In this blog post we discuss the journey of leaving the U.S. for a new life abroad. Read on to find out more about the challenges and rewards of moving overseas as a family of five.

 

Why we moved abroad…

Every time I turn on the news these days I’m reminded that just being able to keep your kids safe in this world is a luxury.

So having the opportunity to be deliberate about where we want to live is not something I’ve ever taken for granted. That said, we had dreamt about moving abroad for years without the work situations or resources needed to make the dream a reality.

Additionally, the prospect of moving three kids at very different developmental stages seemed impossible. At any given point we had a child that couldn’t or didn’t want to make the move. Our oldest wanted to finish high school where she started and our middle daughter wanted to graduate elementary school with all her friends. The right opportunity to move never seemed to arise and finding a time that was ideal for everyone seemed highly unlikely.

Furthermore, getting through each day with three kids and two careers kept our heads down, with little opportunity to imagine options and possibilities outside of our busy days and routine. Just getting through our day-to-day with no setbacks was an accomplishment. We never had the time to set aside and create a plan to take our dreams of moving abroad into a reality.

A huge part of being two working parents, with three kids, means you rely a lot on predictability, pattern, and familiarity. Lunches are packed at a certain time, the carpool is well-planned, after-school activities are choreographed and arranged. Homework routines, grocery shopping, and cooking are all organized to ensure everyone’s lives run smoothly. Add two complex careers on top of this demanding schedule and most days you feel overextended.

Santa Barbara sunset
Beautiful Santa Barbara
couple by the beach
Our Last Day In Santa Barbara

Moreover, we had a wonderful life in one of the most beautiful and safest parts of the world. The kids were all thriving and happy. We surfed and hiked on the weekends and loved our friends, teachers, schools, and neighbors. Yes, we were busy, but it was an idyllic and wonderful place to raise children and we had carved out a lovely lifestyle. Why in the world would we disrupt what we had worked hard to establish and leave such a remarkable place?

 

 

Then, for reasons that I can’t totally account for, and a confluence of events that came together quickly, an opportune window of time for all five of us seemed to open. Our oldest was wrapping up high school way ahead of schedule; our middle schooler was indifferent to staying at her school for her 8th-grade year; and our 2nd grader was ready for an adventure. Additionally, our careers had largely gone virtual since the pandemic, helping us to realize how we could make a living remotely. Suddenly, we were very seriously considering moving abroad. We realized that if we were ever going to make the move, THIS was going to be the year.

We started talking about it genuinely as a family every day and detailing and discussing all it would entail and what would be required of us. All three of the kids were getting very excited and had open minds and hearts about the idea. In a matter of days, it looked like we had reached a verdict and we were indeed moving abroad!

The certainty and conviction of officially making the decision was critical because the magnitude of moving in this direction requires complete commitment. It is not a decision you can moderately or half-heartedly pursue. It requires serious work and research.

Embarking on Our International Journey…

The monumental and life-changing decision to move abroad as a whole was bigger than the sum of its parts, but here are a few significant influences and reasons that inspired us to make the decision…Looking back, it’s easier to take stock of the notable influences which ultimately empowered us to make the big decision to move overseas.

Miramar Beach

Shaping Our Children Into Well-Rounded Adults…

You only have one chance to raise kids and help shape them. Travel is one of the most influential ways to radically contribute and influence the person children will become and how they move through the world. The reality is that you really don’t have a lot of time to model great values and ideals before they reach adolescence and begin to make judgments of their own. Our belief is that seeing different countries and cultures would make our kids wiser, more creative, and more open-minded and accepting. Traveling at a young age gives them exposure and experiences that they can only get through seeing other cultures and communities on an intimate level. By allowing the opportunity to travel and explore at a young age, we knew our children would benefit greatly into their adulthoods.

Immersing Ourselves in New Cultures…

Living somewhere and trying to assimilate into a new culture is different from simply visiting somewhere for leisure. We have traveled the world and explored extensively, but dipping into a culture for a few days as a tourist is not comparable to the experience of entirely immersing yourself in a new community. Understanding what it is like to be an outsider, as someone who has always been on the inside, gives an appreciation and increased understanding of what community means. It creates strength and resilience when you do not have a familiar group supporting your sense of self. It also creates a richer appreciation for a culture apart from the one you grew up in. These are valuable experiences, both for us as parents and children.

In Life, There Are No Second Takes…

We know that you get one shot to experience all you can in this life. We believe in living big and exposing our children to as much as possible. We have tried to squeeze in as much magic as we possibly can while raising our three kids. We try new things, make the mess, take the trip, have the hard conversation, try the sport, wrestle harder and cuddle longer. We try to say yes as much as possible and create as much potential neural circuitry as we can through exposure and experiences. As a psychologist, I understand all too well that we are quite literally building their brains and these experiences dramatically affect mental capacity and development. Increasing their exposure and experiences allows for more emotionally and psychologically robust minds to navigate life.

Seeing the World Through Your Child’s Eyes…

I was so excited to see the world through my children’s eyes. Anyone who is a parent knows how amazing it is to see things anew by watching your kids experience them for the first time. My kids are all very different and I am always learning and expanding as I watch them move through the world. I couldn’t wait to see my very analytical oldest daughter closely examine different cultures and languages, my quiet and deeply observant middle daughter process a new environment, or my nature-loving youngest watch wide-eyed as he experienced new landscapes.

last look at her childhood home before shutting the door

Keeping an Open Mind and a Connected Heart…

I am a huge proponent of keeping an open mind and heart. At any opportunity, we encourage our children to do the same. Children today have lived through a particularly polarizing time, socially and politically. The pandemic only intensified a sense of separation and disconnect. I always remind them no matter how different we all may seem or how divergent our viewpoints may be, that we all are much more similar than we are different. It is paramount to try to understand people who seem different than us and the importance of seeing a singular humanity beneath it all. However, no matter how much I talked about living within this paradigm, it was all theoretical because we lived in a town with a very homogenous population. I wanted them to encounter the real-world experience of learning from other people and cultures. I wanted them to see people all over the world who were different, but also very much the same. I wanted them to know and live beside individuals from all over the planet and feel like citizens of the world.

If You’re Never Scared, It Means You Never Take Chances…

Lastly – and this is a big one – I feel passionate about cultivating a life that frequently makes one uncomfortable. While it is understandable in many ways to try and keep children from experiencing discomfort or challenges, we have created a world where many families perfectly manicure their children’s lives and keep them from facing hardship. Adversity is at the crux of a lot of meaningful change. It is by confronting challenges that we allow children to develop grit and a belief in themselves that they can do difficult things. We must model for them that we can do hard things as well, push through discomfort and come out on the other side better for it and more resilient to traverse modern life. It would have been much simpler and more predictable to stay in our peaceful and safe bubble. The determination to move abroad was not an easy decision to make and I second-guessed myself constantly. I think if I didn’t analyse or examine the pros and cons it would be negligent and careless. But ultimately, based on careful and thoughtful exploration, coupled with an intuition I knew this was the right path forward for our family.

Off On Our Journey…

As remarkable and enriching as our experience has been, it comes with valuable lessons learned. So if you’re considering a move abroad, please check out some of our other posts for more details on the process of moving and settling abroad. I know that moving can be an enormous and daunting life change to make, but I hope that by sharing our story we can encourage others to make the leap! 

Looking to move abroad, but not sure where to start?  

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