One summer weekend in 2020, we were backpacking with Phoebe (our pandemic puppy) when we got an early morning call. Who could it be at this hour?
Ralph glanced at his cell phone and we both immediately noticed that the call was coming from abroad. Could this be the call we were waiting for?
Moving overseas had been a dream of ours for so long. We met in Maryland, and got married shortly after moving to Hawaii. Six years later, we were off to the San Francisco Bay Area so I could follow my dream of attending Stanford. And then, our next move was to Offutt Air Force Base just south of Omaha, Nebraska. We joked that we were slowly moving east, and eventually we were bound to get to Europe…right?!
So when we saw that +49 country code, our anticipation was through the roof. Sure enough, it was the selection official calling to inform Ralph that he’d been picked for a role in Stuttgart, Germany! We spent the rest of the morning dreaming about all the new experiences to come.
Breaking the news…
The next big decision was how and when to tell the kids. Our twin boys were 15 years old at the time, and we’d kept them in the loop with the various locations where Ralph had applied for an assignment. Since it was a preliminary notification, we were cautious about sharing before it was a done deal. What if something happened and we weren’t going to Germany after all?
In the end, we couldn’t hold back…so we told them as soon as we walked in the door. I know some parents dread revealing that a big life change is afoot, especially for kids who are in high school. Luckily, our boys were pretty excited about the possibilities. For context, we’d only been in Nebraska about 18 months before the pandemic hit and schools shut down. While they valued the fledgling relationships they’d developed, it wasn’t devastating the way it might have been had they been with the same classmates for years.
Then, we told close family and friends but waited a few more months to make the news “Facebook official.” Once that cat’s out of the bag, you can’t get it back!
Planning for the move…
With almost a year to prepare for the move, we started outlining what to do and when. Now that we’re just a few days from heading out, it’s clear that there were three main stages that lasted about 4 months each based on our timeline. Honestly, it’s a lot like the stages you go through when you discover you’re pregnant with your first kid:
- The Dreaming Stage – Yup, it’s just like it sounds. This is where you are excited to share the update with people and start exploring what’s in store. For example, I bought a couple of travel books and found a few cool blogs about others who’d done a similar move. We also made a list of our top destinations to visit and reached out to friends who were already living there.
- The Practical Stage – At this point, you’ve learned just enough to know that some big adjustments are in order. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but my strategy was to break it down into smaller actions to make it a “cinch-by-the-inch” as my 9th grade English teacher would say. My biggest focus during this time was preparing us to live in a smaller house with no closets. I scoured the real estate markets to get a sense of what to expect, which created a palpable sense of urgency. What did we absolutely need? What could we part with? I also used this time to organize all of our closets so that the load would be more manageable once we moved (I should mention that this probably only happened because we were thick into the pandemic and I had run out of other things to do in the dead of Nebraska winter). Other considerations were getting acquainted with the language and culture. Our boys started learning German on DuoLingo, and since I’m old school, I committed to taking intensive German classes upon arrival.
- The “It’s Getting Real” Stage – This is where the move is quickly approaching and things start happening FAST. Once Ralph got his orders, it was time to schedule our multiple pack outs (unaccompanied baggage, storage, and household goods shipments). We also needed to get official passports and book our flights. Other big things included putting our house up for sale, figuring out how we’d transport Phoebe, digging into the details of bank accounts, and porting our cell phone numbers over (gotta keep some US digits for 2FA!).
That’s it in a nutshell! Overall, things have gone relatively smoothly on this end. I like to think it’s because we finally know how to effectively divide and conquer this enormous to-do list based on our strengths.
Itching for a deeper dive? No worries. More to come on all of these topics!