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Create a virtual life abroad

Create a Virtual Life Abroad

Consider what you will need for a virtual life abroad

As we’re planning our move abroad, we discovered we were spending a lot of time on how to do the physical move. Things like apartment prices, transportation and utility costs.

Now that (we think) we have those considerations figured out, we want to take some time to create a virtual life for ourselves abroad.

Why?  – you ask.

Simple. There are going to be a lot of things that we just won’t be able to easily do from overseas without, at least, the appearance of still being in the USA.

Things like receiving physical mail or using certain internet services.

So, in this post, we’re going to cover 4 aspects of a virtual life you may want to consider creating before you go abroad. We’ll dig further into each aspect, along with details on how we’re doing it, in later posts but for now, let’s look at each one and discuss why it’s something you may want to think about too.

Create a virtual life: Phone

Get a virtual phone number. That is an assigned “local” phone number that will ring you abroad, without extra charges. The reason you want to do this is mainly for the convenience of others. Assuming you’re in the US/Canada, I’ll bet most, if not all, of your friends and family have phone plans that allow them to make free calls so long as it’s to a US or Canadian number. Am I right?

Do you want your family to have to pay international rates to call you? Of course not.

What about businesses? Have you ever tried calling a government office to get a license or permit for something? Now do you think it would be more or less painful if their caller ID said you were calling from a pre-paid burn phone in Columbia or Panama?

Yeah… that’s what we thought too. Are you starting to see why establishing a virtual phone presence back home might be a good idea?

For those of you thinking about trying to retire early… let’s say the worst happens and you need to come back to the US and get a job? Nowadays it’s difficult to get someone to look at your resume if you’re out of state, how easy will it be to get interviews if you’re known to be out of the country?

I rest my case. Needless to say, we’re planning on getting a virtual phone number.

Virtual Life

Create a virtual life: Mail

Similarly to the phone, a US address is a huge plus. There are services out that will give you a virtual address and scan all of your mail. They will even ship packages and deposit checks for you.  Let’s face it, you simply can’t get some things shipped overseas. To get around that you’ll need to get a mail service here in the States that can receive your mail and send you what you want forwarded while trashing what you don’t care about.

A lot of these services can even send you pictures or scans of you mail to help you decide whether you want them sent to you.

Create a virtual life: Virtual Assistant

This one might sound a bit funny but sometimes you just need help getting things organized. It can be anything from sending Christmas cards to getting a magazine subscription renewed to paying your bills…you name it. A virtual assistant is a good way to go. They can do anything you need them to that does not require actual physical presence.

We are toying around with the idea of getting a virtual assistant now to try one out.  We can see a lot of uses for one, especially because we’re running an online business too.  More on this in a later post.

Create a virtual life: IP Presence

Many online services you subscribe to either wont work overseas or have restrictions placed on them. This can make it impossible to watch shows on Hulu or Netflix (for example) because of country restrictions. Or perhaps, if you’re a sports fan, you won’t be able to view your favorite games.

To get around those little technical snags, you’ll need to use a DNS Proxy service. If you don’t know what a proxy service is, it basically let’s your internet traffic appear to be coming from another location. In this case, your home country. So, we’re also looking into this. We’re actually thinking about setting up one ourselves and offering it up for cheap to other expat friends – and why not?!

So, that’s it for this post. Like I said, we’ll expound on these services and fill you in on some details as we progress in them ourselves. Right now, we’re in research phase for best service/price on all of these. We are also considering virtual jobs – more on that later too.

In the meantime, think about what we came up with. Did we miss anything? Would you suggest anything else for creating a virtual life abroad?



About Tim

is a professional geek. He is a founding partner of JTR Tech and enjoys all things technology. He and his wife Joanna started AbroadDreams.com to help them plan and solidify their dream of moving abroad. After two years in Puerto Rico and Europe, Tim and Joanna are now back in the USA and exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. Hi Tim,

    I am enjoying reading your blog and watching your progress – I am about a year behind you.

    I like the idea of a virtual phone number but I don’t understand what it is or how you get it. Will you have more details later?



    • Hi ToucanRob,
      We will absolutely have a post on just the virtual phones. Essentially it’s a phone number that is assigned to you even though, you don’t go through any carrier. You can then either forward that number to another phone # (like a cell phone) or set it up to ring via Skype or Google Voice (although I just heard that Google Voice is moving to Google+, so I don’t know how this will work in the future). This is often done, so that folks calling you don’t have to pay long distance charges.
      More details coming in a later post.

  2. Love your blog and what great timing for this post! The topics you brought up are ones that I have been mulling over in my mind for awhile. I do have a couple of questions that you might already have the answers to.
    When is it best to get the US phone number? If I use my existing number, I think some services say to allow up to 30 days for it to be ported. Which phone works best–Ooma or MagicJack?
    IP Presence:
    What about signing up for your own .com for someone like Inmotion and adding their vpn service. Wouldn’t that accomplish having a US signature? How does this work with a cellphone? Also, there are already some services such as http://www.my-expat-network.com. Do you know anything about such services? Thanks!

    • Hi Deborah,
      We are still in research phase on all of these and will have more details coming soon. But, on the phones, most places we’re considering will not port your existing number in because it’s reserved reserved within the provider pools. We’ve not looked into MagicJack enough yet but from what reviews we’re seeing they are mixed at best. We are far more likely to go with something like Skype assigned number. And I would say you want to make sure you start it at least one full billing cycle in, so perhaps 45-60 days before you move.

      As for the VPN question, a Proxy is a little different than a VPN. VPN encrypts all traffic and is not browser based, this can be good or bad. It can add security but slow things down quite a bit. So, we’ve not decided which we’re going to go with yet. We’re familiar with the my-expat-network.com and we know lots of folks that use it, but we believe we can set up our own for cheaper. We’ll see.
      More details coming later.

      • Thanks for getting back to me, Joanna. I look forward to benefitting from the results of your research:) So many little details to pay attention to. I am putting my house on the market in the next couple of weeks and once it sells, I will move in with family 300 miles from my current location. I have my own small business that I operate from home. I would like to continue doing so as long as possible. So, it might be more seamless in my situation to get my business number ported over to Ooma. Then, I can continue my business when I am living with family and then a few months later when I move to Ecuador.
        I hate hearing that VPN slows things down considerably. I like the idea of the extra security it provides particularly when I am traveling. But, I wouldn’t always have to log on to the vpn would I? Deborah