Six months ago, we moved out of the house we had lived in for 5 years and hit the road. We had a loosely formed plan to explore France until we settled on a place we wanted to live, and then to return to Canada to apply for the appropriate visas that would allow us to stay in France for a year.
The planning phase for this adventure started long before we actually moved out of our home, and has been a long and sometimes frustrating experience. When I tell people what we're doing, I sometimes get the impression that when I say "We packed everything up and left" that people think it literally happened overnight. The reality is that it was months in the making.
We started seriously discussing moving in April 2014, when I had to decide whether to return to my teaching job after being on a childcare leave with my youngest. After deciding that I did not want to return to teaching right away, we started discussing what we really wanted to do with our lives. We returned again and again to the idea of moving overseas to travel, but were reluctant to let go of our house and pack up our possessions. We talked for almost two months before putting our house on the market it June. It took just over a month to sell, with a closing date 45 days after that.
In the meantime, we started packing up our belongings. Things we couldn't sell but didn't want to store were donated or thrown away. We rented a storage space and put our large furniture, books, small appliances, and memories away for the year. We bought tickets for six weeks in France, and then narrowed our luggage down to two suitcases, a stroller, and car seats.
Traveling through the south of France was incredible. We rented a car, and took our time exploring Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Montpellier, Lyon, some of the wine regions around Narbonne and Beziers, and Toulouse. We also visited some of my relatives in Italy before returning to Canada.
We had to postpone the visa appointment when my father-in-law became unexpectedly ill and we made a detour to spend some time with him in El Salvador. It gave us the opportunity to also celebrate my sister-in-law's wedding. Then it was back to Canada for the visas and to spend the holidays with my family.
With tickets booked for Toulouse, my husband received a phone call right before Christmas with a job opportunity in Paris, so we scrambled to change our New Year's Eve tickets on short notice to add a connection to Paris. And now here we are. A month into our stay in Paris, we are just getting settled, with a long-term apartment rental hopefully being finalized in the coming days, my husband's job set to start sometime at the beginning of March, and all the other paperwork slowly getting finished.
It all sounds a bit crazy when I read it back to myself, but the truth is that I've never been happier. My kids have grown by leaps and bounds. My relationship with them is closer than ever, and my husband and I have had time to just be together with the kids as a family for the first time in a long time. I don't miss my house or my stuff. I miss my family and my friends, but technology has made it easier than ever to stay in touch.
I will admit that I am ready to settle into our own apartment. I want the kids to have their own space and to get enrolled in school and start becoming a part of the community. I'm looking forward to having more time to write and to start making my own friends here. But I'm also excited about the travel opportunities that living in Europe offer. So many countries are just a short plane or train ride away.
For tonight, I'll be raising a toast with my family to having the courage to make a drastic change in our lives and pursue a dream, regardless of how crazy it may sound to others. Bring on the Champagne!