I am Susanna Perkins. If you are Planning an international move, and supporting yourself once you get there are the biggest obstacles future expats face. Future Expats Forum provides the information you need.
One of the challenges for US expats involves taxes.
You see, good old Uncle Sam taxes its citizens and green-card holders on worldwide income.
Yes, if you structure your financial life properly you can get an exemption for earnings abroad, up to $102,100 for an individual in 2017. But you still have to file with the IRS every year, and you have to submit special forms to get your foreign income exclusion.
In other words, it can become a big PITA.
Last December, I received an email from a company called Taxes for Expats. They offered me a deal — they would give me a credit of $350 toward tax preparation if I would write about my experience with them on the website.
How could I refuse?
Now, you might be wondering why I’m publishing this article now, after tax filing deadline is long past. . . .
Well, it’s not past if you’re an expat — expats get an automatic filing extension (did you know that)? So if you’re living abroad and you haven’t filed your US taxes yet, there’s still time.
Organizing My Tax Information
They set me up with a username and password to log into their online portal, where I could enter my information.
While it was straightforward, there were areas that weren’t entirely intuitive. I felt like it took more of my time than it should have.
Since I’m dealing with income and expenses from self-employment, I typically use my accounting software (I use QuickBooks Self Employed) to generate spreadsheets that show total business income and categorize my business expenses.
My previous tax preparer was fine with that. My assigned preparer at Taxes for Expats still wanted me to fill in everything on their online forms.
They offered an initial phone consultation, which I did not take advantage of.
After I signed up, I received several emails reminding me to start inputting my information. While the information they sent me about getting started was helpful, it got to feel a little bit naggy since I was also waiting to receive some necessary information (end-of-year statements and the like).
When I had a question, my preparer responded quickly. At the bottom of each email was a notice inviting me to contact her supervisor if I didn’t receive a timely (within 24 hours) response on weekdays. I never needed to do that, but it was nice to have the option available.
Their fee structure is simple, and is based on your income. If you earn less than $100,000 for the year, the fee is $350. Over that, it’s $450.
A state return is another $100.
Filing the FATCA is $100, and the FBAR is $75 (for up to 5 accounts).
If you file a Schedule C, as I do, that’s another $100. Corporate returns are more.
They also have a few add-ons. For example, if you make a change after you’ve given your initial approval — even if it’s to fix their error — they charge $25.
Would I Use Them Again?
If I didn’t already have a preparer I really like, I probably would. I don’t have any problem recommending them.
And they’ve given me this special link, which gives you a $25 discount when you use their services. If you decide to try them out, let me know how you like them.
Part of the art of packing light involves knowing what to bring for the trip you’re on. If you’re going on the road for fun — not work — you’ll pack differently than when you’re moving around as a digital nomad.
Here are 10 things you should leave behind on a backpacking adventure or non-working trip.
Guest post by Yogi and Suchna
When you pack items you don’t need, you slow yourself down, tire yourself out, and can even add to the cost of your trip.
The art of packing light is a process, and there is always room for improvement. To lighten your load, here are 10 things we suggest you leave at home when you head out for your next backpacking adventure.
#1: Forget your big suitcase
The first tip for packing lighter is to select the right suitcase or bag according to your travel plans. You should always go for a lightweight trolley suitcase or duffel bag, instead of a heavy bag. This will cause no extra strain on your muscles, and you can move around freely.
#2. Ditch the extra outfits
Well, clothes are not the things to leave behind, but, yes, carrying excess outfits can cost you extra charges as well as heavy loads. Just keep in mind your goal is to enjoy the place, not to show yourself off.
#3. Do you really need to bring your own food and water?
Food and water are vital for living, but not worth carrying in a significant amount. You can get hygienically cooked food and packed water at every tourist place. So a wise traveller will never carry the extra burden of food and water.
#4. Forget the books and magazines
You enjoy reading during your vacation, but carrying books and magazine can cause space and weight problems. So update yourself with a lightweight, slim tab that will serve you the purpose.
Editor’s note – I never go anywhere without my Kindle. Why a dedicated reading device instead of a tablet? Better sleep. . . Kindles use e-ink, not the blue light that you should avoid before bedtime for better quality, deeper sleep.
#5. Downsize your toiletries
Toiletries are essential, but we don’t need a lot at one time. Almost all hotels provide basic toiletries, so choose only a few items that take care of your daily needs. Leave the big bottles and take a ready-to-use pouch or small container, and use all-in-one makeup kits.
#6 Leave the heavy gadgets at home
An unnecessary glut of electronic gadgets can be cumbersome while traveling, so forget carrying the laptop, DVD players, coffeemaker, etc. Instead, take a smartphone with enough storage to store your favorite movies, songs etc. Remember — this is advice for a non-working trip!
#7. You’re not Imelda Marcos, so forget all the shoes
Make sure you are carrying only one or two pairs of all-purpose shoes that work with all weather conditions and outfits. It will make your luggage lighter and less bulky.
#8. Don’t roll out the sleeping bag
Never carry a sleeping bag unless you’re going camping in the woods. Even then you may not need it — nowadays there are facilities to hire bedding and camping gear at many destinations.
#9. Your hotel has you covered
See sleeping bag above — unless you’re going camping in the woods, you don’t need to bring your own sheets and towels. If you are planning to camp, make sure the linens you bring are light weight.
#10. Leave it on the vanity at home
Many hotels provide what you need for hair styling, so leave your hair straightener, hair dryer, curler at home as they eat up your luggage capacity. And leave the large, clunky jewelry at home, too. It just takes up space in your bag.
Remember, you’re traveling for fun! And you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more if you can shorten your airport check-in times, reduce the weight you’re lugging around, and make that tight connection.
Yogi and Suchna believe in taking the road less travelled and stumbling upon some hidden gems along the way! For over a decade, they’ve mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavors and stayed at quirky hostels. TheBackpackerCo is their expression of soul travel. You can catch up with them at TheBackpackerCo – The Backpack Paris Trip Experts.
Solo travel is on the rise, especially among millennials and women. A recent estimate claims there’ve been 21 million solo travelers from the UK and the US.
That’s a lot of solo travel!
When you’re travelling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.”
– Shauna Niequist the author of Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.
To define solo travel as an “emerging phenomenon” would be unfair to the memory of wanderers like Ernest Hemingway and Freya Stark who travelled far and alone. The number of people travelling solo is increasing year after year. Google searches for “solo travel” and “travel alone” hit the highest mark ever in January, 2018.
It’s obvious that solo travel has become the new “it” way to go.
Women are Leading the Way
Virginia Woolf famously said, “As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world,” so the woman of today doesn’t sit back and rely on others to fulfill her wishes to see the world.
A recent survey by Independent.co.uk showed that 58.3 percent of single travellers are women. Booking.com, in their survey of 2014, stated that American women are most likely to travel solo and take more than one trip a year while Solo Traveler World announced that 72 percent of American women are traveling solo.
Advantages of Solo Travel
The essence of solo travel lies in its expediency.
Self-discovery is the most known and celebrated advantage of lone travel.
Improvement of social skills and opportunity to make new friends is a driving force in itself.
A schedule free of interference and accommodation with others is a perk on its own.
It will give you a sense of independence and push you out of your comfort zone.
It will be more cost-efficient in terms of accommodation (can stay in hostels) and food wise (grabbing street food.)
All pros come with cons. The disadvantages are:
Safety issue – as Ned Stark (Game of Thrones) once said, “the lone wolf dies, the pack survives.” Otherwise known as safety in numbers.
Luggage – you would have to carry all your luggage by yourself.
Cost – nobody to split your meal and room cost with.
Travel and Lifestyle Bloggers
Growing numbers of people are finding ways to make their travel pay for itself, through travel or lifestyle blogs.
Although their travel is often work — they’re busy writing, taking photos, and making copious notes to turn into articles or guides later, and they have to stay active on social media to keep their ratings up — they all say “we wouldn’t change a thing!” They love their life — and the money doesn’t hurt either.
Because they’ve developed large followings on their blogs and on social media, they can sell advertising, work for companies as brand ambassadors, create and sell their own guidebooks, and write reviews of places they visit in exchange for free trips.
The growth of solo tourists has helped the travel industry to flourish, and encouraged the travel and tourism industry to make suitable provisions for them.
Various travel websites like Tripadvisor and Goaway have launched solo travelling and single-friendly packages.
There are some websites like Solotrekker4u that are fully committed to providing the best solo travel experience.
A few websites dedicate themselves to the cause of motivating and preparing one for solo travel and provide deals related to it.
Even cruise companies are restructuring their cabins and equipping themselves with services fit for lone travellers.
Cab companies have introduced conveniences like Express POOL and UberPOOL which are fairly cheap and help lone tourists save money.
Helen Keller taught us that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Waiting around for others to make plans for you that you didn’t even want in the first place will lead your life to a compromise, and to what end? If your heart would rather take you to Havana when your friends only think about crashing in Vegas, just pack a bag and lead your own way.
Lysha works at Lalco Residency – Executive Apartments in Mumbai and she loves her job. Helping clients and monitoring the progress of business strategies along with her leadership skills makes her perfect suited for Hospitality services. You can catch up with Lysha at Lalco Residency in Mumbai, where of course they welcome solo travelers.
This post was originally published at Anywhereist.com. Used by permission.
This will be the only place at Future Expats where you’ll see special deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2017.
As I’ve explained previously, I take a “no hype” approach. Rather than flooding your inbox, you’ve received one single email from me on the subject. And instead of having tons of sales cluttering up the website, there’s just this one single page.
That said, there are some very appealing deals here, so take note of what’s being offered, then return at the appropriate time to take action.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means if you click and purchase, I’ll receive a small commission. These sales help pay to keep the site running, so thanks in advance!
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Nobody should travel, or even go online at the local coffee shop, without using a VPN. (Here’s more information about why you need a VPN.)
Strong VPN uses military-grade security to let you browse an unrestricted internet, no matter where in the world you are. And if you’re close to home (like at your local coffee shop), it protects you from snoopers.
They’re offering new users 50% off an annual plan from November 22-29, 2017.
Trusted Housesitters will chop 25% off your annual membership with them from November 24-28, 2017.
If you’re intrigued with the benefits of housesitting – either as a potential sitter or as a homeowner who needs a housesitter – this is your chance to join one of the top housesitting networks at a discount.
In addition, they’ll be giving away some free lifetime memberships.
Every portable career needs a website, and every website needs a domain name, hosting, and (if you follow my advice) a premium WordPress theme. Here are the available deals. (Read more about portable careers here.)
Domain Names and Hosting
Namecheap, the domain name registrar I recommend, is offering new .com domains at a significant discount – only $8.88 for a year.
Use this link to search for the domain you want. Your discount will be automatically applied when you choose a .com (look for the “kingcom” label!).
If you want another type of domain – .info, .biz, etc., get 10% off with this link and the coupon
Good through November 30, 2017.
Shared WordPress Hosting
Siteground is the company I recommend for shared WordPress hosting. From November 24-28, 2017, they’re offering a massive 70% discount on all shared hosting plans.
If you plan to move an existing site, they’ll migrate it for free when you take advantage of this offer.
WPEngine will give you almost half of an annual subscription free with this coupon code from November 23-27, 2017:
It’s only valid for new customers.
Normally when you sign up for an annual plan, you get 2 free months. With this offer, you’ll receive an additional 3-½ months free, for a total of 5-½ months. That’s very nearly a year for half price. . .
Elegant Themes is one of my two go-to WordPress theme designers. They’re offering a 25% off Black Friday and a Cyber Monday deal for new and returning customers. Additionally, they’ll be giving out some prizes.
If you’ve not bought an Elegant Theme product before, use this link to receive 25% off your purchase.
For tons of deals year-round (and some really excellent Black Friday sales), join AppSumo‘s mailing list. There’s no charge, and they offer huge savings on all sorts of apps, from SEO and keyword research tools to social media tools, document handling, and everything in between. Go here and sign up to be on their mailing list.
Only about one third of all Americans have passports.
Already got yours? then you’re probably good to go and you can skip this article. But if you don’t yet have a US passport, apply for one right away.
If you’re looking to get a passport for the first time, you must apply in person, using Form DS-11.
How long does it take to get a new US passport?
Be prepared to pay the required fees, based on the speed you want your application processed (an expedited application costs more), and where you are applying.
After your appointment (see below), it generally takes 4-6 weeks. And that’s after you spend 2-3 weeks collecting the required documentation.
If you pay extra for an expedited passport, expect it to take 2-3 weeks.
What are the fees for a passport?
The fee to the Department of State for a new, adult passport is $110. There’s an additional $60 fee to expedite. If I were to apply at my local county clerk’s office, they charge a separate, additional fee of $25.
Generally, a check, cashier’s check, or money order is acceptable. Official Passport Agencies may also take credit cards.
How to set up a passport application appointment
To set up an appointment in advance for your in-person application call 1-877-487-2778.
Here’s a listing of passport offices where you can apply in person, however, at these offices you’ll be required to pay an expedited fee. Many post offices and government offices will take in-person passport applications, so do an online search for “passport office” in your area.
Documents you’ll need for your passport application
Get a proper passport photograph taken. Here’s a list of places, including pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS. FedEx and UPS stores will also take passport photos.
Gather documentation. This must include:
Proof of citizenship. If you were born in the US, a birth certificate, certified, is usually sufficient, but read the rules on Form DS-11 carefully. You may also have to provide a marriage certificate, for example.
Identification which contains both a photograph of you and your signature. Acceptable ID includes drivers license, military ID, or government employee ID.
Go to your appointment with all the required forms, photographs and documentation, as well as fees.
If you have children, pay special attention to the rules for obtaining a passport for a child under the age of 16!
Note: This information was accurate when it was written, but can change any time.
This information is taken from my book, Getting Out of the USA: What You Need to Know Before Moving Abroad. You can purchase the book from Amazon.
I interviewed Gary previously (you can see the article HERE), but recently I caught up with him again to ask him some questions about his portable career as a photographer and travel blogger.
In the Beginning. . .
Surprisingly, Gary doesn’t have any photography background.
In 1994, he started an internet company. Then in 2007, he decided to travel the world so he bought a camera and taught himself how to use it. He made a lot of mistakes along the way.
But he learned from those mistakes. . . oh, boy, did he learn. Since 2010 he’s won one photography award after another, including the prestigious Best Travel Photographer of the Year, repeatedly, from both the Society of American Travel Writers and the North American Travel Journalists Association.
Gary started his Everything Everywhere blog in 2007. At the time he just wanted to share what he was doing with friends and family.
It didn’t start out as a business. In fact, there wasn’t anyone to really look at who was blogging as a business at the time. “It wasn’t really a thing back then,” he stated.
Around 2011, he got some sponsorships and endorsements, so that was when “it started to become the beginnings of a business.” He still didn’t do a lot of the things that a lot of professional bloggers did.
Today he has one employee who manages things, but Gary still handles all the content creation.
There’s No Place Like Home. . .
Gary’s originally from Wisconsin, but today he calls Minneapolis home.
Where to Go. . .
Gary admitted this has been a slow travel year — he’s only been to six countries so far. (Only!) He has plans to visit Newfoundland in Canada, then Norway, Indonesia, Ireland, Argentina, and Brazil.
“It’s hard to say where I’ll go,” he admitted, because “things pop up.”
Gary chooses where to go based on opportunities that present themselves. “I might have a tourism board or a tour company that wants to do something with me,” he acknowledged. “If I find it interesting. I might do it.”
Gary’s whole life as a travel blogger today is driven by what’s interesting to him. He chooses where to go based on whether he’s excited about it.
The Business Side. . .
All of Gary’s business comes down to the fact that he’s developed an audience. Whether he’s selling rights to images, getting a sponsorship, or being hired for a project, it’s all because he has an audience that likes his work. (He has over 200,000 followers on Instagram alone!)
Gary’s income sources break down into four main categories. Here they are, in the the order in which they contribute to his overall income, from most to least.
Blog (advertising, sponsorships)
Travel Photography Academy course
One of Gary’s projects is a course he’s developed, called the Travel Photography Academy.
He started it because he saw a need.
“I would see people on very expensive trips with expensive cameras who didn’t know how to use them. I realized if people were willing to invest a little money they could learn to take better photos and get more out of their investment.”
There’s a lot of interest from his current audience — he hasn’t done any advertising, or used any affiliates yet to sell the course.
And a Podcast. . .
In 2009, Gary started a weekly video interview podcast called This Week in Travel. He doesn’t do a weekly show any more, calling it a “semi-weekly” show.
He’s hoping to launch another podcast soon. This one won’t be specifically about travel, and will be “more of a monolog focusing on culture and history rather than traditional travel.”
He’s hoping it will appeal to a wider audience. Gary pointed out that:
“If you look at lifestyle niches like food and fashion, those are issues people deal with every single day. Travel is much more expensive and requires more of a time commitment. Most people might follow food or fashion all the time, but they’re only interested in travel right before they take a trip.
That’s offset by fact they spend a lot when traveling, but there’s not the steady interest in travel you see with other areas.”
What About the Tech?
When Gary first thought about doing a video podcast back in 2007, the technology was daunting. “Now you can shoot HD video on a smartphone,” he pointed out. “It’s so easy it’s almost like cheating.”
Gary believes the advances in technology are the reason there’s been such an explosion in digital nomads and people traveling full time or long term.
Coming Up. . .
Gary believes everyone who’s been truly successful has been doing what they want, not basing their efforts on keyword research and market studies.
He pointed out that one of the biggest podcasts on iTunes is Hardcore History. “It breaks all the rules of podcasting,” he explained. “Each show is about five hours long, and it’s a complete monolog show.”
Going forward, Gary plans to focus more on his training course, and on posting more. He may hire someone to help with that. Gary explained:
When you’re doing stuff online, no one size fits all. Everyone has drifted in different directions. I really think that it has to stem from a passion. If you don’t know what to talk about, you shouldn’t even be doing this. If you have something you’re passionate about, then it’s easy.”
With almost any type of portable career, you’ll need a website. A website requires hosting, and if you’re building that website with WordPress (my strong recommendation), consider a host that offers managed WordPress hosting.
Most everyone starts with shared hosting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Shared hosting is inexpensive, and if you choose wisely, it can do the job for you. At least for a while. But managed WordPress hosting is a big improvement, and will save you time, in three important areas.
WordPress is the most popular site-building platform, used by over 25% of all websites. The downside to that popularity is that it’s a tempting target for hackers and purveyors of malware.
You don’t want to do that.
Managed hosting is more secure than shared hosting. Period. And when your site is more secure, it frees up your valuable time to focus on creating great content and attracting readers to your site.
Remember the Panama Papers scandal last year? The law firm was vulnerable because they didn’t keep their WordPress site updated. They were running an old version of WordPress, and their plugins. . . well, I’d rather not even think about it.
It’s important to keep everything up-to-date, because as security vulnerabilities are found, updates include patches to fix them. So if you’re running older versions, the internet bad guys already know how they can sneak in and wreak havoc on your site.
One of my recommending managed hosting companies, WP Engine, says this about its process for updating WordPress.
“We don’t update during the beta or immediately when the update is released. Instead, our engineering team tests the new release and its features against our system to see how they act and react to our platform. We will also take note of any known issues you can expect after an update and have actionable solutions, should you be affected.
“Once we have analyzed the update and made the needed adjustments to our platform, we will announce the date that the first wave of updates will begin. If you would like to have the install updated immediately, please open a 24/7 Live Chat through your User Portal with your request and we will perform the update early. Otherwise, site administrators will be emailed 7 days and then once more, the day the update occurs.”
In other words, they make sure the update works with their server configuration, and then they’ll automatically update for you — after notifying you and giving you time to make any needed adjustments to your site. It’s the responsible thing to do.
On top of that, they’ve developed a process that allows them to actually test your site after the update and make sure everything’s working correctly. If it’s not — they revert to the previous version of WordPress and help you fix the issue.
WP Engine expects you to keep your plugins and theme up to date, but when they learn about a security vulnerability, they’ll let you know so you can take immediate action.
That’s time you don’t have to spend updating is time you can work on your business.
Your site needs to load fast. Not only do your readers demand it, but Google now uses page load speed as one of the things that determines your search ranking. If your site is too slow, fewer people will find you via search, and when people do find your site, they’ll bounce off as soon as they realize it’s not loading fast enough. (Hint – it’s less than 3 seconds.)
Managed hosting companies optimize their servers for WordPress, so your page load speed is better. (A regular hosting companies has sites on WordPress, Joomla, and other content management systems, and using a variety of programming languages.)
Working to improve site speed on the wrong host is a time-sucking battle that you can’t win.
Ready for Managed WordPress Hosting?
WP Engine is offering my readers a special deal through the rest of October. If you act now, you can get a whopping 20% off your first payment. Or, get 4 months free when you sign up for an annual plan!
This offer is for new customers only. Here’s how you get it.
On September 10, Hurricane Irma blanketed the entire state of Florida with tropical-force winds and rain.
Yes, the entire state. It was a B-I-G storm.
Living near Orlando, we watched its path anxiously, and prepared as best we could.
We’ve gone through hurricanes before, lots of them. We still vividly remember Hurricane Charley in 2004, which turned all of metro Orlando into a sea of blue tarps.
Back to the present day. . . Irma arrived in the late afternoon, bringing wind and rain. A few minutes after 7 PM, our power went out. We dragged out the flashlights, and watched, and waited. Around 10 PM we retreated to an interior area, away from all outside doors and windows.
At about 5 AM, the wind had died down enough that I finally went to bed.
In the morning, we found a huge amount of debris from downed trees, huge branches, and smaller vegetation, although fortunately not a lot of property damage.
And we were still out of power, along with about 70% of all Floridians.
Over the next few days, power was restored to a lot of homes and businesses, but not ours. All told, our power was out for over a week.
Thank Goodness I Developed a Portable Career!
Once I knew the hurricane would affect us, I scrambled to turn in a project before the deadline, knowing I needed to make sure it was in the client’s hands before the storm hit.
A couple of days before the storm arrived, I emailed my other active clients to let them know that we were in Irma’s path and that I would likely not be able to work for a few days. I also told them I would reach out when power and internet were back to normal.
They were all very understanding.
After a couple of days without power at home, I started taking my laptop to neighborhood cafes and friends’ houses (those whose power had been restored) to get some work done. It was a great excuse to visit with one friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, even though she only lives about 10 minutes away.
After a couple more days without power, I packed a suitcase and my laptop and went to stay with my sister in Virginia. While it wasn’t exactly business as usual, I was able to get back on track.
She set me up with my own little office in their travel trailer. Here’s what my temporary workspace looked like.
I’ll admit, I didn’t just arbitrarily say, “I think I’ll go to Virginia.”
My niece was getting married the following weekend, so I’d planned the trip anyway — I just went a few days early. So I got to:
In air conditioning
Visit with family
But that’s the kind of thing you can do when you’ve created a location-independent career. (Of course, it’s a lot more fun when you’re using your location independence to travel to new and exciting places.)
Once you’ve established your freelance business, or whatever it is that you’re doing, you can work pretty much anywhere, even without a hurricane.