Are you thinking about moving abroad? What about becoming a digital nomad?
Who doesn't want to imagine a dreamy, perfect life on the road - visiting new places, trying exotic new food, and basically living an exotic life that your friends and family would be jealous of?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but it's not always roses! I am a full-time traveler. The question I get the most is "how do you afford that?" and then "how is that working out for you"?
So here are two must know secrets to move abroad - the things you don't see on Instagram or TikTok - but that you absolutely need to know. These are two secrets for ex-pats and digital nomads, that will help you when planning your big trip.
We Were Awkward As Eff During Interactions with Locals
I actually expected this one, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the toll it took on me.
Part of the reason we moved to Puerto Vallarta is that we assumed many people would speak English, but we would have the opportunity to improve our Spanish. Mexico and Puerto Vallarta, in particular, is a popular American and Canadian vacation spot.
We wanted the best of both worlds, selfishly.
Our first apartment was nowhere near a tourist location, which is great for many reasons. However, it also meant that no one really spoke English. Fine — we’re guests in another country, after all.
However, I soon realized that I avoided leaving the house because I could only say basic things. I found myself able to read more Spanish than I expected, but people would speak to me and I would freeze.
Most of my interactions were broken Spanglish and a lot of pointing to things. Google Translate quickly became my best friend.
We Couldn’t Figure Out How to Do Our Laundry
As a result of our awkwardness, we actually avoided doing our laundry for weeks because we seriously could not figure out how to do it.
The lavandaria near our first apartment didn’t have an attendant who spoke English. We knew how to say lavar and ropa in Spanish, and that was about it.
Eventually, we paid $11US ($200MX) for a drop-off service because we couldn’t figure out the machines. We were definitely overcharged for this service, as I know now from using different lavandaria’s in the area. The average cost is closer to $4US ($80MX).
Así es la vida. Such is life.
Lesson learned: Make a concentrated effort to learn the local languages, and until then, be very comfortable with being uncomfortable and wrong-footed. Expect to pay the tourist tax on occasion — that’s just part of life.
I Got Hilariously, Terribly Sick
So fun fact: ceviche is big in Puerto Vallarta. Every time I’ve had it at an establishment — food stand or sit-down restaurant — I’ve had a great experience.
My partner found fresh fish at a local market and decided to make ceviche at home. He looked up a recipe and was careful, or so we thought.
Cue me at 5 a.m., inexplicably awake vomiting my brains out into the toilet. My boyfriend was sick for a total of 24 hours. I was sick for seven entire days.
For days I was too weak to stand, and I barely knew where I was at one point. Luckily after I could keep food down, I could rehydrate on my own without visiting an emergency room.
This brings me to another point: I didn’t actually know where the closest emergency room was. English speaking doctor? No idea. This was a huge no-no on my part.
Lesson learned: Don’t attempt to make your own ceviche — leave that to the professionals. Always know where the nearest hospital or doctor's office is. Keep some anti-nausea medication on hand and a spare Pedialyte in the fridge for emergencies.