Tips on Moving Abroad: How in the World Did I Do It!?
So, I keep getting asked one very specific question, mostly by friends and acquaintances in the United States: how did you actually move abroad? Some have been questioning their own big move (exciting!), and others are just curious about our process. (Who knows - maybe one day, you'll move, too! I certainly didn't know I'd be here in Lithuania a year ago!)
And I'll be honest - I've talked about this before - it was an incredibly overwhelming and daunting process. I mean, we're talking uprooting your whole life to move somewhere you've never even been. I still look back at myself like, "Holy crap, I just did that!?" It really took some discipline, time management, and bravery - and we didn't have long to plan. The Scientist and I knew we were moving out of Texas because of, well, his science (shocking!), but that was the edge of our knowing. I mean, I left a full time job at a company I liked to flip my whole world upside down. Worth it? Yes! Let's get into it!
Stay open to the possibilities. Okay, this may sound like hippie crap, but it truly was the first step. We knew we were probably going somewhere, sure, but had no idea where. So, almost a year before our proposed leave date, we opened ourselves to the possibility of living inside our home country, but also outside of the country, something that really excited the both of us. Our options were limited (ha, yeah right!) to universities and cities my husband was applying to, but that actually meant that our options were wide, wide open. Sometimes, it felt like being on a road trip and seeing towns and cities pass by without ever really getting to know them. Of course, my husband interviewed at places around the world, but eventually, our list whittled down to Lithuania, of all places. The lore goes that a good friend asked us to individually rank the places we'd honed in on, and I selected Vilnius as my top contender. (I'd already started looking into their naturalist culture and knew I may be a good fit.) My husband was surprised, and saw this as a positive sign and motivation to launch ourselves even more deeply into this possibility. Which brought us to the next step...
Create a Master Google Doc for Timelines and Duties. This, before anything else. Do this. This step in and of itself was daunting because I knew it meant creating hyper-detailed checklists and deadlines. (Yaaaay!) I relied on the internet for this one, y'all. I basically researched timelines and then crafted my own to match our needs. It was a novel, and you should probably know I enjoyed the challenge. And remember that binder I mentioned needing for our dog's move overseas? Yep, you're gonna want one for yourself, too. You're gonna need to hit the ground running at least 90 days prior to your move. Are you a fool and don't have 90 days, like us? Well, that Google Doc is really gonna come in handy! Most importantly, you'll need to research and/or compile these things: visa requirements, international driver's licenses (we used AAA!), medical and dental records, planning a moving method, disconnecting utilities, insurance, notifying banks, implementing mail forwarding, how and where to meet people in your new community. The list goes on. This website always pointed us in the right direction.
Selling, Packing, & Donating. Oooh boy, this one was looming. We created a spreadsheet featuring our house's rooms with a Sell, Pack, & Give/Donate column for each, and gave ourselves over to the process. Other columns included: Voltage, Selling Platform, Price, List By Date, Notes, etc. Anything that wouldn't match our shiny new European voltage was either sold or donated - bye, epic toaster oven! Looking back, that Notes column allowed us to curate who we were giving and donating items to. Then, we created a separate Google Doc for items being shipped to Lithuania through Customs. (Box 1, Box 2, Box 3, etc.). It took weeks and some major teamwork to get all of these things labeled, packed, listed, and ready to either move out of the house or store for their fresh new life in Lithuania. I relied heavily on my local Buy Nothing group. My new friend Alison got all of the perks of my beauty subscription boxes, other friends got tea. It was kind of fun to give things to people we cared about. And speaking of those people...
Plan a Goodbye Party. This was a bit hard during a global pandemic with so little time, but hey, we made it work with lots of outdoor space. Let's be honest, by the end of all of this planning, you're gonna be absolutely exhausted. And unfortunately, you most likely won't have time to say goodbye to everyone 1 on 1. Enter: the goodbye party. Ours featured three types to queso from different Austin locations (thanks, Matt!) and lots of good friends. This was exactly the support and bump we needed to move forward with the rest of our journey. Use this time to connect with people you won't get to see for a while - and maybe give away some more items.
Let the Ride Happen. After a certain point, you've checked all the boxes and you're leaving in a day or two. A bit like walking in for a final exam, you just kind of have to let the rest happen and walk in with confidence. We prepared as best we could in the crazy short amount of time we had. Time to move to another country!?
To condense it into a single quote: “I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro
I could honestly provide even more information on Sections 2 and 3, but I don't wanna overwhelm y'all in one post. Rest assured, if you haven't already surmised: it takes a lot of time and energy to move overseas, but it isn't insurmountable. To those of you asking me specifically because you're interested in moving to Europe or elsewhere, keep this in mind! And - reach out to me if you have any more questions via the Contact form or my Instagram @intotheforestsigo. To the rest of you, I hope you've enjoyed getting a glimpse into the crazy tropical storm I experienced before moving to a new country I'm learning more about everyday.
With love from Vilnius! Viso gero, friends.