One year ago I was meticulously packing up my two suitcases, beads of sweat dripping down my back as I lugged them back and forth from the scale trying to get the weight to right at 70 pounds. It was at 82. I needed to be right at 70 pounds because I was carrying my whole life overseas, but if I went over, it was going to cost me. At the time, that was my biggest struggle. Little did I know what was to come. I knew I was about to embark on a life changing journey, one that would be fraught with many ups and downs but would also teach me about myself in the process.
Flash back to just three years before that. I was living in our home in Dallas, Texas with two dog children and a husband who felt that wearing a shirt with a howling wolf on it meant he got dressed for the day. Life was normal. I worked from home in a steady marketing career; Michael worked in corporate wellness. Then we decided to shake it up. We wanted to move abroad, bad. But how? When? Where? We decided to move to Nashville for a year, helping me to realize I could actually survive being more than 10 miles from my Mom. We picked a place to live. I quit my job to blog full time and Michael quit his. After carefully planning and consideration, we moved abroad. (Find out why we chose Germany right here.)
Before moving, we got lots of advice. Some good, some totally off the mark, but mostly, we learned A LOT along the way. Here are 10 things no one tells you when you drop everything to live your dream to move across the world.
1. It will test your relationship.
Sure, I could have put a lot of things at number one, but the truth is, this was the biggest surprise to me. Michael and I both worked from home when we lived in Nashville, but we had never spent this much time together, ever. We also faced huge challenges that we never thought we'd have to deal with. Like: finding a place to live, securing visas, and maneuvering the interesting system of German customs and (lack of) convenience. We find ourselves at odds because so much of our life feels out of our control.
2. It won't always feel like a fairytale.
Before moving abroad I had visions of chirping birds twirling about my head as I made my way through the cobblestone streets, glancing up at castles and half-timbered buildings from thousands of years ago. Sometimes, that fantasy wasn't too far from reality. Sometimes it feels like living abroad is the worst idea in the world. I think when we dream up what our life will look like, we forget that bad things will inevitably happen. Our daydreams are clouded with the idea that if we just do this or have that, then we will truly be happy. But that's not true, in any case. And that's okay! It's a good thing. It helps you come back to reality, make wise decisions, and stay true to yourself. And it makes those “fairytale” moments all the more worth it.
3. You'll be afraid you'll fail. All the time.
Despite making more money now than I ever did working a corporate job, I always have that nagging feeling that I'm going to lose it all. That one wrong move and suddenly it will all be whisked away into the abyss and I'll be stuck scrambling for my next move. I think anyone who owns their own business gets that equal sense of dread that creeps up on them. But even with that anxiety and stress I wouldn't change it for the world. I'd much rather be doing what I do now than anything else.
4. People will question your validity.
Whenever you have a lofty dream or goal people are going to tell you that you can't do it. They know a guy or they have experience or they have seen what has happened to others before. At first I thought this was a terrible thing. How can anyone question me?! But really, they don't mean anything negative (most of the time) they just want to make sure you don't end up in a bad situation. And while I do appreciate it you have to do what is right for you. You have to test your own theory. Of course, you should be smart about it. This is why we saved up $45,000 before moving abroad. But you won't truly know until you try.
5. Be vigilant in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
Whatever your dream is please do everything you possibly can within reason to see it through. My suggestion is to write it down where you can see it, make a plan, and do everything you can to make it happen. I remember when I quit my job I felt insane. What if this all fell apart? Well, what if it did? At least I tried. At least I know. I've come to understand that “I'll do it later” is such a relative term. We don't have all the time in the world. We have to take steps to make our life matter. The point is, there is no perfect time. Ever.
[bctt tweet=”Be vigilant in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” username=”heleneinbetween”]
6. It will change your life.
Despite my proclivity to need things to stay the same, I'm realizing that change is good. I've learned a lot about people from around the world. A few years ago, my circle of friends were mostly born in one of two places: Dallas, Texas or Nashville, Tennessee. And that is totally fine! In fact, I thought nothing of it at all. But getting to meet people in this environment has opened up my world. Truly seeing how others live and work gives me a better idea of how I want to live and work. And how others should be treated. For me, I needed to get a better grasp on the world and this has helped me to do that.
7. You will learn to really appreciate the people who are there for you.
My friends and family are incredible. I know that everyone has full lives and lots of hardships and happiness that goes on. I sometimes feel disconnected. I often feel like no one cares. But hearing from them makes me feel so happy and like I haven't been missing out. You will be surprised by those that reach out and also from those that don't. I've learned that it's okay. Not everyone NEEDS to be in your life forever.
8. You will have to ask really dumb questions along the way.
I am regularly texting my German friends asking them what certain things mean. Just yesterday I got a speeding ticket in the mail and I had to ask whether or not I could pay it online. I couldn't figure it out! I hate feeling vulnerable. You know that feeling when you're at a new job and you have to keep asking how to make a copy or any other mundane task because you're the new guy? That is me always. I always hated that part of the job and now I feel like that's a big part of my life. I have to be comfortable asking questions and sounding stupid. I have found it both humbling and freeing. I don't need to have all the answers.
9. No matter how much you plan for, things won't always go as planned.
I am a planner. I like knowing what I'm doing for the week and have my Google calendar up at all times to check what's to come in my week. But when you move abroad, try to find a place to live, don't speak the language, and aren't familiar with the customs (or the train schedule), things go haywire. Sometimes how you planned it out doesn't happen and something much better happens. For example, Michael planned to find a job working online for a company. He looked and looked for something work-at-home, flexible hours, and decent pay. Now Michael and I work together. It's not what we planned but it's been one of the best decisions for us.
10. Time really DOES fly when you're having fun.
This year has felt like a few months. Seriously. Michael and I can't get over the fact that we've been abroad a year. We'll talk about the 15 countries we visited since January and have trouble piecing together which museum is what and where we ate the best butter we've ever tasted. It's been very hard and even scary at times to live abroad. I know I've added some gray hair to my head but it's been worth it for all the fun. We have such a short amount of time on this earth, might as well live it to the fullest.
Bonus: You will be on House Hunters International. It's inevitable. Maybe that's not exactly true but you'll definitely get your odd share of crazy and interesting things that arise. Sometimes I get on Facebook and have a throbbing sense of homesickness. I miss my normal life. But there is no turning back. And I'm glad I have these experiences.
I had a teacher in high school that told me once that I'll miss the drain pipes of my high school. I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but now I do. You end up missing things you never knew you would. The mundane or small things you once felt were insignificant you crave. I think it's made me appreciate home in a new way and the people in my life.
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