Moving Abroad

Pre-Move Abroad Bucket List: How to Relieve Stress & Say Goodbye

When preparing to move abroad, it’s natural to get excited about all the new spots you can visit, maybe even building a future travel bucket list for yourself. I know I’m guilty of this already – I have dozens of places I’d like to see once my husband and I move to Ireland.

But because we’re moving so far away from our current home in California, I wondered why not also make a pre-move bucket list of things to do before we move?

Especially considering we don’t yet know when we’ll be back for a visit. Because it would allow us the opportunity to enjoy and say goodbye to our favorite spots, plus give us a few much-needed breaks from move preparations and allow us to de-stress a bit by doing some local travel.

So if you’re planning a big move whether it’s just a few hours or states away OR it’s halfway around the world like us, I’d highly recommend creating your own Moving Out Checklist of things you want to or see before you leave.

Expat Bucket List: Things to Do Before You Move Abroad

Obviously, this works best when you have several months notice and can actually make time to visit places on your pre-move bucket list. Even if you only have a few weeks though, it’ll be good to give yourself a chance to say goodbye to a few of your favorite places and people.

But maybe you aren’t sure where to start? Here’s a few bucket list examples for you to help you get started with your own.


Visit Friends & Family

You probably already have plans to visit with family and close friends or maybe want to host a going away party to see everyone at once before you leave. But it’s still useful to make yourself a list of those you want to see before the move, especially if you don’t expect certain people to want to or be able to visit you at your new home.

This has been especially tough right now while dealing with COVID as seeing others is more difficult than it was pre-pandemic, but we’ve still managed to safely fly to visit my husband’s family over the summer and see my family (who are local-ish) a few times already. 

But there are other people that you should consider adding to your list too.

Like my college freshman roommate who lives an hour away, but who I’ve always kept in touch with and still want to meet up with. Or all the fellow artists who live in the San Francisco Bay Area that I’ve never met in person, but gotten to know well online – it’s why I hosted a recent “art social” event for my Sketch Design Repeat community.

All these people have touched my life in some way and I want at least one more opportunity to see them before moving to Ireland.


Visit Your Favorite Restaurants or Bars

Maybe there’s a type of cuisine your town is known for that you won’t be able to get anymore. Here in California, we’re lucky to have just about every type of cuisine available, but one we know we’ll have a hard time finding in Ireland is great Mexican food. So you can bet we’ll frequent our local fave La Tapatia at least a few times before we leave.

But I bet there’s also a few restaurants you leave for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, so make a reservation and enjoy one last fantastic meal. For us, we’d choose Kokkari Estiatorio, a phenomenal Greek restaurant in downtown San Francisco.

And of course, don’t forget about your local bars or wineries. We’re lucky to be moving to a place world-renowned for its pub culture, but that doesn’t mean we won’t miss a few of our favorite watering holes like Hops & Scotch, a local tap room and whiskey bar we frequent.

Or perhaps there’s a restaurant or bar you always wanted to try, but never have – I can’t think of a better time than now to try it. The San Francisco cocktails scene is strong and my husband and I happen to be huge fans of tiki bars. Yet despite many recommendations, we’d never managed to visit Smuggler’s Cove which is supposedly the best tiki bar in the city. So the last time we were in SF, we stopped by and gave it a try.


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Expat Tips: 4 Things You Should Do Before Moving Abroad How to De-stress while planning a move


Visit Local Tourist Attractions

I’m sure you could rattle off at least 2-3 “touristy” places you’d like to visit that you’ve never been to – it’s the classic “I’m local, I don’t need to do this yet” list. This is especially true if you live in or near a major metropolitan area/s, like we do.

My husband and I are avid wine drinkers and have always appreciated that Napa is less than a 2 hour drive from us. And while we’ve visited several times and have a few favorite vineyards, like Castello di Amorosa, there’s still several wineries we haven’t made it to yet. Hopefully, we’ll find time to spend one more Saturday wine tasting in at least one new-to-us spot.

But if there’s a high-traffic touristy location on your list, it may require some extra pre-planning. Like when I asked my husband the one place he’d like to see in San Francisco, his answer was visiting Alcatraz – as adults living as locals for over a decade, we’d never managed to visit together. It might be possible to show up to Pier 33 and get on a boat bound for Alcatraz Island the day-of, but we knew we’d be happier buying tickets in advance (especially since when I visited in college, tickets sold out weeks ahead of time).

Of course you can become a tourist if and when you come back to visit, but why not check a few places you’ve wanted to see off now if you can?
Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

Visit Your Favorite Vacation Spot

Having one last vacation at one of your favorite places whether it’s local or a short plane ride away is a great way to destress in the middle of the moving process, time permitting of course. Maybe it’s a favorite campsite you visit frequently with your family, a hotel by the beach that relaxes you, or your favorite amusement park – which was my case.

Those who know me well, know that Disneyland is my favorite place on earth.

And it’s mainly because of my many memories there as a child (my grandfather was an Imagineer). So of course, when we knew we were moving, my husband indulged me with one last trip to Disneyland (for now). 

The timing ended up being more perfect than we could have ever planned – it was immediately after receiving several pieces of news that accelerated our move date by 3 months. So when we left for the Happiest Place on Earth, we desperately NEEDED a break and it ended up being one of my favorite Disney vacations ever as we soaked up every last second of our time there.

McNabs posing in front of Main Street Station at Disneyland, Anaheim, CA

So if you have the time and are able to take one last little vacay, I highly recommend it – it may just lend the perspective and rest you need.

Long distance and overseas moves can be stressful – way more than I ever realized – so it’s nice to have a few things on your calendar to look forward to in the midst of all that stress whether it’s meeting up with an old friend, trying out a well known tiki bar, or riding on a boat surrounded by animatronic pirates.

I’m up for anything that can ease the overwhelming process of moving and I hope this has helped you create a list of your own pre-move bucket list so you can celebrate where you live right now before you move (and hopefully de-stress a bit too).

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