So you think you want to move overseas....


We're just a few days away from our two year anniversary of living here in Finland. (whaaaaa!? I know, time. Woah.)

Ben and I walked to the beach down at the southern shore yesterday, much like we did one day  in May two years ago. Now we have two babies. Now we have new hearts. Now we have a lot more gray hairs. Now Ben has sexy calves from all the walking we do (and I know because he wore shorts because it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit! The Lord be Praised.) It was fun to sit and eat ice cream and reflected a bit on the past two years.

As Eowyn reported "It is such a lovely sunny day!" And it was. Elias got to experience the sea all by himself (he was terrified getting his feet wet. haha.) I got to laugh at them both. We walked away feeling all sorts of thankful and feeling a bit like we've arrived. There are times, I think, when you get to experience the images you put in your head. I envisioned this very scenario for a long time. No babies crying, just resting together. It was so sweet. It was a treasure.

Nothing I ever say is sufficient to summarize all God has done in my heart over the past two years. This experience of living overseas can best be described as a brutal blessing. Living here has ripped open my heart and I've bled. It's also allowed me to taste the sweetness of vulnerable community, genuine friendships like no other,  and a marriage that has gotten to withstand the fiercest storms. There's a whole lot of humility I carry when people ask me about our time here. In some ways, I feel like I've got a limp from it all. If I'm honest. I don't know if it's just me, or if I wasn't quite cut out for it, but man this season we're in has perpetually tested me. While now I don't really feel like we 'live abroad,' I do feel the distance. The reality that Helsinki is in my heart and is my home is testament to grace. I don't think I'd claim to be a person very good at being an expat but I got paired with some of the greatest people to journey through this with. Because of them, this doesn't feel like living overseas. It feels like home.

All that to say,  If I were asked to talk about this whole living away from our passport country business, I think the stuff below is what would come up. In some sort of order these are the bits that get highlighted every time Ben or I find ourselves in this conversation...

So you're thinking of moving abroad? Here's what we'd say:

1. If it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do. 

We have a cool story about coming to Finland where God's hand really seems obvious to us. In the darker days of living here, I clung to the reality that we really genuinely felt called to move here. There's not a bit of a question in my mind that this was exactly what God had for us. Although, sometimes, I ached with that reality. Moving here has been the very best thing we could have possibly done. Because of that, I love that we moved abroad.

When questioning moving abroad, I'd probably ask you why. If you feel you're going towards something genuine, and you feel that pull consistently and not just in a season of discontentment, I'd really encourage it. If you're running away from something? Just pause. Look into it deeper.

But if its the right thing to do. No matter how it turns out, no matter if you 'succeed' according to what you picture or not,  it was the right thing to do. Based on the information you had at the time to make the decision, you can make the right one.

 Walk Forward Boldly. Even if you fail, fail boldly.

2. The idea of moving abroad is sexy, just like the idea of backpacking or vacation. Moving abroad is anything but sexy. Don't confuse the two.

I sometimes want to shake my friends when they comment or post on FB about how much they want to move abroad. When acquaintances talk to me how much of an 'adventure!' it must be to get to live overseas. My heart aches a bit. Like, really aches. It is such an adventure. You're right. But be sure you have a good understanding of what adventure is.

For those that just want to get out of one place and look at living in another country as their ticket to the life they crave. First, I'd suggest a vacation. Seriously. You probably desperately need it. Second, I guess I can't guarantee it isn't your golden ticket, but I've learned a few things regarding moving:

1. your vibe attracts your tribe.
2. Your problems follow you where ever you go
3. Any issue you had pre-moving will be present in this country,  but you won't have the resources you had before (unless you're a refugee, than the resources are hopefully much better in your host country.)

If you're running from a place, a person, a discontented reality, than another place isn't going to be the welcome arms you crave. Most likely, if I have a terrible time finding community in one place, it isn't any easier moving to a country where I don't speak the language, (and I get to spend a great deal of the first year just trying to get documents in and find my way around.) If I really struggle with insecurities and just crave a fresh new start, moving to a new place won't give me new confidence. I'll have to find my ground on shaky footing. Moving due to loneliness, or any other negative feeling overseas, will not solve those problems.

Your family will benefit greatly from moving abroad for a million reasons, but solve your problems, moving abroad will not do.

3. Every country has things to dislike and to absolutely adore.

I have a lot of opinions on what Americans (and mostly Buzzfeed) thinks of Finland. Mostly, I'd say it's an idealistic perspective, that while perhaps holds some truth, holds only partial truths at best.

Putting all that aside. Finland is such a wonderful place to live. I love love love this country. I love her people. I love our church. I love the sea and I love the way that we've grown accustomed to this life.  While I ache for things from my passport country, I cherish more here.

I can give you the pros and cons of any place we've lived. I'm learning that every city has things to love. Things to own. Things to claim as 'ours.' It's the biggest step in loving a city.

When you first move, you'll be able to list the things you loathe quicker than you can exhale. Change is hard. Lean into the process. Make a deliberate attempt to pursue the things you're passion about. If you love restaurants, find a joint you love. If you love nature, find a place you can't resist. Claim it.

Find things that mean something to you in  your host city. It matters.

4. Picking up and moving to a different country is HARD. You can't just pack a bag or ship a crate and make a move.

  It took the better part of a year to feel like we were catching up and reaching a normal.  We've been swimming in uncertainty and paperwork, and resident permits, and finances and sorting out when to go home to visit for a long time. Ticket prices fluctuate, sorting through when we can leave the country when the new year rolls around, Taxes, etc. It all there.

Be aware that if you hate moving to a new house, moving to a new country is a beast-who doesn't speak your language.  The boxes, the red tape, the legal stuff, the figuring out banking and credit cards, and library cards, and all of it is still there. It's all there, often times with exasperated workers who aren't too pleased you're forcing them to help you.

That being said, don't let hard things scare you. It CAN be done. It will be hard, but you can do this.
The internet is full of expat communities and facebook groups to help you along. You're not all alone in this.

5. The most guaranteed way to be successful when moving abroad is to have proper expectations of what the experience will be.

Everyone says "it's hard, but it's worth it." I have to agree. Obviously.

I sometimes want everyone to move overseas, just so that they can get a bigger perspective, can realize how much they fit the stereotype from their passport country (man, I am american in so many ways.) I think it is empowering to see just how much we really can do (because you can do it. Really, you can.)  I crave for my friends to experience this so they can feel the big feels, and fall in love with a new place and a new people. I want them to be able to cherish their roots.  Get homesick. Just marvel at how great and big and amazing this world is.

When I first moved here, I didn't value any of those things.  I cherish it all so deeply now.

On the flip side, I don't wish the experience on everyone. I wish the lessons for all, but the process is so...exhausting. It can kind of wreck a soul depending on the stage of life. It can be a pretty lonely road. It is a very hard one and for those that are able to stay well till the point they can enjoy it, they do say it's worth it.

I think we've reached the point where we'd say "it's worth it."

I know there are plenty of blog posts out there talking about how incredible it is to move overseas. They're true. Really, really.But here, we like to celebrate in light of all reality. So, if you find yourself feeling a bit in over your head, I'll hold your hand. Remind you that you CAN do it. And that it'll be worth it, if it really is the right decision.

Also, and perhaps my most important piece of advice:  Find and select your favorite baked good of the country and eat until you're practically made of it. That way you can literally take a bit of your host country with you for always. #munkkifordays

I'm thankful. Thankful for the time we have here. Thankful we get to live here. Thankful that, while we have not felt a whole lot of comfortable, we've felt a whole lot of comfort over these past two years.

I hope if you feel the tug on your heart to move overseas, you legitimately consider it. It is such a gift. 

Go in with eyes wide open, and once you're there, keep them half closed. (That's a piece of marriage advice I received, but it works pretty well here too.)

Anything my expat friends like to add? Anything you agree with? Disagree with? I know some people have had zero issues moving abroad and it was the very best thing for them. What made it so smooth?

I'd love to hear.

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