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The Truth About Moving Abroad

Each and every day I get questions about what it was like to move abroad. But I haven't been able to tell the full story. Not because I didn't want to. But because I was scared it wouldn't happen. Turns out, I had good reason to be. This, is that story. Finally.

In 2014 Michael and I just finished a whirlwind trip to Europe. It was incredible but I felt that familiar ache creep up on me at the end of trips: I want to keep traveling (10 days really doesn't cut it) but I also really miss my house and the dogs. How can we combine it all? And how can we see the world without the constant threat of moving on to the next place, desperate to soak up every last drop of culture, history, museums, and of course, uh wine? The answer, of course, was to move.

So like with everything we do, we mapped out a plan. Even though we just bought our house in Dallas two years ago we decided we'd rent it out and move somewhere in America, to make sure I could really feel “at home” abroad. You see, I've lived in Dallas, Texas for my entire life. I even went to college at SMU (in Dallas) and I've never been more than 8 miles from my parents' house. You could call me a homebody. Yes, I love traveling, but I felt the urge to try living abroad.

At this point, in 2015, I was working full time, from home. I was still working in the corporate world, with blogging on the side. Desperately trying to figure out how I could make my blog my full time gig. For months, we researched where to live. We wanted something not too close to home, somewhere centrally located, with a decent sized town, and a thriving community. We landed on Nashville, Tennessee. We packed it all up and moved to Nashville for one year. This ended up being a completely awesome decision. We had great friends, ate great food, and traveled to parts of America I'd never been to before.

Something wonderful also happened in Nashville: I became a full time blogger. For years I wanted to do this, but it wasn't until I was truly forced. I was at a job I was completely over, and with the company starting to fizzle in a real way, I decided to bite the bullet and go out on my own as a blogger. It was terrifying. People who say that it isn't are crazy. Working for yourself is insane. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for a minute. But it's a new kind of pressure to make a living on your own. And it's also thrilling, liberating, and I wake up excited to open up my laptop everyday.

Since moving to Nashville, it made me realize that I CAN be away from home. I've learned that home can change. Home is who you love and it's holding on to them and knowing that they WILL be there for you. With that, we spent months and months researching where to move next. One question was very clear: the continent was Europe. I have always loved Europe. From growing up spending summers in London with my parent's study abroad program to the whirl-wind 10 day treks with friends, I have a special place in my heart for this place, rich with history and character.

The next question was where in Europe? The process was difficult but fun. We spent almost every Thursday and sometimes Sundays researching where. We knew that we wanted a place that was centrally located (so not Ireland, Scotland, or Norway). We knew we wanted somewhere that spoke English pretty well, even if it wasn't the primary language (so Italy was off the list, not that they don't know it, but many Italians don't speak English). We looked for a country with a relatively easy visa process, since I would be moving over as a freelancer and Michael would piggy-back on that because he's my spouse. We also looked at the “best ranking” countries in the world. More often than not, Germany landed first or high on the list.

Neither Michael and I have ever STEPPED FOOT in Germany, but after all our research, Germany seemed like the best bet. The cherry on top was the no quarantine process for the dogs. That meant with some shots and paperwork the dogs could walk off the plane with us.

After we decided on Germany, our next step was a city. We looked hard at Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Berlin and a few others. Being from Texas and living in Nashville, we decided that living in northern Germany might be tough in the winter. Then we found Heidelberg. A city so beautiful my mouth dropped open as the castle illuminated on my computer screen. Heidelberg was charming, European, and close to Frankfurt- one of the largest airports in the world.

We decided unanimously Heidelberg was the place for us. The next part of the story gets a little hairy. And it's something I haven't been able to talk about for some time. Mainly because I was scared to, and for good reason.

After we made plans on the place, the act of actually moving abroad was tumultuous. First, we scheduled an appointment in Atlanta to meet at the German consulate office to apply for our visa. We did our due diligence and researched tirelessly to try and find the visa process for Germany. You see, what most people don't understand or realize is that MOST (see also, all) people move abroad with a job. That means work provides them with the necessary paperwork to move abroad. Sure, it's tough. But moving abroad all on your own is another kind of hard.

We scheduled the appointment and found out that it would take six weeks for us to actually get to meet in Atlanta. This gave us ample time to get paper work in order. For a very brief outline of what we provided, it included: current residence, temporary residence for when we move, income statements for both Michael and I for the past three years, two passport photos for each of us, German health insurance, an application, and a business plan. Since I was applying as a freelancer I created a business plan that outlined exactly what this blog is about and how it is in fact a real business. We felt confident and ready to make a good impression.

Six weeks later, we headed to sweltering Atlanta in June three hours before our scheduled appointment time. You know, just in case.

The appointment itself felt like a scene from a sitcom. I wore a long-sleeve black dress and was constantly wiping sweat from my brow since the temperature was in the high 90s. Absolutely everything we read online said that you need ONE visa and then your spouse is automatically issued one as you are a couple. We strolled up to the desk with conviction, paperwork in hand, and spoke easily into the little microphone. The lady was already annoyed with us, “This is an appointment just for her, not you.” Horrified, we realized that yes, we did need another appointment. Would we have to wait another six weeks?! Luckily, she said since we had our paperwork, Michael could be squeezed in. So, between the time of my appointment and Michael's we spent the time running back and forth to a hotel Kinko's to print off paperwork and make photo copies of everything. More sweating ensued.

Finally, we submitted it all and were told it could take up to three months to hear back. Another snag, we were wanting to move in August. Since this appointment was in June, we were cutting it very close. Oh, and they took our actual passports. So even if we wanted to leave, we'd have to formally withdraw our application to get them back.

After our fate was in their hands, we decided what to keep and what to get rid of from our life. I literally got rid of almost everything. The only things I kept were of sentimental value, a few key clothing pieces, and wedding gifts. Those were stored in my parents' house and Michael's dad's house. The last few weeks we spent in Nashville were crazy. I flew to Dallas to attend an event, then San Francisco to film a class with Brit & Co, then Colorado for two separate weddings, then had only 4 days in my current home before we left for good. Since we hadn't heard back from the German consulate, we went ahead and withdrew our visas, hopeful to apply once we got to Germany. Plus, we learned that it would be easier to apply once we arrived in Germany. It felt exciting and exhausting.

We moved all our stuff to Dallas, put my car on blocks, sold Michael's car, and push and prodded our remaining things into two large suitcases.

And then, we got the call. Michael's mom had cancer for the past few years, but things were on the up and up as of late. And then things got very bad, very fast. We went to Dallas (that's where she lives and where we're both from) as scheduled in late July. But the situation was clear: we weren't leaving for Europe with her in this condition. Since our flights were booked for mid August we called and luckily the airlines graciously put them on hold.

This was such a conflicting time. What was going to be a couple weeks in Dallas of hanging out with friends and family turned into staying at the hospital for 12-14 hours a day. Something I am very glad we got to do, since we were with her during her last few weeks. On one hand I was excited to move abroad, but on the other I felt stricken with sadness to watch my Mother-in-law deteriorate.

The day she passed away was the day after our scheduled departure for Germany. I'm so glad we were there and Michael especially handled so much of the funeral arrangements. You know you really have a good person in your life when you see how they handle something so hard as the loss of their mother. Michael is the most gracious, selfless, and upstanding person I know.

We decided she would want us to keep our plan, so we rescheduled flights and decided to move in September.

On September 15th we packed up two suitcases and two dogs and headed off to Germany. I can't even properly describe the emotions I felt. I was scared but excited. Sad to leave home and my family and friends, but thrilled to see what was ahead.

The process didn't stop there. Oh no. Next was to find a place to live and reapply for the visa. And I can tell you FINALLY, now. We got denied. So after this long and strenuous but exciting process, we were actually denied. But today that all changed.

You might be wondering why I never talked about most of this before. And the truth is I was worried that we wouldn't get approved for our visas. I get questions daily about how we moved abroad but I could actually hit publish on this post until it was officially official. So now, one year after starting the visa process, I am finally able to live in Germany. So many people say that I make my life look amazing. And it is, but it's also been one of the hardest years of my life. And maybe that's a good thing.

There will be a part two of this post. I am going to go into how we DID finally get approved. Since yes, that was a REAL process. I still cannot believe we did it but I can't wait to tell you more.

READ PART 2 HERE!

Comments

I’m kind of late reading this, but I totally get you!! Moving abroad all on your own is not only hard, but a long process where you might actually reconsider if it’s worth it. My husband and I moved a couple of months ago to Colombia, and we picked Colombia because it was going to be easy my visa process since he’s Colombian, but it was still a lot of work, money and time!! I hate to think that in a couple of years we have to do it all over again so I can live here….Not that finding a new job, leaving my bussiness, my family and friends wasn’t hard enough!!! Our dog too, he’s coming next year but we miss him so much!

[…] The Truth About Moving Abroad I guess this is an apt article to me for the season now, as I consider my Visa application processes for further pursuit of studies in Los Angeles. I’ve only got 2 weeks to settle it all, and anxiousness has certainly kicked in for real. But how do I handle this? By knowing I’m not alone and to reference from those who have walked this path. Courage up, all you who would want to move abroad. Home is where you make it to be. […]

i read this the other day but am just now able to comment. i cannot believe you went through all this! what an absolutely exhausting and stressful experience that must have been. moving overseas is ridiculously hard and i had it ‘easy’. i cannot even imagine. so glad you finally got approved. i think it is natural to keep certain things to ourselves, especially when we don’t know the outcome. what a journey!

Thanks so much for your kind words friend. I know you know how hard it is to make huge moves!! it is so crazy.

Michelle Gil Santini

I’ve been considering on doing a student international exchange and one of my top is Germany (well it on my top two due speaking German is bit tricky) hopefully France, England, Madrid (the only part of Spain that I would actually understand what they are saying) and Switzerland. So maybe after that I may consider moving somewhere in Europe.

Can’t wait for part II
Michelle| http://www.brokebutflawless.com

Hey Michelle! That is awesome. I think all places are very very welcome to those that are studying. I think your process will (hopefully0 be much easier than mine!

The BEST news! I know it has been a roller coaster but I am so happy that finally ENDLICH you guys have visas and can stay as you please.

YES! and more traveling with you!!!

Oh my god Helene I’m so glad you wrote this ♥. I’m in the process of doing research about places to move in Europe and this post has helped me a lot. People don’t really talk about the ugly side of the situation as well as the pretty one, so I’m truly glad I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago.

I love this. Thank you so much for being transparent with this.

I can relate to the part about your MIL, I’m so sorry for y’all’s losses. I had to basically move back to Vegas with my husband after his deployment, and I left there knowing I wouldn’t have my grandma in my life anymore, she had cancer and then my grandpa passed the April before last, and they were like another set of my parents. I’m so glad you had that time with her.

Can’t wait to read the second part!

Nicole (www.therusticbelle.com)

Thanks so much for your kind words Michelle. I am so so sorry to hear about your grandmother, that is so tough.

Cliffhanger!! Haha. Can’t wait to read more about your exciting,adventurous, scary journey, as I’ve always been fascinated by your story!<3

http://www.wonderlandsam.com

Thanks so much Sam!! It is a rollercoaster for sure.

SO HAPPY FOR YOU THAT IT’S FINALLY OFFICIAL. I know it has been such a hard year, but you have handled it with grace (and hustle) and I am so proud of you.

I am beyond happy too!! thank goodness!

Love this and can relate on so many levels! My husband and I moved to Italy three years ago from Australia by way of the UK and NZ, and it wasn’t until April of this year that I finally received my visa. All that hard work, getting married abroad, money spent on translations and various documents needed, all for it to expire at the end of May. Yep, you read that right, May!! We are currently in the process of renewing our visas at the moment but you can’t even begin to imagine the hoops I’ve had to jump through and the bureaucratic mess that is Italy. My story makes your story look like a walk in the park!

But on a more positive note, I am very glad you’ve finally got your visas and all has worked out in the end. It’s so stressful and little unnerving not being “legal” in a country, isn’t it? Anyways, Heidelberg looks beautiful and I hope you and Michael are enjoying German life. If you’re ever in or near Venice and want someone to show you around, you should definitely get in contact =) x

Oh man that is so scary and crazy!! I am nervous to get mine renewed- ahhh!! So scary. Heidelberg really is lovely and I recommend anyone coming here for a visit! I was in Venice about 2 months ago and LOVED it!! I need to go back!

I absolutely loved this post! What a process… I have been wanting to move abroad for years and hopefully will in a few years, I knew it would be difficult but now I am sure of it and I know it would be worthwhile.
Thank you for sharing your experience, I am so happy for the two of you for finally getting the visas! Looking very forward to the next part of your story!! xxx Gaby

Thanks so much Gabrielle! It will be difficult but worthwhile for sure! Part two coming today 🙂

Wow such a crazy story! I am so happy you finally got approved though, congratulations!!

Thanks friend!! it was seriously SUCH a process!

Great account, Helene. So sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law especially at such a topsy-turvy time in your lives.
And I love the name of your blog.
So I’m here mostly to tell you that I religiously delete every ad I see on Facebook because I’m constitutionally opposed to their being plugged into our news feed regardless of whether they apply or appeal to us. I’ve done this ever since they first started injecting them – even when they’re ads about people or causes I support – because I oppose the placement of them.
And then yours popped up. It was irresistible, partly because I have lived overseas for years, live in the US again now, and am toying with the idea of selling it all and taking off. Schengen makes that very difficult, to say the least.
Your writing is not only fun to read and riveting, but a huge inspiration that yes, I could be a full time blogger and make money while traveling.
Your investment in that Facebook ad won you a new follower. Can’t wait to read the rest of your blog.
Oh, and … gratuliere! (if you’ve learned any German by now…)

Thanks so much. It was a tough time for sure.
Thanks so much!! I really appreciate your kind words (espeically since you came over from a Facebook ad!).

Congratulations on finally being granted visas!! I’m sure that is a weight lifted. I love following your journey! I’m also LOVING Instagram for Success and I’m so glad I took a chance on it.

Ahh this whole comment makes me so so happy!

So much of this resonated with my experience – I’m a recent ex-pat. Thanks for sharing!

Lindsay Jill
http://www.lindsayjill.com

Ahh girl it is crazy right?!

Love this! Beautiful blog post x

Good job on your blog.

Keep it up

-Daria

http://dariaed.com/

https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/daria-edu-19010657

Thanks Daria. I appreciate it, this was a very emotional post for me to write.

I’m SO HAPPY for you two finally getting approved to live in Germany! How exciting and I bet it’s such a relief for you and Michael to have that security. I can’t put into words how happy I am for you both, and I’m still in awe of how brave and resilient you’ve been, first by moving so far from home and by sticking it out through the visa difficulties. xox

It is a HUGE relief! But I’m still nervous haha, I wonder if I’ll ever break from that!

I’m so sorry to hear about Michael’s mom, and everything you guys went through last summer. But yayyyy for finally getting your visas and truly living out your dreams <3

Green Fashionista

Thanks so much friend! It’s been a long journey!

I’m so sorry about Michael’s mom, but happy you are living your dream!

Yes it was a really rough time both emotionally and personally! but I think she would have wanted us to go on!

Hi Helene! Happy for you that you finally managed to live in Germany…and: Welcome to my country. I hope you will enjoy living here. Cheers, Ricarda

Thanks so much! I love Germany!

I of course knew all of this story, but it’s just so ridiculously insane to read it in full… well in part, part 1. You guys should be so proud of yourself for being so organized throughout this whole process. 99% of people couldn’t do it and you guys did.

You are the best. Thanks for being there for me through it all!

OMG that story is so intense! I have been following you for quite some time so I knew most of it, but it’s still crazy to read all of your journey. And I was legit nervous when I read that you were denied, haha. Thank God there’s a part 2! I can’t wait to read more about your journey.

Well no one (except a few people) knew we were denied! It was rough. Lots and lots of tears!

I think the bureaucracy in Germany and now the social rules in Switzerland are slowly but surely sucking the life out of me.

Congrats!!! Getting visa for most countries is a pain (and I know that, living in the U.S. with only a J1).

I think it might be especially hard when you’re a freelancer haha!

Great post. I’d been wondering about what sort of visa you were on. Looking forward to hearing the next chapter of the story!

Haha yes, this is the one!!! it’s been so hard but at least it’s finally approved!

This is an amazing story and I’ve actually been waiting for this post for SO long because my partner and I want to move to Germany as well! We have done so much research just like you two did and we decided that Germany sounds the best for what we want (even though we have never been either), but the visa process seems so stressful, especially since I’m pursuing my own online business. This post is definitely inspiring, cant wait for part two!

Know that it CAN be done. It just does take so much work! But you can do it 🙂

Such a crazy journey!! The German consulate is one tough bear, and I’m so glad you were finally approved!! Congrats! Can’t wait to read part 2. 🙂

Thanks friend, tough is definitely true!!

I love how honest this post is! Can’t wait to read part two <3
xoxo,
Victoria
http://vickyweek.com/index.php/en/

Well I haven’t been able to tell the truth for quite some time!!

Wow, Helene! What an amazing story and quite a journey at that. I am so happy for you that everything is official! I’m sure that not many people understand the struggle to move abroad, or that it is very difficult for people that don’t have work visas, etc. Your persistence always amazes me! Keep inspiring us girl <3

http://www.insearchofsheila.com

Thanks so much sheila! it has definitely been a journey but well worth it!

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