Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Did You Start Planning for this?



Well, I believe everyone's steps will be a bit different when planning and setting goals to live abroad. 
For "ME", it was easier to plan by envisioning my future. To plan from THE FINISH LINE and work my way backwards.   In other words, I asked myself WHERE do I want to see myself in 18 months.  Primarily as it pertains to living abroad in the Dominican Republic, volunteering, earning income\starting up a business   Then,  I asked myself this same question for 12 months, in order to build a milestone on my progress.   Once I wrote down the answers to the question above, I took it one step at a time:



STEP  ONE:   Create a Budget Plan


Back to the "Finish Line" view point;   I was able to calculate expenses and identify my personal goals.  Some of the primary monthly expenses were covered in my previous blog (Just Do It Already) and I recap them below.  As such, I calculated the following for my overall expenses:


  • Apartment Rent (Furnished & All Bills paid apartment that includes Wi-Fi).  Since I didn't have the luxury of seeing the apartments 1st hand, I had to rely on the on-line reviews, phone calls and recommendations. If the apartment DOESN'T include utilities, then I will need to allot for this on  a separate expense line.
  • Extra Spending $$ (bus\taxis laundry, activities, dining-out etc..)

  • Tithes\Donations
  • Cell Phone plan (I decided to remain with my carrier Verizon, since they work perfectly fine in the DR). My contract has ended &  I will switch my plan to their prepaid  "no contract" plan ($45\month).

  • Calling card minutes  & extra SIM card.

  • Immigration Attorney Fees.

  • TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language certification) + School and Hotel fees.

  • Airline Tickets To Peru and Dominican Republic.

  • Round trip Airline tickets to/from Home.

  • Spanish School while in The DR.

  • Hotel and\or Homestay during weeks at Spanish School.

  • Passport Renewal.

  • Travel\Health Insurance

  • Misc. PRE Visa paperwork\shipping etc... 
(I've had to pay for 4 documents to be Apostilled at $15 each, I Paid $30 for 2 2X2 phoots from the Post office, FedEx fees and 2 books of stamps for mailing other item and $85 for a Live FBI scan)

  • Groceries


STEP TWO:  Research Visas


I started with researching the immigration\visa process first.  Most countries will only allow you to "VISIT" their country for 30-90 days as a tourist. Anything past that will require you to have some type of visa.  The other option is to perform "Visa Runs" which can get old.  Visa Runs are when you simply cross the border into a bordering country (like Haiti) and come back to have your passport re-stamped for an additional 30-60 days.  This is performed a lot with expats in Thailand.  But I don't want to travel to Haiti every 60 days just to renew my visa.  That's too much work and it can be stressful if you're not "in the know" with the Haitians. Although I'm sure I'll make many Haitian friends, I still don't want to deal with the bureaucracy.   So with that said,  I initially thought to myself "Hmmm, I think I'll start off with a Student Visa" since I want to attend school and learn Spanish upon arriving in the Dominican Republic.  However, after reviewing all visa types, I soon realized that I should go for the Resident Visa based upon the fact that I plan I on making this my home for the long haul


When I first started researching the possibility of living abroad in the DR, this website (DREscapes) was IMMENSELY HELPFUL! I reached out to the site owner and we eventually spoke on the phone. I have plans on meeting him for the 1st time in May of 2015. During that meeting, my husband will be joining me!  After we spoke over the phone he eventually got me in touch with an  Dominican Republic immigration attorney.  I'm on the fence as it pertains to how I feel about my attorney at the moment.  Primarily because the communication and lack of response at times are pretty spotty (this is typical when doing business in the Dominican Republic, I know this). Anyhow, So I can't really give a fair overview of what I think of the firm yet until I've finalize my entire process early next year.  At that time, I will be able to spill all the tea.   



STEP THREE: Review your plan & tweak accordingly


I printed out a 1 page calendar of Year 2015 & 2014.  As well as a monthly 2015 calendar.  I chose to keep it on paper as oppose to my cell phone because I needed to touch, feel and see my year at a view everyday.  I needed to take a pencil and jot down my dates of milestone such as:  when will I buy my airline tickets, when will I contact the attorney, when will I buy health insurance etc..  It helped me to see which dates I'll have the money to pay for my TEFL certification, purchase airline tickets and put a deposit down for the Apartment.  Seeing it printed out on paper help me to assess timelines such as when to call the attorney and when to schedule the 2nd part of the visa process.  If you're like me, it needs to be laid out in front of you in order to see the overall picture. It helped me to lay out my expenses on the table in order to assess my funds...loooong before my initial departure.  I'll admit, there were several times I had to rearrange things due to unforeseen  financial incidents, but that was okay.  I just had to tighten my budget that much more tighter as it got closer to the end of 2014.  I gave everyone in my family  a heads up that Christmas gifts this year will NOT be overly extravagant...I'm on a budget! 


STEP FOUR: Start calling around & emailing


At this stage, I had to add the international plan to my Verizon cell plan.  It was only $5 more a month. It allowed me to call over to the Dominican Republic and actually chat with folks ie... apartment owners, businesses & schools in order to further my research and investigation. Now is the time to start finding out where you'd like to stay. Call realtors and apartment owners, visit TripAdvisor.com to get an unbiased opinion on the rentals and neighborhoods.  However, please remember that YOU CAN'T rely on everything that you READ on TripAdvisor or even blogs such as mine. Everyone's taste is not like yours, have an open mind, do your own research and PLEASE DON'T BE A FOLLOWER of the fear-mongers!!!  Also, If you'll be attending school there, have your list of questions ready and contact them.  After several months of narrowing down my school options, I decided to go with a school in Santiago. I was REALLY close to going with one in Santo Domingo in the Zona Colonial area, but opted against it due to the fact that it will be too touristy.  Being an African American, I want to blend in with the locals as much as possible and I don't think I'll have a problem with that based upon my looks. As such, I want to learn Spanish AWAY from other Americans and foreigners.   I spoke with their overseas director at the school in Santiago and opted to go with the Homestay program they offer where I'll get 3 meals a day w/ a private bedroom and Wi-Fi!!  Santiago has FAR LESS tourist than in Santo Domingo. Don't forget to Shop around for an attorney too.


The steps above focus on an personal move to the DR at a high level overview.   If you intend on building a business, of course the steps are entirely different, but they still focuses on the same principal.  I'm sure I'm missing some things and will have to update this later, but All comments are welcomed!


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