How I moved across the world with my toddler: Home is a feeling, not a place

The day I found out I would be moving from Texas to Germany my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach and I cried. Happy tears, nervous tears, all of it just came streaming down my face. My husband was serving his country overseas and mentally I knew that if I wanted to be with him, the person I loved I had to make this move. Emotionally I didn’t know how on Earth I could handle it. Then I thought about my sweet Madie. How was she going to take this? How could I rip her from her grandparents and the place she was born and move her to a foreign place? I laid in bed thinking the entire night. Then I just knew. I knew that if I didn’t go that I would regret it for the rest of my life. The next day I grabbed every brown box I could find. Those torn up boxes on the side of Walmart, the ones that were wet from the rain in my apartment complex, and any other random box I could get my hands on.

moving boxes

I found any box I could and shoved it in the corner of my small bedroom until I got the courage to start organizing and packing.

Finally, I began shoving these boxes full. The toys, clothes, and kitchen appliances never seemed to end. Here are some tips for packing on a budget and in a hurry.

  1. LABEL EVERYTHING. I don’t care if it’s freaking underwear. Label that thing. When you see that box again it will be covered in tape and a faded memory. Labeling makes everything so much easier when you try to unpack those forgotten boxes. Grab a sharpie and get to writing.
  2. Use this time to declutter. You’re on to a new chapter. If you haven’t used that old coffee pot in six months….if you haven’t worn that shirt since 8th grade….whatever it is, just toss it!! Chances are by the time you get to your new location and you are finally unpacking you won’t even remember those items.
  3. Don’t pack anything of value in a torn up brown box no matter how much tape you have. That one box with your priceless rings and necklaces will end up at the bottom of the ocean. Take those special items with you, keep them close to you. Perhaps they will bring you comfort in this hectic move anyway.

Letting my toddler help… This is clearly what not to do. A more effective way to pack your bags so that everything will fit and you won’t have wrinkled clothes when you get there is to roll you clothes up very tightly and pack them close together. We eventually got all of this to fit believe it or not! 🙂

moving

As soon as the boxes were packed we were on to a new life. A new world from everything we knew as home and comfort. I mean how bad could it be? We were going to be with someone who would love us and support us no matter what. That is what I kept remembering during every long goodbye.

moving to germany

Saying “see you later” to my mom and Madie’s Mimi was definitely the hardest moment because that is the moment we stepped on to the plane and it all became real.

There were a few things that I didn’t pack to make the transition easier for both myself and my 18 month old. Here are some things to take in your checked luggage on the plane so you have easy access to them when you get where you’re going.

  1. Seasonal clothes. Whether it’s 90 degrees or 20 degrees where you’re going make sure you check the weather and pack the right attire. I can attest to this because coming to Germany without my rain boots was a big mistake. We live and we learn.
  2. Your personal pillow and blanket. There is nothing better than getting to a new place and being able to snuggle up and feel like you’re in your own bed again. These things will bring comfort and you won’t have to purchase new ones on a tight budget.
  3. Electronics. The best way to entertain a child on a plane is having games and movies on an iPad or tablet. Depending on the length of your flight you may want to purchase a portable charger. It was the greatest blessing for us because during the 12 hour flight we didn’t have to worry about the iPad dying.
  4. Pictures of family members. This really helped my daughter. I stuck a few photos in my carry on bag of grandparents, friends, and loved ones so that when she had a break down for Mimi or Papaw she could hold the photos and remember them and how much they love her.
  5. Snacks! Whether or not the flight serves meals, having your own favorite chocolate or bag of chips is so necessary. Flights get delayed and things happen so make sure you have something to snack on.

Later….

We finally arrived in Germany with just each other and a few suitcases. No furniture, no pots and pans, no boxes of toys. As hard as it was, at that point we were just thrilled to have finally conquered the journey and be on to a new adventure.

We settled in well. Josh took us to castles, bakeries, and anything else we could think of to do to keep our minds off the move. As emotionally drained as I was, I just wanted to stay busy to keep from breaking down and sobbing my eyes out crying like a baby for my mom. I didn’t have to be strong for just myself this time. I had an 18 month old toddler that was constantly watching me, repeating my every move, and expecting me to support her and carry her through this move. I did absolutely that.

My advice…when you get where you’re going, stay busy. Find something you’re passionate about and do it. Explore your new culture, learn the lifestyle, take advantage of it all. You gave up everything for a reason. Use that reason to make the most of it.

2015-07-31-15-16-51Traveling Germany our first week there reunited with Josh. Staying busy exploring!

Fast forward…

6 months later our beat up old boxes from the side of Hebron finally showed up. Thank goodness because it was now the dead of winter in Germany and we didn’t have any winter clothes. Thankfully it was a BREEZE to unpack those boxes because they were all perfectly labeled and organized. We took each box one by one and put them in the room it was supposed to be unpacked in.

I made sure to unpack my little girl’s room first because when she saw her toys and clothes she hadn’t worn in months I saw a smile on her face and a glow in her eyes that I hadn’t seen in a long time. She was thrilled and it brought her so much comfort to see a piece of home arrive at her new house. Within just a few days all of the boxes were unpacked and it felt like Christmas. It was the best feeling in the world to see all of our old things and unpack those dingy boxes just to see what was inside. I was finding things and seeing things that I hadn’t seen or thought about in six months. It was the most rewarding feeling after a hard six months and a long move across the globe. The thing is, I wouldn’t change any of it!

Live for yourself. Do things now before you regret them later. Take the time to see and do what you want. Why are you wasting this one life you are given at the same job, in the same house, on the same street you grew up in? I get it. It’s home. What I’ve learned is that anywhere can be home.

Home is a feeling, not a place.

Happy traveling!!

 

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