Travel/Expat Life

Steve Z’s Three Tenets To Making It Living Abroad:

  1. Be fully committed to making it happen; living abroad must be more than a wish, you must be willing to do everything to make it happen.
  2. Don’t worry about what can go wrong.
  3. Plan on getting lucky. (In the sense that people create their own luck by being positive and open to opportunities.)


Checklist and advice to my nephew before making his first trip to Europe:

General recommendation: I always travel with a travel-pouch that goes around my neck. I keep my passport, my extra credit cards (the ones I won’t use regularly) and my emergency cash in it. Having it around my neck makes it easy to access in the airports and when I arrive some place I put it under my shirt, which is safer from pickpockets or falling out than in a pocket.


  • Make photocopies of your passport
    • Put the photocopies in each of your bags, check-in and carry-on
      • Write your email address, phone number and home address on the photocopy
    • Take a photo of the page of your passport with your photo and send it to your email account(s)
      • Keep the photo on your phone

Credit cards

  • Call your bank(s) to tell them you will be travelling
    • Make sure you tell them to apply the travel info to all your cards, debit + credit
  • Find out which banks in the countries you are travelling to that your bank has a relationship with; when you withdraw money at a partner bank ATM you save on extra charges
  • Bring a credit card (or two) as well as your debit card


  • Call your phone company and sign up for international roaming
    • Make sure your phone is unlocked to use international networks
    • No need to bother with 3G upgrades
  • Install What’s App
  • Install Google Translate
  • Have your mom and any friends in the US that you want to stay in touch with install What’s App
    • Add them to your contacts
  • Make two contacts in your cell phone address book in case of emergency:
    • Police (in Europe): phone number = 112
    • Doctor (in Europe): phone number = 112

The local emergency (police, doctor, ambulance) phone number across Europe = 112 . I suggest making two entries, one for “police” and one for “doctor” because when you are in an emergency situation you may not remember to think of alternative names.

Your health insurance number

  • Take a photo of your health insurance card/number and send it to your email account(s)
    • Keep the photo on your phone

Send an email to yourself + your mom with the following info:

  • Photo of your passport page with your photo
  • Your health insurance number
  • Your flight information/itinerary
    • I personally like having a print-out of my itinerary in my carry-on; makes it easy to pull out and look at when I am trying to save phone battery while in-transit

US Cash

  • Bring some US dollars in cash in the following denominations in case you need it in an emergency:
    • 10 x $1 bills
    • 5 X $5 bills
    • 3 x $10 bills
    • 5 X $20 bills

! Even though you don’t need it handy, do not pack this money in your check-in bag!




  • Do most of your texting over What’s App
    • It’s a much better way to send text messages and send pictures than text messages
    • What’s App only uses data, which is cheaper than cell + you can use it over WiFi
    • You can send text messages (aka SMS) to friends who don’t have What’s App installed, but those friends are behind the times
  • Don’t plan on making regular voice calls with your phone: use What’s App unless it’s an emergency
  • Google Translate is amazing: you can type into it or speak into it and it will give the translation as text or a spoken voice. English-to- Spanish or Spanish-to-English (the latter useful if you are asking someone for help)


No need to get local currency before you leave the States. You can get your first local cash at the airport when you arrive. (After exiting in the main hall of the airport there are always tons of ATMs.)

  • If possible at the airport pick the ATM of a bank your US bank has a relationship with so you pay less fees. But if there isn’t a related bank at the airport you are still better off just getting your first cash at the airport than going through the hassle of getting money ahead of time in the States.

When to pay cash versus using your credit card:

  • Generally speaking, you can use your debit card for any purchases over 10Euros.
  • I tend to only use my debit card for purchases over 25 Euros
  • I only use my credit card for purchases over 50 Euros


Don’t bring electrical items unless you really need them

  • The wall-socket plugs in Europe are different from the US so if you need plug something in you will have to get an adapter. They are easy and cheap to find in Europe, but a bit of a hassle