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Why I Left Everything Behind to Move Abroad

Moving abroad is hard. It's time consuming. It's brain taxing. Some things aren't translated in your native tongue. It teaches you a lot. And it throws your through a loop. And it's awesome. And here's why I did it.

I have always been a homebody. I can remember as a child that I begged my parents if we could stay home for Christmas, rather than making the three hour drive to Shreveport, Louisiana to spend it with relatives. I just wanted to be home. Despite the fact that many claim I'm “adventurous” I don't really see myself that way at all.

Sure, I grew up very fortunately tagging along with my parents on trips to London for 6 weeks in the Summer. It was a blissful time of English accents, rides on the tube, Mamma Mia shows, and short jaunts to the countryside and Ireland or Scotland. It was very picturesque and very easy. My parents planned it all and my responsibilities meant walking my 7 years younger twin sisters from our flat to the University while we ate ice cream and sang *Nsync songs.

Flash forward to senior year of high school. I fell hard and fast for Michael. A guy I would end up marrying (weird, I know, you can read our whole love story here… I wrote it in 7 parts because… I'm a blogger) who I took with me on a London journey. Where he too, fell in love with travel and Europe (and maybe even me a little bit more?!). While I love London, and it's my first “travel love”, two very difficult and poignant things happened there. First, when I brought Michael that Summer in 2005, the terrorist bombing of the tube station and bus happened. We missed it by mere minutes. Meaning, we were on the exact line that got hit. We missed it by maybe 10 minutes. My Mom missed it by about 27 seconds.

Second, a few years later, I would study abroad in London as a Senior in college. THIS would be the trip that I ventured out on my own. I would travel to some places without my family. Something I had really never done. But that trip was cut short when my little sister was diagnosed with severe cancer and we all went home immediately. In case you're wondering, she's now a very beautiful, partying senior at LSU (and she's even written for this blog right here.)

After college, a two year engagement, and a lot of late nights at a bar called “Corner” where I danced feverishly on broken glass, Michael and I got married. Nothing else changed – in a good way. He and I did move in together (we waited until marriage to move in) and we got a dog (so, a family member) and a house and felt really good about life. That same year we went to Europe with one of our best friends. This trip changed my life.

I never went on a trip like this before. Sure, I'd been to New Orleans with the girls a few dozen times or the occasional beach trip, but nothing this far away with just myself and two boys, no real “adults” to help us. The plan was to go to Belgium for the music festival “Tomorrowland” (warning, very very old post), then to Amsterdam, then to Paris. Despite a very unfortunate passport situation where I forgot to change my maiden name to my married name and almost couldn't get home, it was incredible. A magical music festival with the best fireworks display with people who traveled from more than 200 countries. I rode a bike around the canal and picked up tulip bulbs for our new house. They'd later be taken from me at customs by a large security guard who assured me that “Amsterdam sure as hell doesn't have Whataburger.” I watched the Eiffel Tower light up and we bought wine for 1 euro from the sellers after we haggled them down from 15. I cried when we left Paris because I didn't want to leave.

Look! Michael without a mustache. And me without as much fat.

As soon as I left I knew one thing: I needed to recreate this feeling again and again.

But working in the corporate world meant exactly 10 days of vacation, so this included once-a-year excursions for a week and a half in Europe. I looked forward to them every year. On trip number three Michael and I decided we should move abroad. We knew it would be very hard, but we wanted to see all of Europe, and in a way where we could actually sleep. We averaged around 4.5 hours of sleep on these trips because we wanted to see it all.

Here was the problem: we seemed to be working to travel. Instead of traveling to live. I wanted travel to be part of my life.

We spent the next couple years planning. If that sounds like a long time, it's because it is. Michael (and I, but mostly him) likes to have all his ducks in a row. Which meant: saving lots of money, having flexible jobs, living somewhere else for a year, and making sure family was okay. Before seriously moving abroad both my Dad and his Mom got very serious cancer. When that happened, we put plans on the back burner, twice. I also broke my ankle. Which means the birth of this blog, Helene in Between. Even though I thought this was a fun, creative outlet for me, I quickly realized this blog was a passion I wanted to make a full time gig.

In 2014, things seemed to be okay with everyone health-wise, so it was time to move. The living somewhere else for a year part came in the form of us moving to Nashville. It was a wonderful decision. The main reason behind this is because I have never lived anywhere else besides my home of Dallas, Texas. The thought of packing my bags and moving abroad seemed like an awfully big step. So Nashville it was.

Most free nights, if I wasn't working on this blog, we spent it researching where to live in Europe. Speaking of ducks in a row, I have never seen anyone so organized. Really, Michael should help people move abroad, he's so laser focused about how to research what will work for you. I quit my full time job that year, which meant I was location independent, and we felt this was a big step in the process of moving abroad. Despite what anyone might say, owning your own business is scary and a lot of pressure. If it fails, it's 100% my fault. But it's also very liberating and means if I work really hard, I can make it work.

Every Thursday with a glass of wine and our two Macbooks, I'd sit on the bed, Michael at his computer, and we'd discuss places to live. I remember sitting on the purple striped guest bed that once we made the decision, the hard part was over. Oh, how wrong I was. We decided fairly quickly on Germany. Then the idyllic little city with the ancient castle on the Neckar river, Heidelberg, became front and center.

Once we decided on a where and when (the plan was for August of 2016), I started to worry. This was a huge move. It meant sacrificing a lot. Missing friend's weddings, babies being born, Christmas parties, saying goodbye to most of my belongings, and relinquishing control over lots.

Despite writing over 1,200 words above, I still haven't told you why I moved. So now, I will. I read an article the other day that someone moved abroad to immerse herself in culture. While that is interesting and true, it's not at all why I moved. Here's the truth. That feeling I got in 2012 was something that I always get when I'm traveling. And especially in Europe. You might say this is silly, but I feel like it's magical here. The castles, cobblestones, history, mountains, churches, kings, queens,… I could go on, leave me always guessing. Every time I go somewhere new I'm floored with joy. I always find something that I didn't know existed. That's not to say I couldn't find that in America. But in Europe it just seems to be around every corner.

All those years back, when I was in London, I plugged in my ear buds and listened to Lily Allen'sΒ  “Littlest Things” and imagined myself living abroad. It's been a dream of mine for so long, it's almost like it's become part of me. And luckily, that same thing happened for Michael too (minus Lily Allen). We just had to do it.

I am not sure I am going to have kids. But I was sure I'd live abroad. Maybe those two things don't seem related, but to me they are everything. We are told the dream is to have great love, own something you love, and start a life you love. Those categories are different for us all, we all check them off differently. And for me, this is it. I want to get lost, eat cheese, see the sights, find hidden gems, meet characters, and people from around the world, and see as much of it as I can. Starting with Europe.

Full disclosure: despite being here for 6 months and LOVING it, I'm already feeling panicked. I want to see it ALL. All of it, and then some. And I'm worried I won't. I have a knack for thinking that things should go a certain way and if I don't I get antsy. I'm working on that.

I don't have a clue where I'll be in 10 years or even 1 year. But I do know I am where I need to be right now.

Comments

I know I’m reading this a year late but I just had to comment because this post spoke to my heart. Your words are beautiful. And I recognize so many of my own feelings about travel and the desire to move abroad in this post. Thank you for sharing! I just discovered your blog and I can’t wait to read more. You’re living my dream!

You’re such an inspiration. I, too, feel the same way whenever I travel to Europe. This year I’m lucky enough to travel twice abroad. My husband and I want to move abroad as well. We chose Spain but don’t have a time frame yet. I’m certainly going to follow some of your advice. Many blessings to you and Michael.

Love this! And it’s speaks to me sooo clearly.. I’m actually packing my whole life at the moment to move permanently from Brussels, Belgium to California in just a month. I’m super excited and just a wee bit nervous. But hey, it’s all good, right? πŸ˜‰

Julie
http://www.cansouplover.com

Hi Helene! I love your story and I really relate to you with your travel passsion. Also I would like thank you for all the very useful info you share on your blog about blogging. I have been downloading all your ebooks and they are fantastic!
Happy travels! Lucy xx
http://www.lucywilliamsglobal.wordpress.com

Helene, Helene, Helene,

I have to say that as a fairly new blogger (I’ve had my blog up and running for six months now! Yay!) I’m always reading about what to do, what to write, how to write it, etc ( I obviously READ EVERY SINGLE ONE of your posts about blogging religiously!! you’re the best!) and one topic that always comes up is that the best/unique content is the one where you can talk about yourself and personal experiences AND find a way to connect it all with your audience so that they can also relate to it and be engaged with it. YOU ARE TRULY AMAZING at doing this! I read this entire post, and I could relate to every single experience in my own way, think of my own setbacks, fears, happy moments. I’ve also always wanted to move abroad (France or Italy, to be more specific as I majored in college in those languages) and this post makes me so motivated to be persistent, keep at it and I know I’ll find my way to do it.

Thanks so much for your honesty, your words, and for sharing! You’re my true inspiration and I wanted you to know this #girlboss!

https://collectingmoments.me/

This was such a wonderful read, and exactly what I needed right in this very moment! My husband and I are currently in the stages of moving abroad ourselves, and your tips are legitimately so helpful. It’s definitely a hard (somewhat terrifying in the best way) process, but it’s something we both have always wanted to do and that’s our dream. I loved your definition of everyone’s dreams being different, and that it’s okay to take the path less traveled. Can’t wait to stay up to date with your journey abroad! Go you guys, seriously!!

Steph
http://www.thecuratedcollectiveco.com

This was such a wonderful read, and exactly what I needed right in this very moment! My husband and I are currently in the stages of moving abroad ourselves, and your tips are legitimately so helpful. It’s definitely a hard (somewhat terrifying in the best way) process, but it’s something we both have always wanted to do and that’s our dream. I loved your definition of everyone’s dreams being different, and that it’s okay to take the path less traveled. Can’t wait to stay up to date with your journey abroad! Go you guys, seriously.

Steph
http://www.thecuratedcollectiveco.com

I love your cross-body bag. Can you share the details??

Reading this just warms my heart and brings such a smile to my face. I love your inspiring story and how strategic you and Michael were about moving abroad. Thank you for always sharing and serving as an inspiration <3 (I know, super cheesy huh?)

Lexi of Lex Be Livin’

Haha strategic is definitely the right word lol! You are so kind thanks friend.

This was such an inspirational read Helene! I’ve always wanted to do something like this as I’m a homebody too, but it can be so scary with the pressures of family and society shifting you in a direction that may not be for you. I hope I can one day be brave enough to do what you’ve done and travel while doing what I love!

My Lovelier Days

Yes, girl exactly! Sometimes you write something and you’re not sure if you get your message across but comments like this just make my day!

Danielle from Boots not Roots

Wow! We have very similar stories! Also from Texas, I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe every year since my family was in Germany (and I was born there). My hubby and I have been together since I was 16 and I introduced him to Europe in September of 2015 before moving to Ireland in Jan 2016. So glad you’re enjoying Europe!

ahh no way!? so what brought your to Ireland?

Danielle from Boots not Roots

My husband fell in love with Europe when I took him to Germany and I was lucky enough to work for a company that has offices in Dublin. So I talked to my boss and here we are! It’s been an awesome journey and we have no plans to go back anytime soon. πŸ™‚

oh girl jealous! haha! coming over here without a visa is hard. REALLY hard. I am *hpefully coming to Dublin soon!

Danielle from Boots not Roots

If you do, let me know! I’d love to show you around! πŸ˜€

I subscribe via Feedly, so I rarely comment on posts- but I just had to on this one. I think so many of us dream of what you are doing and the older we get, the harder it gets. Will we have kids? What about our aging parents? How will we find work? What about visas? Thanks for sharing your story. I can’t wait to read more about your adventure!

Well thank you so much for commenting – it really means a lot. Those questions are definitely something we all face. And it is hard and something i still struggle with, but definitely something I’m glad I did!

I think it’s before the move when the questions are the hardest because it is hard to rationalize. It’s amazing that you and your hubby could both want this bad enough to take the risk- which I think is a great risk worth taking! I wish I could get my hubby on board, too. Thanks for replying!

Thanks for sharing this! I think a lot of people like to act like “I just did it!” when talking about how they traveled for a long time for moved abroad when really there’s more than that but they don’t want to share. Also love the long post! You should do more of them don’t apologize.

http://littlewhytebook.com/

haha you are right- and it is not easy at all! Don’t be fooled lol. Oh i think most of my posts ARE long! but the personal ones not as much πŸ™‚

Amazing post Helene. My fiance and I would love to move abroad, but we’re just not sure how to do it! You really help us get food for thought x

LittleGlitter.org

Well thanks girl. Hope so πŸ™‚ it is hard work but worth it!

Helene I must say you have a beautiful knack for writing and I enjoyed every part of this story! While travel and moving abroad has always been on my to-do list, reading your story makes me seriously start thinking about the possibilities. Thanks so much for sharing with the world πŸ™‚

Oh thank you so much. That truly means SO much. Please do think about it- it’s amazing and life changing.

I love it. Thanks for sharing your story, lady! The (brief) times I’ve lived in Europe made me who I am today and I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to share those places and experiences with my husband. I’m so happy you two have this opportunity and that you’re loving it so far! <3

YES! It really does change your point of view.

Christy Eshelbrenner

Michael and you make such a perfect team and this post just proves that again. Loved reading about how you both decided to make the move and supported each other. Your life in Germany sounds incredible! So so happy for you guys but missing you like crazy…always!

OH HI FRIEND! this means a lot for you to comment. seriously. thank you. MISS YOU!

Beautiful post Helene! Loved reading it! http://www.creativesis.com

Thank you so much for reading :)!

I loved reading your post!
I have been an expat for 8 years, and I totally relate to your fears and “I don’t want to leave everyone behind” thoughts mixed with that tingle that pushes you to explore and go beyond your limits…
At 25 I move to Belgium from my native Italy and I lived there for 7 years (I didn’t understand from your post if you chose one Country or you’re traveling around, but I can suggest to live in for a while! In Ghent in particular… Ghent is wonderful). I totally felt home, I learned to love that city to bits and had the most formative time of my life: a very hard to obtain PhD, a horrible break-up, meeting my best friends, finding the love of my life… And my family was just a couple hours flight away, easy peasy.
But my boyfriend and I always discussed about trying life in another continent, but was always very vague… We never really sat down and rationally think about it like you and your husband, it was more like “it would be cool if…”. But at his PhD discussion a professor told him there would be a position for him in Singapore… I said “Oh I like the idea!” and started looking for a job and thanks to a very lucky coincidence I found one in a couple of weeks.
This was March 2016, in August we were on a plane to the other side of the world with our two cats and very little baggage. It was so sudden and intense, it was like “let’s do it!” and all of the sudden it was really happening… So weird.
And I do miss my friends so much, I miss my family. I have huge attacks of homesickness, being 13000 km away from my family freaks me out sometimes. And even though my boyfriend is my soul mate and my best friend I still have no girlfriends here and I feel very lonely at times (one of the reasons why I started blogging regularly again)…
But I still love it. I love exploring, I love being amazed at even the smallest things I love how I’m changing my perspective about everything by living in such a different culture and I love how my relationship with my boyfriend is growing too in this new city.
So I can tell you, it’s going to be hard at times and it might be a bit difficult to get used to be so far away but you’re going to love it…
I wish you a great time and all the best and not too many homesick moments πŸ˜‰

xx Al

PS: sorry, I wrote the story of my life, but I kinda related… you pulled the words out of me! :p

PPS: I just read your About page and saw that the city you moved to is Heidelberg and that you did that long time ago! Should have done that before, sorry :p

Oh man I thank you SO SO much for commenting this. It means a whole lot, thank you for sharing your story. and yes, we did land and are currently living in Heidelberg (and adore it!). So cool that you just did it- really amazing. There are definitely some sacrifices but it is totally worth it!

This is an inspiring story! I dream of moving abroad but I am waiting for my youngest to get older. Doesn’t mean we can’t travel in the mean time!

So true! I think a lot of people wait to travel, so glad to hear you aren’t letting that hold you back πŸ™‚

This is such an amazing journey. I am also a huge fan of traveling, and maybe this may be my life! As of now I’m excited to start my life in New York City. It was honestly so inspirational to see how you changed your life in order to accomplish your dreams. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, and some days it still isn’t, but this is a great thing to document for others. You really make the dream a reality. Thanks, and I’m excited to see what else you decide to share with us xxx

Melina / http://www.ivefoundwaldo.com

Can you believe I’ve never been to NYC?! I need to go. Thanks for your kind words! means a lot.

this is beautiful, helene! you make me want to move to Europe like.. NOW. πŸ™‚
I’ve never been out of the country, but still everytime I travel I get that feeling you talked about & it’s a goal of mine this year to start a travel fund so I can re-create that feeling more.

http://www.withdignityandcoffee.com

haha girl come on over! And europe is amazing. you HAVE to come!!

This post is so inspiring!! I want to drop everything and travel the world…it’s what my boyfriend and I are working on currently and we’re so excited!

http://www.castawaycouple.com

Let me be the first to tell you, it’s hard! but worth it!

You have an amazing story! We’re still in shock that you and your mom missed the bombing by mere minutes/seconds. Thank goodness you’re okay! You’ve pretty much done everything on our bucket list (move to Nashville, live abroad for more than a semester), so we’re so thankful to have found this blog of yours!!

xo, B&K
http://www.BKCsquared.com

we were very lucky to have missed it! and yes, nashville is SO fun!!

Such a great post, I enjoyed reading it so much! I moved from Germany to Spain about a year ago, so I understand a lot of the thaughts you wrote about.

http://howimetmystyle.com/

Oh that’s amazing. It is hard to make a big move, but so worth it!

I love reading stories like this. Moving abroad was the best thing I have ever done, and I love getting to read why other people chose to do so also πŸ™‚

http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

So glad that we are in this together πŸ™‚

This was a beautiful piece, Helene. I totally get that feeling of absolute joy while exploring a new place in Europe.

You are so kind to me, thank you so much!!

It is so crazy the path life takes us on. This story is so inspiring, dreams do come true if you work at them!

It really is! Been thinking about you and your incredible new engagement and baby viking πŸ™‚

Loved this post. It makes me think about why I ever moved abroad in the first place. May have to do my own reflection soon. Let’s plan an adventure soon!!!

I would LOVE to go on an adventure with you soon!

I also moved from Texas to Germany πŸ™‚ (But now I am just across the border in Switzerland). That’s the short version of the story, haha. So fun reading yours!! I’ll be back.

No way! Switzerland is amazing. I am off to check out your story πŸ™‚

You are SUCH a good writer. I totally know what you mean. I’ve always loved fairytales and castles. Once I discovered there were real ones still in the world, I’ve always wanted to go. Then the Lizzie McGuire movie came out (#lizzieforever) and I’ve been obsessed, mesmerized, and totally in love with Italy. I’m taking Italian in college, looking for study abroad opportunities, ANYTHING. I have to get there before I die! I definitely love travel and commend you for your big move! I don’t know if I could move because it’s not as important to me as it was to you, I need to have this home base. But you are an inspiration!!

You are too kind – thank you so much Ariana!! I have never been to Italy! Going soon, cannot wait. Thanks again πŸ™‚

You’re such a fantastic writer, Helene! It’s inspirational to read the process you and Michael took when preparing to move abroad. I wonder if I’ll be as adventurous as you, and move abroad one day. xoxo cheers!

Oh that is a very high, compliment, thank you so much. Thanks so much Krista!

I love all your posts, but I think this is one of my ALL time favorites. I would love to be as brave as you and pick up and move abroad. I got those same feelings you’re describing when I was in Europe for two weeks two summers ago and have been dying to get back over there. I think I’m finally gonna do it again in 2018. Europe gives me all those same feelings, partly because I love history so much, especially European history. I have really loved following your story on Instagram, Snapchat and of course here! You’re a true inspiration for those of us who dream of traveling and living overseas. Keep it up girly! πŸ™‚

Oh that makes me so happy! thanks so much for your kind words. You should come back! any ideas to where? thanks so much for following, it means a lot!

I love this! It’s really cool to see how much hard work went into the process of getting ready to move abroad, deciding on the details, and quitting the corporate world to go out on your own with your business. I have a whole lot of wanderlust but have never been out of North America. My husband and I are saving to make our first big trip abroad (to London!), and I’m wondering if I’ll fall in love with Europe and want to pick up and move, too. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I love following along!

Maggie | amillennialmarriage.com

Oh london is amazing!! You will love it.

Love it! Your hard work and determination is very inspiring. Making big changes is scary. I’m still working on making changes in my life that are similar to yours, so seeing that it worked for someone else leaves me a little less worried πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your story!

It is scary but definitely been so worth it! Thanks so much for reading!

This is wonderful! I’m so happy for you! It’s not an easy thing to be away from family and friends, but the pros of exploring a new place and being on an epic adventure make it balance out. I can’t tell you how much I love this post!!!

So true, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Thanks so much Steph, that means a lot.

This is an incredible read. I don’t know how many people have set an incredibly lofty goal like you have and not only achieved it but have gone above and beyond. You are living your DREAM life! No life is perfect, but don’t forget what you’ve accomplished to get where you are! Proud of you!!

Girl you are a reason I miss home. You know that though πŸ™‚ thanks for being the best

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been six months since you moved! I can totally relate to your wish living abroad. I have this magical feeling everytime I go to Turkey because to me in comparison there is so much more history, ancient buildings, different cultures than in Central Europe.

Isn’t that crazy?! It’s weird to me. Turkey is definitely on my list!

Great post! I would love to do something like this w my kids but oh the logistics!

It is definitely not easy- but if I can do it, anyone can πŸ™‚

This gave me goosebumps to read. I am so proud of you for just going after what you knew you wanted in life. You are such an inspiration!

Your kind words mean SO much to me. Thanks so much Chelsea.

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