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.