How We Prepared for a Year Abroad

  • January 18, 2019

packing your bag for a 12+ month long trip is much different than a weekend in Vegas.

a few things you're forced to think about:

  • tax implications

  • changing seasons

  • credit cards expiring

  • phone numbers

each of these spirals into a rabbit hole with its own rabbit holes.

for example, to cancel our phones we had to update 2-factor authentication on 30+ web apps. to do that we needed a new phone number, ie Google Voice. but this requires linking a real phone number. where do we get that?

now imagine dozens of such errands. it took us 3 months of planning to leave the United States and travel full-time. here's how we did it.

Prepare, Research, Delegate

prepare: we started 2 months early and scheduled a small dose of errands each weekend. be proactive, especially since some errands will require some time. for instance, some vaccinations are required days in advance of the travel date (ie. Hep B immunization consists of 3 shots, 1 month between the first and second, 4-6 months before the second and third).

research: Hideko always goes overboard with this, but it's still always a good idea to research every detail. there's a lot of advice on choosing travel insurance and visas, but no "best" resource. and a lot of advice is contradictory too.

accountability: choose a person to “own” each task. we're strong believers in accountability. there's no pointing fingers when one person is responsible.

The Todo Checklist

here's our full list of todos to prepare for our year abroad:

3+ months

  • schedule travel vaccinations (use the CDC region lookup) and make sure your routine vaccinations (MMR, Hep A, Hep B, DT) are up to date throughout the trip

  • schedule any last physicals, dental cleanings, and eye checkups

  • obtain necessary prescription meds for as long a time period as possible and plan out where you can refill abroad

  • renew passports set to expire <6 months after final travel date

  • renew drivers licenses as backup IDs

  • update or create a will (we used Rocket Lawyer for $40)

  • hire a tax attorney: if you travel more than 330 days in a 365 day period, you may qualify for Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

  • prepare visas for countries you're visiting; some may require applications months in advance

  • organize other domestic affairs (end apartment/car leases, provide notice to a job)

1 month

  • scan and save down important documents for easy access (social security cards, passports, visas, etc.)

  • obtain an international drivers license ($20 at AAA)

  • renew any credit cards set to expire during travel

  • set up a virtual mailbox service (we chose Virtual Post Mail)

  • set up mail forwarding and give your new virtual mailbox address to USPS/UPS/Fedex

  • obtain life insurance (we bought Pacific Life via Quotacy, $26/month/pp for $500k)

  • research storage options (we used the SpareFoot aggregator) and self-storage insurance

1 week

  • inform your banks of travel plans to avoid account holds

  • set a travel budget

  • donate or throw stuff away. travel is a great excuse to rid your life of excess

  • invest in durable bags (we chose Patagonia and Herschel carryon-sized duffles)

  • obtain travel insurance (we kept our US health insurance + purchased evacuation insurance via SquareMouth)

48 hours

  • cancel utilities

  • cancel internet/cable and return modem/router equipment

  • cancel gym memberships

  • cancel phone plans and choose a travel-friendly option: Google Fi, Verizon Travel Pass, Truphone, pay-as-you-go SIM cards, or others

  • cancel other recurring subscription services (food subscriptions, printer ink refills, HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Showtimes, GNC, MoviePass, CitiBike, etc.)

Download Our Full Todo Checklist

Packing Checklist

once your affairs are in order, it's time to pack a bag.

we began our journey in the middle of Winter but as early as March 1 it will be 94 degrees in Manila, Philippines.

for this reason we packed 3 tops (shirts) and 6 bottoms (3 shorts, 3 long pants) to cover all 4 seasons. we also brought heavy coats, which we'll mail back to the States mid-Spring.

here's everything in our bags:


  • 3 pairs of shorts

  • 3 pairs of pants

  • 5 shirts

  • 2 pairs of gym shorts or pants

  • 7 pairs of socks and underwear

  • 1 jacket

  • 1 sweater

personal care

  • sunscreen

  • prescription and over-the-counter medication (Aspirin, Tylenol, motion-sickness, etc.)

  • vitamins

  • mini first-aid kit

  • mosquito repellant spray

  • toiletries (sized according to travel regulations)


  • passport

  • drivers license for ID backup

  • international drivers license certificate ($20 at AAA)

  • vaccination certifications

  • copy of prescriptions

  • visa papers

Want to know more?

Subscribe to get our data-centric travel guides by email.

    No spam. Unsubscribe any time.


    • phone

    • Kindle

    • laptop

    • chargers

    • multi-country charger adapters


    • wallet (credit and debit cards)

    • backpack + durable bag to fit it all in (we chose Patagonia and Herschel carryon-sized duffels)

    • packable workout gear (tension bands, jumprope)

    • packing cubes for organization

    pro tip: downsize ruthlessly. you'll thank yourself later while running to a connecting flight.

    Download our Full Packing Checklist

    Planning Our Itinerary

    this trip might look like an extended vacation: we can assure you it is not.

    prior to booking our first flight we spent over 20 hours identifying cities, countries, and even specific accommodations conducive to productivity.

    our plan is to maintain the same working schedule we grew accustomed to in New York City -- just in different environments with new stuff to do on the weekends.

    this includes: fast WiFi, high quality air conditioning, ample table space for laptops, and close proximity to supermarkets, gyms, and cafes.

    ...And We're Off!

    our travel prep took 3 months to coordinate. while tedious, knocking out each errand while State-side made our first days abroad far less stressful.

    quick snapshot of our last 96 hours in New York: Friday we threw stuff away. on Saturday Ryan had a bad hangover and we accomplished nothing. Sunday we packed in a hurry, and the movers came Monday.

    finally we relocated to a hotel before hopping on a 14 hour flight from JFK to ICN, where this post is being written. here's our view of Seoul at 7am!

    to see what we're up to now, catch a recap of each city we visit or learn more about us.