Published On: November 10th, 2023Categories: Scouting TripsTags:

Vacation vs Scouting Trip: What’s the Difference?

Vacation vs Scouting Trip: What’s the Difference?

Expatsi is hosting a scouting trip to Portugal and Spain in March for people who are considering moving to the Iberian Peninsula.

“So you’re taking them on vacation?” people ask. “Not exactly,” we tell them. Vacations focus on having fun and relaxation, while scouting trips (while fun!) help people find a new home when looking to move abroad.

It’s a tricky divide between the two paths. Here’s how a scouting trip looks different than a vacation:

See what makes a place unique

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The central goal in both a vacation and scouting trip is the same. You’re visiting a place that’s been on your mind, looking to find that certain something that makes it special. What brings people here: is it the food? Historical buildings? Killer entertainment options like theme parks or concerts? We call this “the vibe check”.

Getting around looks different

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Vacations are all about getting to the fun stuff, whether it’s that trendy restaurant or the beach where the tourists spend their days. In these cases, you’ll likely take the fastest route to your destination, whether Uber or shuttle bus.

A scouting trip pays more attention to other transportation options. How do you use public transportation regularly? Can you ride a bike around town, or do I need a car? On top of these questions, you have to decide whether you can live with these options long-term. Scouting trips are about finding your home, after all.

Work: Find it or leave it

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Vacations give us a chance to escape from our daily work life. You came to ride Space Mountain, not to get on conference calls with the home office.

A scouting trip, on the other hand, looks for answers on how you’ll spend your days. Digital nomads that can work remotely might look at coworking spaces and internet speeds. Nurses might visit local clinics and hospitals. Retirees could look into social groups where they can meet other people making a fresh start.

Length of stay: should I stay or should I go now?

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That suitcase is never far away when going on vacation. Your stay is usually self-contained, too, with a firm end date to get back to normal life.

Scouting trips tend to be longer stays than typical vacations. Instead of coming for an action-packed week, stretch your scouting trip out for a longer period of time. Bring your daily routine to this new town, doing what you’d normally do in an average week. Work if you can work. Shop for groceries. Take in a movie (my personal favorite). Get a feel for what life looks like here and whether it suits you.

Touring the city

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Vacations tend to be about hitting the popular spots, whether that’s food, entertainment, or shopping. You’re visiting Machu Picchu, the Coliseum, souvenir shops—you’re here for a good time, not a long time!

Seeing the town looks a lot different on a scouting trip. You might go for a nice meal, but visiting local neighborhoods is probably more important. You’re shopping at local markets, fumbling your way through the local language as you interact with locals. Every experience goes into answering the same question: “Can I see myself living here?”

Find what you need

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When you’re on vacation, the local healthcare system probably isn’t top of mind unless you’ve got a sudden injury to deal with. You’re most likely focused on yourself and the people that came with you, rather than what’s going on locally.

When you’re on a scouting trip, you want to evaluate the infrastructure you may come to rely on day to day. You might visit the local hospital or clinic, evaluating their services and whether you can communicate easily with them. If you’ve got children, you’re investigating the school options. Since you’d be moving away from most people you know, seek out social groups and get an idea of the other expats in town that just might become new friends

It’s all about timing

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Since our vacations are usually short, we want to visit these places when they’re at their best. We want snowy mountains for skiing, sunny beaches for surfing, and dry season in the tropical zones.

If we approach scouting trips in the same way, we set ourselves up for disappointment because we’re missing out on what life looks like in not-so-great conditions. Sure, Costa Rica may feel like home during the dry season, but can you live with the rainy season, too? Try visiting that new home country when conditions are imperfect and when they’re great.

Are we home yet?

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Ultimately, we go on vacation to get away from home. That’s what makes taking a holiday so appealing—leaving your daily worries behind for awhile and just indulging in fun for days on end.

We go on scouting trips to find home. Moving abroad is about much more than just packing your clothes and filing your visa application. It’s finding a place that restores some part of life missing from where you live now. Taking that scouting trip embodies the hope that your life can feel happier elsewhere. It’s believing a new home is waiting out there for you and having the courage to find it. Take the trip and seek the vibes that resonate with you. Then you’ll know where home is.

Is the US Driving You Insane? Consider These Countries for Mental Health

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Since 2022, the Expatsi Test has helped users find out where they’d like to move abroad to, based on their personal needs. Its data covers everything from healthcare rankings to languages spoken and best places for raising kids. The goal—to boost psychological safety for Americans by navigating to a healthier life in another country.

Over 40,000 people have taken the Expatsi Test in the last 18 months. Here’s their best countries for mental health, based on test data:

Is the US Driving You Insane? Consider These Countries for Mental Health

How to Leave America: 6 Steps to Your New Life

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Are you thinking about leaving the United States? You’re not alone; as many as 15% percent of Americans say they want to leave the country permanently.

➤ How to Leave America: 6 Steps to Your New Life

The 20 Best Countries for Americans To Move To, Based on Data

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The Expatsi Test is an assessment tool for Americans who want to leave the United States. It asks the regions they’d like to move to, their budget, the kind of visa they might apply for (like retirement, digital nomad, or skilled worker) and their preferences for things like safety, healthcare, infrastructure, weather, geographical features, and personal freedoms, and reveals the top 10 countries that best meet their needs.

Based on 37,546 respondents in 2023, here are the top 20 countries for American emigrants.

The 20 Best Countries for Americans To Move To, Based on Data

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Co-founder at Expatsi | + posts

Brett Andrews is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps expats discover how to leave the U.S. Brett and his partner Jen developed the Expatsi Test to recommend countries to move to, based on factors like budget, visa type, spoken languages, healthcare rankings, and more. In a former life, he worked as a software developer, IT support specialist, and college educator. When he's not working, Brett loves watching comic book movies and reading unusual books.

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bed49dc5d4263d6d37b46cb09574d411?s=150&d=mp&r=g
Co-founder at Expatsi | + posts

Brett Andrews is the co-founder of Expatsi, a company that helps expats discover how to leave the U.S. Brett and his partner Jen developed the Expatsi Test to recommend countries to move to, based on factors like budget, visa type, spoken languages, healthcare rankings, and more. In a former life, he worked as a software developer, IT support specialist, and college educator. When he's not working, Brett loves watching comic book movies and reading unusual books.