After more than 15 years in New York City, I was five kinds of bored with the endless meet-ings and office politics of my copy editing job. I remembered how deliciously freaked out and wide-awake I was when I moved to the city at 17, and I wanted to reclaim that feeling at 32.
I needed to buy some time to explore new locations, so I set aside almost a third of my paycheck every month: no more cable, new clothes, or other nonessentials like macchiatos, cab rides, and second martinis. In less than a year, I had over $20,000. I quit my job and boxed up and stored my one-bedroom apartment.
First stop: Tanzania, where I banged out freelance ad campaigns between Serengeti safaris. London and the Canary Islands followed. I house-sat or couch-surfed at friends' places, traveling with one carry-on bag and paying for everything with my U.S. debit card, taking on just enough writing gigs to pay for flights and the occasional sublet.
Within a year, I'd wiped out my savings and needed to settle down. I chose vibrant, sexy Berlin, finding a gorgeous one-bedroom online. Meanwhile, out of sheer necessity, I got over my natural shyness: I chatted up people at the Laundromat, started cooking soup at a café for free just to hang out with the regulars, and gleefully humiliated myself thanks to my rusty German. I struggled to make rent at first, but after a few months, I had tons of Berlin-inspired story ideas with which to start my freelance writing business. I still get homesick, but I never regret my choice: I've built a new life completely on my own terms.
Want to Try the Expat Life?
Try it out first: ListingsProject.com is a small global housing listserv offering rentals and (bonus!) house swaps—a great way to try a new place.
Can you afford it? Check out local apartment listings in your new city to get an accurate rent estimate. Triple that number to determine your monthly budget. If you'll be looking for a job, give yourself a six-month buffer.
Also check out: Fantastic city guides with plenty of off-the-beaten-path advice at FathomAway.com.
My No. 1 piece of advice: Don't get into a serious relationship right after relocating. Build your own life first—don't slip into someone else's.
Stay In The Know
Marie Claire email subscribers get intel on fashion and beauty trends, hot-off-the-press celebrity news, and more. Sign up here.
16 Dreamy Spring Pieces I Can't Stop Thinking About
Warm-weather trends are in full bloom.
By Emma Walsh
For Deepica Mutyala, Entrepreneurship Is Worth the Sacrifice
The Live Tinted founder talks having it all—but not all at once.
By Gabrielle Ulubay
"It's Been Hell on Earth": Inside Alabama's Fertility Crisis
Last week, the state's Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are legally considered children. 'Marie Claire' spoke with affected women who are grappling with an uncertain future.
By Jessica Goodman
Spring Date Ideas for Taking Advantage of the Warmer Weather
Just make sure to layer.
By Katherine J. Igoe
Marriage and #MeToo
Behind the millions-loud movement, there’s a quiet fringe of women not comfortable posting the hashtag—because to out their perpetrator would be to out their husband.
By Andrea Stanley
6 Tips for Amazing Sex During Pregnancy
Great sex is a pregnant woman’s birth-right.
By Nancy Redd
Who Does the Dishes in Your Relationship Could Have an Impact on Its Success
New research shows men and women have distinct preferences when it comes to household labor—and that can impact relationship happiness.
By Rebecca Gale
Marriage Isn't for Black Women
The system disadvantages African Americans so severely that tying your life to another person legally can make matters worse, not better.
By Tiffanie Drayton
10 Divorce Lawyers Reveal the Most Insane Secrets Couples Have Hidden from One Another
"For a while, she concealed that she'd accidentally burned down their kitchen."
By Caralynn Lippo
Netflix Could Be the Key to a Happier Relationship
The couple that streams together, stays together.
By Maria Carter
Why I Bought Myself an Engagement Ring
Well, someone had to.
By Jo Piazza