Life is full of challenges. Some stay with you while others are more ephemeral; starting a new life abroad is certainly the former. Moving overseas was the most challenging decision I have ever made. When David and I first met, one of the first things he mentioned was his goal to set up a chiropractic business in the Netherlands. As our relationship got more serious, he asked me to go with him. How often do you meet someone who offers you a chance for an adventure? It was too good of an opportunity to refuse!
David’s main reason for choosing the Netherlands had to do with his sister, Robyn. The two of them have always been close. She has had an interesting and exciting life so far. At seventeen years old, she left her home in Colorado, boarded a plane to Paris, and began a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she met several interesting people and traveled to many different countries in and around Europe. Eventually she settled in Amsterdam where she met her future husband Julian, a Polish native who came to live in the Netherlands at a very young age with his family. Robyn worked odd jobs while studying to become certified in massage therapy. She first entertained David with the idea of starting a family chiropractic and massage therapy business together.
There were mixed feelings of excitement, surprise, and sadness among our family and friends. Some of them did not believe we would actually go through with it until we bought our tickets. It was at that moment that the realization of our decision really hit us.
Preparing to Move
- Ah visas! Immigration is a complex and overwhelming process. Be sure to research the various methods and requirements to successfully immigrate abroad. Try to make as many arrangements as possible before you move. Robyn and Julian played a crucial role in calling the immigration organization and explaining our individual situations. They found out which application forms and personal documents were needed, and even scheduled an appointment soon after arriving. Be sure to bring copies of personal documents such as your passport, birth certificate, education degrees, and transcripts.
- If you have a job set up before you go, wonderful! Immigration will be easy, and your employer will most likely take care of all of the permits. If not, budget accordingly, and be sure to bring some currency to live off of in case the job hunt takes longer than expected.
- If you are planning to move to a foreign country, where you do not speak the native language, it is a good idea tolearn some basic words and phrases that areused in daily conversation. I spent just over a year practicing audio lessons during my daily commute. The majority of Dutch people in large cities speak English very well, but not everyone does. Be prepared for these instances to arise now and then. It is part of the experience!
- Shipping our belongings abroad was another issue. The cheapest way to transport everything was through the airline. It was expensive and cost a few hundred dollars for the twelve boxes and suitcases we had between the two of us. However, it saved us from having to pay several times more to have it shipped overseas via cargo ship.
- How do you go about packing up your whole life to move overseas? You have two options: ship it or sell it. We had not collected much furniture or household items of much value. If possible, sell as many items as you can and donate the rest to charity. Then, focus on packing the items you cannot live without. These items included our bicycles, computers, and photos. Remember, you can buy clothes when you arrive! A quick word of advice: do not leave this task until last minute. You always have more stuff than you realize, and the added stress and anxiety of having to get rid of any remaining items is the last thing you need. The climate is another important factor to take into account when packing clothes. One thing that we did not factor in was the wind. Leather jackets work wonders for wind protection.
The Journey Begins
The last few weeks before the move were some of the hardest and most stressful. Leaving the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon, the friends we made, and a great job with wonderful co-workers,was bittersweet.Take the time to say goodbye to your loved ones. There will be many emotional moments leading up to the move, but that is normal. You may become sad, mad, excited, and confused. It is all part of the process of not knowing whether or not you will find what you are looking for.
As Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Moving abroad is no easy task. If it was, more people would do it. Life is about pushing your limits and venturing beyond your comfort zone. Take a chance! For all you know, it could be the best decision you ever make.