Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Steps to Becoming an Ex-Pat


 Moving to a new country... Can you imagine it? And when you do, is it a nightmare, or an adventure?

Very real possibilities:

  • don't know your way around
  • brands of foods you don't know
  • language barrier
  • being the minority
  • unknown customs
  • no support system (friends and family)
  • no dishwasher
  • no central air
  • bars on windows for safety
  • no car
  • no library
  • different driving habits

The list could go on and on. However, did your imaginings include:

  • friendly people
  • small-town atmosphere
  • simpler way of life
  • less stuff
  • family unity/ bonding
  • new language skills
  • new sights and sounds
  • more time
  • more temperate climate
  • more rain; longer growing season
  • affordable living
The first step in this adventure is your mindset. It will be the foundation your adventure rests on. Is it solid?

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Passports have been ordered! 

I called the post office and made an appointment two weeks later. I put seven one hundred dollar bills in an envelope and filled out the forms. They were the same I filled out 16 years ago when I went to Europe in highschool. I have read about the new form, you can read about here, which "asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.” This is an opportunity to prevent Americans from leaving their own country, and a chance to prosecute people who "lie" on a form, because they put the wrong address or manager's name, or don't know the name of the priest who baptized them 40 years ago.


Well, now all we do is wait for our original birth certificates to return to us, and then for the passports themselves to arrive. *sigh*

June 2011: got last birth certificates for two of the kids ($26 each)
July 2011:
  1. made appt at post office
  2. made 5 copies of each of adult driver licenses (1 each adult and each of the kids)
  3. set aside $105 for each kids passport and $125 for each adult's
  4. brought all 6 of us in for appt
August 2011:
  1.  received passports in Priority mail envelopes
  2. received birth certificates in manila envelope a week later
  3. made color copies of passports

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Now that we've received our passports, the first thing we need to do is go make color copies of the first page. For carrying around on our person when traveling, it's important to carry a copy and not the original when out on your daily adventures.

I'm also going to laminate our copies. At Fed Ex Office, it's easy to use the laminator yourself or simply put the (cut down) copy into a luggage tag sleeve and slide it through. It's also a good idea to leave some copies with family and trusted friends at home, in case you (or they) need them at some point. Either way, you can save a few dollars by copying two passports on one page.

If you are going to be moving to your destination country, other important documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security cards, etc (you know what you have) are important to bring with you.  Always carry irreplaceable papers like this on your person when travelling. Copies at home are helpful if family or friends need to do stateside errands for you.

Giving copies to a few trusted people is a good idea too in case one or the other can't help you when you need it. No matter what it is you leave behind, make sure it is clearly labeled and easy to find.

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I was looking at airfare from Austin to Central America. Trying to get the best price for my family of six, I checked weekday flights to any Central American airport. All the flights had a stopover to another American city. Travelling with children, I was trying to find a flight that left at a reasonable time- booking time for getting up, eating, and spending a few hours getting through security. But I also wanted a flight that would allow us to arrive at our destination in the late afternoon with time to transit to our hotel and eat dinner before too late, knowing the kids would be tired.

To fly into Costa Rica, a nation which makes much of its income through tourism, a plane ticket was $1300. To Panama, it was $855. The same, $855, to Belize. However, when I searched tickets through Dallas, a few hours away, the airfare dropped dramatically. $300 to Belize! That's a HUGE savings!! So check big cities near you when looking for flights. The drive might be worth it!!

Click here for a chart of all the major airlines charges and fees for luggage.

Of course, it's good to research prices beforehand, but when it come times to buy, have the money ready and pounce when you find a great deal.

Be aware if you try to buy one-way tickets to save money. Some countries require an exit ticket of some kind before they allow you into the country. This requirement can be fulfilled through a bus or ferry ticket, though.

We're so pleased you are reading Farming Salt & Light! Choose how you live!

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