“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
Though our college days are far behind us, it is quite possible our international move might have been attributed to those incredible five years. While in university we were fortunate enough to visit many US states. Whether traveling the Eastern Seaboard for bike races, or heading down South for volunteer based spring break trips, we felt fortunate for each new adventure. But while friends and peers set – off to study abroad, we stayed put. Though we didn’t regret our decision to stay, we soon realized that to live and study abroad was an awesome experience for those who ventured far.
Long before the opportunity ever arose, a seed had been planted and that very seed would one day bloom when the opportunity finally arose to work and live abroad. But the funny thing was the timing. We were perfectly content in our lives. We were new homeowners, had steady jobs, enjoyed our close proximity to family and friends, and after accessing the situation, there was no real need to uproot our lives and venture far from home. Everything we needed was at home, but we knew we longed for change and a complacent, easy life wasn’t what we longed for.
And thus it all began. As quickly as we obtained the keys to our new home, eager to make it our own, we let them go to a complete stranger who would become our renter. The whirl of an international move took over at a dizzying pace and we were quickly wrapped up in the frenzy of it all. We hastily sold cars, closed accounts, made phone calls, took the cats to the vet, made Dr. appointments, met with dear friends, collected piles of paperwork and rarely came up for air. We flew across the ocean to visit our new home (the very home I said, “Yes” to without ever having visited) secured our new flat, got relatively familiar with our new home, completed paperwork, applied for Visas, applied for residency, obtained our driver’s license, threw ourselves into the international work scene, all the while trying desperately to learn German.
I would be lying if I didn’t say there were moments when the intensity of it all grew overwhelming and at times, when we were actually finding the time to sit down, we didn’t both wonder what in the hell we were doing? Why we were leaving the familiar for the unknown? Why we were leaving our family and friends in hopes that our bonds would be strong enough to weather the distance? Why we closed to the door on our home, only to be moving into an apartment a quarter of the size? But we pushed aside the fear and the “what ifs” and kept going. The tears fell, the pang progressed over whether or not we had made the right decision and our hearts hurt many times over as we said good-bye to family and friends.
We finally got to the point of boarding the plane to start our new life thousands of miles away. We had always known that one day we would indeed say, “Yes,” to living abroad, but we just never knew when that moment would arrive. Our seed had been planted and was just about to flower.
When we first arrived we still carried the, “What the hell have we done?” thought around like baggage for a good month. Then our belongings arrived making our tiny apartment feel a bit more like home and we slowly, but surely started the process of settling in. We ventured out, we greeted strangers, we threw ourselves into situations, groups, travel, all of which we may never have done in our comfortable home country.
We stumbled, we cried, we hurt in ways we couldn’t have imagined, but in the mist of finding our way, something miraculous happened; we fell in love. We fell in love with our new country and our new city much in the way one falls in love with a person. We got to know her, we learned her secrets, her intricacies and the excitement and the newness of her began to tug on our hearts. We were in, we were deeply, and soulfully 100 percent in.
Despite our love, at times, the everyday struggles weighed on us (and still do), but we learned to find a great deal of excitement and humor in the unknown. We grew brave in our transactions and we slowly expanded our horizons. It is safe to say our new found love carried us through those difficult times and we pushed on.
We zipped by gorgeous European cities on trains, all the while gazing at each other wondering if this whole experience was indeed real. We acquired our new found passion for Alpine hiking and spent many a weekend trekking from one berghaus to the next. We were determined to see as much as we could in the short time this gig would allow; never knowing when the entire journey would come to an abrupt end. We traveled vast and we traveled far. We collected memories and each new mile we covered, we carried family with us wishing they were by our sides to experience this new way of life.
But to sit back and say that the decision was an easy one, is to tell a genuine lie. We certainly didn’t jump in blindly. We struggled the same way we struggled with our very decision to stay. But as a professor once said, “Most of life is about showing up,” and we did indeed “show up” and we went all out by taking bold risks.
We showed up, we took the unknown ride to the unknown place and we are grateful everyday for having braved those uncharted waters and creating a life, that though is not always easy, is the very life we have come to love. And through it all, we have grown tremendously. We have expanded as individuals, grown closer as a couple and morphed into one unconventional family.
We hope the lessons we have learned as individuals transfer on to our children. May they realize the value in taking risks, and in simply showing up, for we learn so much for just being present. In letting go of the familiar to experience that which is often times mysterious. We long for them to once in awhile leave the comfortable, in hopes that they too will learn what they are truly made of.