Living Abroad vs. the Constant Traveler

To live the life of an expatriate or that of the road warrior – that is the question.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to both. Traveling a great deal takes its toll on your body and your family (if applicable) but doesn’t involve the upheaval of a physical move. You won’t have to worry about selling, buying, or renting a house or apartment. You won’t have to go through the angst of what to pack, what to store – and, yes, what to throw out. You won’t have to worry about whether your household goods will arrive at their destination, or about setting up house in a foreign land that doesn’t have your accustomed appliances or groceries. You won’t have to miss your friends, and if you can macromanage your international travel schedule, you probably won’t have to miss weddings, funerals, and other big events. However, you also won’t experience as revolutionary a change. As a professional you will likely be judged as ethnocentric whether or not you are. If you have a “global role,” you will not be expected to understand too much of what is going on in any particular country, as you are expected to bring big-picture solutions, not market-specific plans that solve local problems. You will be perceived as an expert from HQ, someone to be respected and listened to, though perhaps not always welcomed or trusted because “you don’t live here and you don’t get it.”

For many professionals, having an international career while working at home base is the optimal choice. For some, their careers simply took off this way and although they may have been afforded the opportunity to move overseas, they declined for personal reasons. Some did not want to give up a seat so close to decision-making power, viewing their proximity as a better position for their advancement. This can certainly be true. Many times, however, the only way a new manager can acquire international skills is to take the risk and move abroad.

Following is a snapshot of the major differences between the two. You decide what’s best for you.

Chart from Ch 2


Overall, the vast majority of women and human resource executives we interviewed agree that although you can usually do your job effectively while traveling in and out of countries, you miss the deep dive if you don’t go overseas – at least for a portion of your career. The new globetrotters tend to work and live abroad for at least three years and, if possible, return to an international or global position as their next move.

For more information, check out Get Ahead By Going Abroad.