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Embarking on Your Adventure Abroad: The Art of Fact-Finding

By Volker Poelzl

Before moving abroad to Rio de Janeiro, take many trips and hear the sounds
Before moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, know that street life is loud and busy, even near the beach.

Before you dive headfirst into the exciting world of expatriation, there's a crucial step you should take — the fact-finding trip. Imagine it as your reconnaissance mission, your chance to decode the daily rhythms of your soon-to-be home. Whether you're eyeing the samba beats of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or any other exotic destination, this journey is your key to informed decision-making.

Moving to a different country is a life-altering decision, not to be taken lightly. The variables are staggering, and research can only take you so far. Some answers can't be Googled or found in textbooks. So, how do you ensure you're making the right move? The answer lies in packing your bags and embarking on a fact-finding trip to your dream destination.

The Weighty Decision of Moving Abroad

Let me tell you a personal anecdote. When I landed in Brazil for a yearlong student exchange, I had never set foot in Rio de Janeiro. Little did I know that my daily commute to the university would involve an hour-long, sardine-packed bus ride. Or that my Copacabana apartment would be a front-row seat to a never-ending traffic symphony. These are the nitty-gritty details of daily life that only a fact-finding trip can unveil. It's your backstage pass to the reality of living abroad.

Crafting Your Fact-Finding Journey

For a fruitful fact-finding journey, meticulous planning is key. If you have a job lined up, focus your trip on that location. However, if your overseas aspirations include retirement, starting a business, or investing in property, consider exploring multiple cities or towns. Your checklist should include essentials like housing, banking, shopping, communication, employment prospects, transportation, and the cost of living.

A Glimpse of Your Future

Put yourself in the shoes of a local resident. Pay attention to the minutiae of daily existence. Sometimes, it's the little things – the daily routines, favorite haunts, and local quirks — that bring us the most joy. Consider your hobbies and interests. Can you pursue them in your potential new home? Venture into different neighborhoods to discover the perfect corner of the city that aligns with your lifestyle.

Immerse in Local Culture

Beyond logistics, embrace the local culture. Mingle with locals to gauge your compatibility and ease of forming connections. Seek out expatriate clubs or organizations for valuable insights from those who've walked the path before you. Language is a powerful bridge — if it's a barrier, consider language courses before your move.

The Length of Your Trip Abroad

The duration of your fact-finding trip hinges on your schedule and budget. Ideally, allocate three weeks to a month for an in-depth exploration. This provides ample time to visit multiple locations, interact with locals, and conduct thorough research. Opt for a season with favorable weather; after all, you'll be strolling through various cities and neighborhoods.

Reflection and Decision-Making

Upon your return, don't rush to conclusions. Allow time for your experiences to settle. After a few months, revisit your impressions. If the positive vibes persist, it's a sign to start crafting your overseas plans in earnest.

Your fact-finding trip isn't just a journey; it's your ticket to informed choices, ensuring that your move abroad is a well-considered leap into a new chapter of your life.

Volker Poelzl is a Living Abroad Contributing Editor for He has traveled in over 40 countries worldwide and has lived in 10 to study, research, and work.

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