I'm Laura, an American mom living in England since 2010.
Thank you, Maureen, for inviting me to write for your exciting new blog. It's an honor to have my words sandwiched between so many fantastic posts. Today I'm writing about what it's like to move internationally with a family.
My husband and I lived abroad when we were single, and we always told our kids we would live in a foreign country one day. We wanted our family to see the world through a different lens. We craved more brain food, more adventure. We knew living abroad would create obstacles, challenges, and personal growth at a level we would not encounter by staying in our hometown.
Knowing that obtaining a work visa is difficult without a corporate sponsor, we were thrilled when my husband's company offered him a transfer to England. Oh, the joy of a well-placed window of opportunity!
Sharing a common language and similar culture, England was probably one of the easiest countries for us to relocate to. But it had its challenges.
We were thrust into a washing machine filled with details, decisions, and emotions.
In England we had to identify a good neighborhood with barely any information, find a rental house within a two day visit, and weed through countless school choices via the internet. These decisions are typically made with deep consideration and friendly advice. Yet we had no one to lean on with local knowledge and not a lot of time to decide.
We signed a lease containing unusual English legal jargon we were unaccustomed to, and we bought a car we were unable to test-drive in advance (because we weren't insured locally yet). But ultimately we made all the right decisions.
And multiple times since, I've found these things tend to work themselves out. Every. Single. Time.
So after a whale of a 'We're Moving' sale, all our house contents were packed into a sea-worthy container on a semi-truck. We had no idea how many months later we would see our stuff on the other side (if at all!).
I loaded that container with about a year's supply of toilet paper, paper towels, sandwich bags, tin foil, toothbrushes, Band-Aids - I wasn't sure how easily I'd be able to find those things here - we are still going through our last rolls of tin foil. I didn't want to attract rats to our container so food, spices, rice heating pads, and even lavender sachets were left behind.
Due to the difference in voltage, things such as light bulbs, kitchen appliances, and most electronics didn't move with us either. Important documents and scrapbooks were placed in hand luggage, as were candles so they wouldn't melt in our sea container traveling mid-summer.
We also transported our dog to England by air. Although there is no longer an animal quarantine in the UK, a 'process' had to get started 6 months before departure with international micro chipping, exams, vaccinations, and lots of paperwork.
Most of our family and friends were excited for us. A few thought we were just crazy. We knew we'd be back to visit, so no need for final goodbyes. It was a 'happy-sad' time filled with risk, uncertainty and excitement.
And then we entered the Land Of The Unknown:
How quickly would the kids settle into a new school and make friends? Would my husband be happy with his new job? Having closed my little clothing company, how would I spend my time? Would we feel safe in our new surroundings? London being one of the most expensive cities in the world, could we afford to have fun? Or even buy a coffee? And how about that left-side driving?! And their health care system?
Of course, I now hold the answer to all these questions - it's all good.
And through it all, we never questioned our decision to take the road less traveled.
For us, it has been the unforgettable, life-changing path we were hoping for and then some!
*all photo's by: Laura*