How To Move Out Of The U.S.: This New Company Will Help You Live Abroad

Retirement

Are you wondering how to move out of the U.S.? You’re not alone—according to a recent survey, one in three Americans would leave the U.S. if they could.

A new company called Expatsi is helping Americans move abroad and live their dream life. Expatsi was founded by Jen Barnett and Brett Andrews, who got frustrated in 2016 and started thinking about moving out of the U.S. and living in another country.

“In 2016, we became interested in moving abroad because of the stressful political climate along with the positive aspects,” Barnett told me in an interview. “We visited Vancouver, but it wasn’t a good fit, and we realized we needed to learn a lot more about immigrating and put our dream on hold.”

According to Barnett, that stress came back in 2020—and the couple got serious about leaving the U.S. “On our annual retreat, we made lists of what was important to us in a new home: weather, culture, human rights, and more,” she says. “Then, we started researching all 194 countries to see who had what. The final result was a top 10 list of countries to consider, and we made a 10 year plan to visit them all.”

Two years ago, that 10-year plan was upended on the couple’s first trip to Mérida, Yucatán. It was also an aha moment when they realized they not only had discovered where to move—they also had a great idea for a business. “We knew we’d found the place and didn’t want to wait nine more years to emigrate,” says Barnett. “We also knew we couldn’t be the only Americans going through this process, so we decided to turn all of our data and research into a test that could match people with countries that might meet their needs. We decided to quit our jobs, build our business and move to Mexico.”

With that, Expatsi was born. The company’s mission is simple: to show Americans how to move out of the U.S. and where to go. The company has an online Expatsi Test that will help you determine the best country for your needs. It also offers guided relocation tours aimed at giving would-be expats a more realistic understanding of daily life abroad. The Barnetts just wrapped up their first relocation tour—a month-long trip with 30 fellow Americans to cities and towns in Portugal and Spain.

Unlike typical guided tours, Expatsi’s relocation trips combine tourist attractions with more quotidian aspects of life, including grocery shopping, using public transportation and more—as well as seminars led by experts in financial planning, immigration and real estate matters. They also connect travelers with locals knowledgeable about everything from how to use public health systems to selecting and enrolling kids in local schools.

Melissa Gomez took Expatsi’s recent relocation trip. “Jen and Brett of Expatsi were outstanding trip hosts who opened the doors to the possibility of the kind of life I’ve been dreaming of,” Gomez told me in an interview. “Knowing I was adventuring with a group of likeminded people was priceless. I learned such incredibly valuable information as we moved throughout the country of Portugal and being able to touch, smell and feel what I had been dreaming of has solidified my dreams into a reality. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.”

One of Expatsi’s partners in Portugal is Jacqui Acevedo, an American expat who helps people make the transition there. “What inspired me from the first moment I met Expatsi is that they weren’t selling trips—they were building a community,” Acevedo told me in an interview. “Everyone who takes these trips is at a crossroad, just like I was when I moved to Lisbon. It’s magical to see people lean on each other and find their paths.”

According to Barnett, the demand for the company’s services has been on the rise. “We knew there was a need for Expatsi after SCOTUS overturned Roe vs. Wade and our web traffic began to spike,” she says. “Since then, we’ve seen dramatic growth—more than 75,000 people have now taken the Expatsi Test. Two-thirds of them say they’re seeking adventure and personal growth, while about 45% say they’re looking for different rights or freedoms. More than 40% say it’s because the U.S. is too divided, the U.S. is too conservative, or to save money.”

Here, I caught up with Barnett to find out more about Expatsi and some tips on how to move out of the U.S. and where to go if you want to live abroad.

Our Background: “I’ve been in marketing and new product development for more than 30 years and also started several businesses around local food. Brett was previously a software developer. We met late in life, but it was love at first sight,” says Barnett. “One of our favorite things is our annual retreat, where we rent a remote cabin with no internet access and map out the next year of our lives. It’s a big part of how we created Expatsi.”

Living In Mexico: “We crossed the border two months ago, and it’s our first time living abroad. This first move is the most challenging because we got rid of a lifetime’s worth of stuff (including our home),” says Barnett. “Now that we’ve downsized, we feel like we can move wherever we like, and hope to try a few locations.”

Expatsi’s Relocation Tours: “About a year ago, we started broadcasting live on TikTok. We love being on TikTok because the community there is very uplifting, and we quickly started building community and making friends. We started the Expatsi Fam group so people could chat and connect, and the ‘fam’ wanted to travel as a group,” says Barnett. “We conducted a poll of where to visit, and the top choices by far were Portugal and then Spain, so we decided to start there because they are so popular and expat-friendly, but we’ll soon be adding trips to Yucatán Peninsula, France and Italy.”

How The Relocation Tours Work: “There are several elements that make the trips unique,” says Barnett. “We kick off in each country with a seminar with local experts like immigration attorneys, tax accountants, and real estate experts, who answer questions over food and drink. We choose towns and neighborhoods where expats love to live and hire local guides to provide lifestyle tours to see what it’s like to live there. Our rule is: no churches, no museums, no landmarks. Instead, we visit the market and the pharmacy. Our hop on/hop off approach allows people to customize the trip, rather than feeling like we all have to hold hands and ride the bus together. We take public transportation and meet up for our tours. People book their own travel and Airbnbs so that we can accommodate a variety of budgets. If solo travelers want to share rooms, we connect them. Outside of the tours, we encourage real-life experiences, like participating in your hobbies, meeting other expats, and cooking at home.”

Success Stories: “Since Expatsi is around two years old, and most people take about that long to move, we’re starting to see more and more little birds fly the nest,” says Barnett. “One young couple from Utah used a provision that allows Americans to stay in Albania for a year to work on the process to land in the Netherlands. A big family from Maine arrives in Germany this week, and everyone has their plans for school and work. A military veteran used her GI Bill to take Spanish language classes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.”

What People Should Know About Moving Abroad: “It takes grit,” says Barnett. “People think they can’t afford to move abroad, and while it’s not free to make such a big life change, your ability to persevere is more important than your bank account. You can use that tenacity to find new ways to make money, but money won’t help you weather bureaucracy or culture shocks. In the U.S., we’re used to being able to overcome most problems with money, but in many cultures, peace of mind is more important and people can’t be rushed. If you have low frustration tolerance, that’s worth working on before you leave.”

The Best Places To Live: “There are definitely easier countries to move to. A big draw for us in Mexico was that we could drive. That allowed us to bring our four pets (including a pit bull mix), our car and all of our luggage without worrying about airline restrictions. It’s also easy to gain residency, although the income requirements are soaring,” says Barnett. “Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Panama, Thailand, Cambodia, Costa Rica and others have friendly options for remote workers and retirees. If you’d like to retire somewhere English-speaking, Belize and Ireland are great options. The Netherlands has the fabulous DAFT visa for self-employed folks. You can stay in Georgia or Albania for a year. Of course, we recommend the Expatsi Test to find the best countries for you.”

Tips Before Relocating: “Take a scouting trip before you make a big decision. If you can swing it, visit at the best time of year and the worst” says Barnett. “We think there are six stages to moving abroad—ideation, exploration, planning, paperwork, logistics and settling in—but that doesn’t mean you’ll go through them in order or even only once. Allow it to be a process. You’ll wish you had done this years ago, but be glad you’re doing it today.”

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