In March 2010 my husband I moved to England. We had visited a few times and marveled at the history, the cobblestone streets, the cozy country pubs, the rolling hills, the cheap cheese, and the lack of vegetables.
One sunny day while walking hand-in-hand through the countryside I just said it: “We should move here.” The husband nodded, and then I nodded.
And so, like a snowball that starts rolling down a hill, and quickly turns into an avalanche… our plans progressed. I applied to graduate schools, the husband asked for a transfer with work. We looked into Visas and then found out my husband’s Swiss passport was all we needed. We quit our jobs, gave away our furniture, sold our car, bought one-way plane tickets, and prepared to move 7577 kilometers (4700 miles) to the other side of the world.
One afternoon the husband and I were discussing our future plans excitedly, and then he said, “And if we don’t like it, we can just move back.” I hadn’t even considered the fact that I might not like it. He went on, “You just say the word, and we’ll move back. And if I want to move back, I’ll tell you.” I remember nodding my head, but I didn’t mean it.
I remember the morning of the flight. We had stayed over at my sister’s house the night before. I was making a last ditch attempt to stuff all of our remaining possessions into four jam-packed suitcases and get them zipped up.
A little voice piped up: “Why do you have to go? I looked over at my niece. She was four, but she was smart, so she had figured out what was going on. I had given her a globe and showed her where she lived and where we were moving… the other side of the water. I felt the tears coming and I hugged her, because I didn’t have a good answer.
We didn’t have to go. We could just let the plane leave without us, unpack our suitcases, ask for our jobs back, rent an apartment, buy another car, and swing by the Salvation Army to see if our TV had been sold.
But we went. We drove to the airport, we said teary good-byes, we checked-in, we went through security, we boarded the plane, we watched a few movies, and nine and a half hours later we arrived at London Heathrow. We walked up to border control, the husband flashed his Swiss passport, and we were waved through.
We had moved to England.
After the initial excitement had faded, we realized that moving our lives to England was not so easy. We found it hard to make friends. I found it hard to find employment. We found it hard to be away from our friends and family, and miss out on important life events. I found it hard to be alone, so often.
In that first year I wanted to just say the “word”, to my husband almost every day. I wanted to tell him that I was done with trying to make friends, done with trying to find a job, done with trying to figure out how England works, and trying to make it work.
One evening the husband and I were flipping channels and came across Into the Wild. I was familiar with the movie (as my heartthrob Eddie Vedder was responsible for the amazing soundtrack), but I had put off watching it as I knew I would have an emotional response. But instead of changing the channel, we watched.
Into the Wild is the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who gave away his life possessions and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wild. In the movie, he hikes though the wilderness, crosses a small stream, and then sets up camp in an abandoned bus. Initially, he loves the isolation and the nature around him. A few months later, life becomes more challenging for McCandless. He seeks to return home, but finds that the small stream he crossed months earlier is now too wide and too deep to cross, and that he is unable to go back.
I realized that Into the Wild was a metaphor for my life. In March 2010, I had crossed what I thought was a small stream, looking to fulfill ambitions in my life and to have an adventure. And just a few months later I found the stream (the Atlantic Ocean, in my case) to be insurmountable.
It was a tough first few months, but eventually I stopped thinking about just saying the “word”, and I actually started to enjoy the adventure. We settled in, we made friends, the husband got a promotion, I completed my Masters degree, and we spent many weeks and weekends traveling around Europe.
Nearly three years later (33 months, 143 weeks, 1004 days, 24106 hours), the husband was offered a job in California. It wasn’t home, but it was close enough. So I quit my job, we gave away our furniture, bought one-way plane tickets, said good-bye to our friends, and prepared to move 8750 kilometers (5400 miles) back to the other side of the world… for another adventure.
The stream seems much smaller now.