Every night, sometimes several times a night, customers (usually in their late 20s/30s) ask us questions about our experience and confess they have been thinking about doing the same thing for years. Their situation sound really, really familiar. Although it sometimes happens with elder people, most of them 90% perhaps, are “millennials”, just like us. Their motivation is very close from one individual to another. Except for rare occasions, it is linked with their current professional situation. The most frequent reasons we hear for a massive change of life are the lack of purpose and consideration at work, very few of them complain about their paycheck.
Lots of people would like to do the big jump, but very few actually take the decision. Change is scary by nature, it brings you out of your comfort zone, and this change isn’t a small one. Some of them think it is too complicated, too expensive or just too risky. I believe our fears, although we should not let them freeze our confidence and our projects, are to be listened to and considered seriously. They are usually here for a good reason.
"We are not super heroes".
I genuinely believe it is feasible and as I wrote in the Blog’s introduction, we’re no superheroes, if we did it, you should be able to do so, too. I am not going to give a motivational speech about the fact that you should believe in yourself and go ahead because you have the ability to do it. Yes you do, I am pretty sure everyone does. But the real point of this post is not about “can you do it?” but more something like “should you do it?”, or “do you really want to do it”?
Our story started from a joke. We kept that silly project in mind for a couple of year, not really being serious about it, and pretty sure it was not possible anyway. I wrote that we made the decision when a friend of mine opened my eyes by reminding me I was on a strange path, staying in a job that bored me for the material comfort of it, whereas I was not even 30. But that may not have been as simple as that.
That was the stimulus that changed everything and made us consider the project as something serious. But looking back, I believe the decision to give it a go was actually a longer process. We’re talking about a big change here, not questioning if we should change the color of a wall or not. It was going to affect our everyday life for a while, maybe for the rest of our lives and it was worth considering several factors before giving it a go. We are very rational people, not the kind of persons acting and then seeing what happens, we really like to have everything under control (or at least to believe we have control over a decent number of factors). Luckily, Lorraine is very organized, she is the lists, checklists, pros and cons charts kind of person. Don’t tell her I said that, because sometimes I feel like it is a waste of time, but that’s actually really helpful.
So we started listing and talking about pretty much everything that would change in our lives. I know, bringing up all of it may sound like the best way to freak out. But it really isn’t. Actually it really helped us realizing it was possible. I believe we both thought about all of it already, and it may have been what kept the status quo in our lives. But saying it out loud changes the way we look at those “barriers” and helps you confront your fears. In addition, if you are lucky enough to prepare such a project with another person, it is likely you don’t have the exact same fears so your partner can reassure you on some points, and you may return the favor.
Here are some of the items we listed and talked about. It reflects our concerns and suits our project of an F&B business in Cambodia. Your list may be completely different if your project is a consulting agency in Dubai or a guesthouse in Prague, but it can be a base for a discussion.
Leaving to South East Asia obviously involves seeing our families much less frequently, about once a year in average. We love our families very much and they are very important to us. But our relationship is not based on everyday calls and seeing each other every week. We all know we love each other and that’s the most important to us. Surprisingly, we actually give each other much more news now we are thousands of kilometers away. One of my main fears remains about my family. The fact that if something serious happens, I would be here right away, I would probably need 48 hours to get back, that is still scary and always will be.
That’s a big thing, too. But in our case, most of our friends actually moved or wanted to move out of Paris. So we wouldn’t have seen them as often as we used to anyways. It gives them good reasons to travel the world and good thing is, contrary to family, you can make new friends, and of course, we did! Remember, as 5 wise girls use to sing: “friendship never ends”.
Quitting jobs is always a serious decision, especially if you don’t already have a new one. So it is scary to think about the fact that you may lose your professional situation if your project doesn’t succeed. We realized that risk was actually way lower than we thought initially. First thing is, from the moment we left France, we gave ourselves 1 year to open a business. If we didn’t manage, we would have come back home, using our experience as a plus on our resume. We both had good professional experience so we are pretty sure we could have found jobs if we came back after a year.
Going on the opposite side of the planet to open a business involves financial risks, of course; but no more than being an entrepreneur in Europe. Depending on your targeted destination, you may want to forget about the banks for helping you. No financial organization would support a restaurant project in Cambodia, and honestly, that’s understandable. International transfers are sometimes complicated and banks don’t really like money streams to, and especially from countries such as Cambodia. You will probably need to use your own savings for your project, and may lose some of it, but again, any business activity involves that risk. Your best protection is your preparation and your dedication.
Cambodia isn’t exactly Europe or North America regarding health system. The public health care is not good and private hospitals although they are much better, aren’t close to European standard. In case of serious issue the only solution safe solution from Siem Reap is going to Bangkok (1 hour Flight/7hours drive). Good thing is, we are young and healthy. If you suffer from a heart disease or have any kind of sword of Damocles over your head, you may consider some place more suitable. You will need a private insurance (from $500/year for basic hospitalizations and emergencies coverage, around twice that price of inpatient coverage and 2500/3000 minimum for maternity coverage).
Good environment for a family?:
Depending on how long term your project is, it can be topic worth thinking about. We know we would like at one point to have kids, and it was important to us to be clear about that. If you realize it once you have your business running but don’t feel comfortable raising a child in your adoptive country (healthcare system, international schools etc.), you may have a problem coming sooner or later.
Comfort zone/Cultural distance:
Moving abroad is always going out of your comfort zone (maybe not if you go from France to Luxembourg, I know), the culture will be different, the language also. In our case, that was a big part of what we were looking for. We needed a big change in our everyday life, and we got it, big time. I believe it keeps you awake all the time. One of my first bosses advised me once to always stay out of my comfort zone; I love that advise. But I also understand it is not for everyone. It is not a part time change, only when you feel like it is great to be there and to learn from another culture. It is full time, even when you don’t feel well. Yes, it will be 2am in your own country when you wake up with the blues and won’t be able to call your parents of friends to feel better. Yes, your neighbors will be horrible at karaoke until late, and no they won’t stop because you had a bad day and wish you were in your quiet apartment in Paris. It is take it or leave it.
All of those are only examples and not an exhaustive list, do your own with your personal concerns/fears. Once again, the point of all this is not to know if you can do it; you can. It is for you to know if you are ready for it, if you are sure this is what you want and if it matches your life expectations. I know, on the paper opening a business abroad is very sexy, and to be honest, it is a very fun experience, but it may not be for everyone and it can turn to a nightmare if you realize too late it is not the life that suits. Especially if you realize it after you left your job, your apartment/house and sold 90% of your belongings.
The most important thing at that point and all along the process is to be objective and sincere with yourself, it is very easy to persuade yourself it is the right decision because you want it so bad, knowing deep inside you twisted your feelings to get there.
Once you took the time to think about it, you will probably feel much closer to a decision, whatever it is. If you go for it, you still have dozens of obstacles and preliminary work to do if you want to do things properly. But don’t worry, you will have fun doing it, and we will try to guide you all the way with our own experience.
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