By Bryce Welker, Founder and CEO of Crush Reviews.
In 2012, after about a year and a half as an accountant, I decided to quit my job and plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. I sold most my possessions and moved to Thailand with $20,000 and an idea. Due to the difference in the cost of living, I was able to successfully bootstrap my first business much more effectively than I could have in the U.S., and lead an entirely different lifestyle on the exact same budget.
One of the biggest draws for me (and many of the expats I met during my stay) is how easy it is to travel around Southeast Asia. You can get a round-trip plane ticket and spend a week or two in a different country for the same price as a weekend vacation in a major U.S. city. This allowed me to visit 31 different countries in just a couple of years.
The average cost of living in America is 300 percent higher than in Thailand. For me, $1,200 per month was enough to live comfortably, and my savings gave me 18 months' worth of runway to get my business off the ground. I would've only had four or five months to turn a profit if I had stayed home.
Here's what you should do if you're considering moving your career overseas:
Look Into How You Can Save
Starting my business while living overseas enabled me to cut down on my taxes significantly. And when you're bootstrapping your first company, every penny counts. I registered my business in a zero percent tax state back home, and because I lived outside of the U.S. for 330 days of the year, I was able to take advantage of the Foreign Income Exclusion (FIE) tax credit.
The FIE shielded the first $100,000 that I made from federal taxation. The combined savings from the reduced cost of living and tax breaks enabled me to grow my business much faster than I could have done otherwise.
Make an Effort to Meet Like-Minded People
I also attribute to the rapid growth of my business is the people I met. I knew I wasn't the first person to start a new company while living abroad, so I joined a few business and entrepreneurship groups online to find people I could meet with and learn from.
I spent my last year and a half overseas in Chiang Mai and joined a weekly business mastermind that met every Monday morning. This gave me the opportunity to learn from people who've already experienced what I was going through and frankly, were much smarter. During this time, my revenue grew 500 percent. Had I been on my own back in the U.S., I expect it would have only grown 100 percent.
My choice to move wasn't just about starting a business, though: I wanted to experience an entirely different lifestyle. I needed to escape my comfort zone and see how people lived and interacted with each other on the other side of the world. I wanted to understand how it felt to be a "foreigner." I found that it's actually pretty comfortable outside my comfort zone.
Learn to Speak the Language
If you really want to move to a new country, make sure you take the time to learn the language. It's possible to get by with translators or guides, and you'll find plenty of people who speak English in many countries, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture and get to know the locals, you need to know how to communicate with them.
Between classes and weekly tutoring, it took me about a year to become "functionally fluent," and it was one of the most rewarding undertakings of my life. Learning Thai opened the door to new possibilities and gave me a deeper respect for the country, its culture and its people. Choosing to move overseas to bootstrap my business was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Personally, I feel everyone would benefit from spending time abroad at least once their life, especially if you're looking to start a business. The cultural perspective and experience you'll gain in return could just be life-changing.