10 Things No One Tells You When You Drop Everything and Move Across the World

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.

Related: 10 tips for traveling with your significant other.

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.

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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.

Related: The Trouble With Following Your Own Path

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.

Related: Things I Learned About Germans Since Moving to Germany

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.

You might like:

Why We Moved to Germany

You Can Sleep When You're Dead

What to do in Heidelberg, Germany


[…] 10 Things No One Tells You When You Drop Everything and Move Across the World […]

I’ve also moved overseas with my partner and I can relate to this a lot! I really struggled with the fear of failing before we left, but now we’re out here I don’t have those wobbles.
I wrote a post about how moving abroad can change a relationship – thequarter.life/blog/living-overseas-with-my-boyfriend/

I moved from Australia to Nuremberg Germany 2 weeks ago and your blog is like staring into myself future. I’ve moved here with my husband. I am now self employed in digital/content marketing and I’m waiting for reality to hit me. Waiting for the honeymoon period to wear off. Waiting for the reality of working from home for the first time to sink in. It’s such a whirlwind but reading about it definitely helps. So thank you!

I just did this. I moved from the US to Merida Mexico a few months ago. It’s my second time as an expat so I kind of knew what I was getting into this time around but it doesn’t make it less tough. The rewards are so high but so are the risks.

Having moved country not once but twice, I relate to this a lot. Like, A LOT. I think for me the biggest pain was the amount of paperwork and how incredibly inefficient government institutions around Europe are. I was only 18 when I moved abroad by myself and think people don’t tell you how much it’ll make you grow. There is no one there to help you when you first arrive and you really learn to look after yourself. I also think it’s made me a lot more open-minded and chilled, because I’ve learnt that things always work out one way or another so there’s no reason to panic. Thanks for an inspiring post! 🙂

I can totally relate. I moved abroad more than one year ago. Basically just 1500km away from home (from Germany to Spain) but sometimes I feel so vulnerable and have to ask the most stupid questions. I had to change my whole life, my language (almost no one speaks English in Spain) and when seeing what my friends are doing in Germany, it often makes me sad. But on the other hand, I love being in Spain. Even though it is so different from what I thought it would be like. Agreeing to every of your points. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

Lauren Olson Engelsma

A – freakin- MEN

I just moved abroad again and can relate more and more to number 7. I love meeting new people here, but I am so thankful for my friends and family at home. Great post!! I love reading your blog and find it so inspiring

I lived in London for six years and I can attest that every single one of these is true. Except the House Hunters one. I was never on HHI, darnit! lol

Speaking of which, I just discovered your blog via that HHI episode and I love it! One of my goals is to live abroad again. Somewhere different this time…

This post was so priceless. I love how real you are and it’s so interesting to read about your perspective on this topic! I can only imagine the challenges that come with moving abroad, but I can see that they’re all absolutely worth the adventures and memories!

Mia | http://www.verymuchmia.com

This was so great, I love your posts like this and admire your ability to write about some topics multiple times but find a completely different perspective or something totally new to say each time. Also would be very curious to hear more of the HHI process? How did you get on? What did they get right or wrong? Was it worth it? I’ve recorded the episode and can’t wait to watch it tonight.


I love your posts like this. I’ve loved watching you go from texas to tenn to germany! I hope to make a similar move abroad someday. For now, I’m gearing up for a move from florida to seattle within the next 2 years. It’s not abroad but moving all the way across the country of course comes with its own set of difficulties. I identify a lot with what you were saying at the end about missing the mundane things. As I know I’m leaving, even if it’s not for a “while”, I still find myself being more appreciative of small things I never gave a thought to about my city or state. It’s helping me appreciate it more before I have to say goodbye

I love this post! There are so many things you don’t think about when traveling. I would love to have the opportunity to do this someday! Thanks for sharing 🙂


I absolutely loved this! Thanks for your awesome insight Helene, it’s such an interesting journey you’ve had moving so far!

I hope you’re having a great Thursday!

Great post! I loved reading it and learning about your journey.

I am totally with you on your list! I’m in the process of moving from the US to Paris, France. When I was living there this summer, I was so happy to meet new people and immerse myself in Parisian culture, but I would frustrated trying to figure out the little things or holding conversation in French. So glad to have found your blog through your FB group!

Oh amazing! I love Paris and how nice that you’re able to get a feel for it before moving abroad!

It’s so crazy to think it’s been a year since I’ve seen you!!! I remember when we got together to do all those blog photos last August (I think it was august?) and that feels like a million years ago and also, just like yesterday. I’m so thrilled to finally get to see you in person in March!

Isn’t that insane?! It feels like minutes ago. Miss your face and can’t wait to see you!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since you’ve moved abroad! I’m leaving to study abroad in England for 4 months (I leave in two days!), and I’m terrified (but also super excited), so I can’t imagine what it must feel like to pack and leave everything behind to move abroad, not knowing when (or if) you’ll be coming back. I’ve been following your adventures for a while now and while I’m super jealous because you travel a lot, I also know that you’ve gone through a lot to get where you are. I hope you continue to have a wonderful time abroad!

Ahh 2 days!! how awesome. You will have an incredible time. Thanks so much for following me. It really means a lot.

Great post, Helene! I love following your’s and Michael’s adventures, and I can’t wait to get home tonight and watch your episode of HHI. 🙂

Thanks so much Caitlin! I’m excited for you to see it!!

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