some donations, hold a garage sale, or stick your items on an online marketplace like eBay.

You don’t have to sell everything, it’s not practical to take all your belongings, and you can always use storage lockers – but if you don’t want to bring items with you, consider whether you want them at all.

If you’re worried about not having enough basic household items and supplies when you get to your destination, most places will have everything you need.

And hey, going on a shopping trip is an excellent way to get to know your new city.

Mark one box ‘unload me’

When you arrive at your new home, you’ll be exhausted, overwhelmed, and the owner of nothing but mystery boxes.

So as well as labelling your boxes with room designations like “kitchen” and “bedroom”, make sure to name one “unload me”.

Put essential items in there, like a towel, fresh clothes, sheets, coffee or tea, some food, and whatever else you think will help you get through that difficult first day.

That way, you can soothe your body and mind before going through the lengthy process of unpacking everything you own.


Moving abroad will always be stressful at some points, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. 

Give yourself plenty of time, draw up a plan, and be generous to yourself.

Whether you’re moving for excitement, money, career progression, or something completely different, you’re going for a reason – and it’s important to bear that in mind throughout the process.