When my husband and I made the decision to relocate our small family (we have one son) from Melbourne, Australia, back to his home in the U.S., it took at least a year to finally make the move. The idea of leaving my family, our beloved community of friends, and the familiar surroundings of our cute little neighborhood behind was tough, and we certainly didn’t make the decision lightly. But we are adventurers at heart (we met backpacking in Europe), and the thrill of the unknown was stronger than the comfort zone.
So we sold most of our belongings, bought three one-way tickets, and arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, with just six suitcases and a head full of dreams. Since arriving, there have been many highs and lows, laughter and tears, but after a couple of months we secured amazing jobs and brought our fantasy family home to life in L.A. This invaluable experience has been an emotional roller coaster, but the university of life has been the best teacher. Here is what moving countries has taught me about life, so far.
It's Possible to Live With Less
When I say we sold everything, we really did. I did a complete Marie Kondo on our house and edited our closets to the basic essentials, gave away our kitchen appliances to charity, and passed on the big furniture items to friends. We whittled our entire home contents down to 15 small boxes, which only occupied the corner of a shipping container. This was great in a couple of ways: For one, it costs less to ship less and every penny counts when you’re moving overseas; second, not being weighed down by our belongings meant we could travel light and keep things simple.
Now that we’re all settled into our L.A. home, we don’t want to fill it with stuff. It just feels so good to be rid of the clutter. In fact, having less has actually made us happier, and it’s surprising how much you can live without. Minimalist living not only frees up our space, but it also saves the planet from unnecessary waste, and the house is so much easier to clean, too.
Distance Can Never Separate Family
If I thought the decision to move was hard enough, telling my family was even worse. I put it off for a while but I shouldn’t have worried. My parents almost half expected it when I eventually shared the news and were actually pretty excited for us. After all, when you have a strong family bond (and our family is ridiculously close), distance can’t break it.
My mom, sister, and I still message each other just as much: We have a running three-way iMessage that’s updated daily, multiple times a day. We also FaceTime regularly, both video and audio, which is super fun. Besides, living in separate countries means more exciting vacations. We're always planning the next big trip we can take to be together again.
If You Embrace Imperfection, You Learn to Love It
When you move your life to the other side of the world, don’t expect anything to go as planned. I’ve had to learn to embrace imperfection and find stability in chaos. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but that’s OK. Perfection is overrated anyway.
Once I rid myself of any expectations about how I wanted things to go, I opened myself up to a whole new set of experiences I might not have had otherwise. It is possible to find beauty in those warped moments and enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy—shock absorbers not included.
Whatever Happens, You Can Handle It
Moving your whole life to another country so you can start a completely new one requires a good deal of resilience and bravery, but fear is usually the first emotion that creeps in. There are so many things that can go wrong, and there are always hundreds of unanswered questions that plague your mind: What will I do if my visa doesn’t come through on time? What if I can’t find a job straight away? How will we rent a home if we don’t have a credit score? How can I get my son into a good school? What happens if our shipment of belongings is delayed or held at customs?
One thing I realized early on, after many mild panic attacks, is that whatever happens, I’ll handle it. Worry never helped me before, and it certainly won't help now. I have learned to put my inner perfectionist aside and be flexible so that when gale-force winds blow, I bend—not break—and adjust to cope with the situation. It’s amazing how resilient you become and this confidence transfers into everything else in your life, too—at work and at home. I trust in my ability to handle issues as they arise, and that diminishes any irrational fears.
You Learn to Roll With Constant Change
When you embrace the ex-pat life, you have to be open to change; in fact, you need to love it. For most people, change can be pretty scary, and I admit the idea of moving away from everything I know, trust, and love was terrifying, but the idea of settling and becoming stagnant scared me more.
Moving overseas has shown me that change isn’t something we should ever be afraid of. It has made me more adaptable, stronger, and independent. I’ve become so accustomed to change now that the prospect of staying still scares me, rather than the other way around.
Home Is Where You Make It
After four years in Melbourne, Australia, we had set up a cozy little home surrounded by a beautiful circle of friends, all of whom we still keep in touch with. Our son was only a toddler when we first moved into that cool 1800s terrace house, so you can only imagine the sentimental value and fond memories this space held for us.
I wasn’t sure how we could find something with this much history and love in L.A., but one thing I’ve learned from this experience is that home really is where you make it. It really doesn’t matter where you are—you can make any space feel like home. As long as the three of us are together under one roof, we’re home. This is all it takes and it’s a beautiful thing.
You Develop the Confidence to Do Anything
Now that I can handle anything, roll with constant change, and embrace imperfection, I’m pretty much indestructible. Moving abroad has taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and to have confidence in doing it, too. I have no other choice but to expect the unexpected and trust in my skill set to handle any issues as they come.
I no longer feel inadequate or afraid of anything, because I know what I’ve accomplished to get here. The only way you’ll really ever know is to go, and just believe that everything is going to work out just fine, because it usually does.