One day I woke up and found myself packing all the worldly belongings I could carry in one or two bags and boarding a plane for England. OK, so maybe it didn’t happen quite that spontaneously, but almost.
In January, 2002 I did indeed board a plane bound for England. I was headed for a job as an early childhood special educator, working with young children with disabilities who were the dependents of military personnel overseas.
Just two short months before, I came across the advertisement for this position while job hunting for my husband. And in less time than it would normally take me to set up a dentist appointment, my husband and I managed to research countries that we might transplant to, notify family, friends and my current employer of our impending departure, put cherished but unnecessary items in storage, sell our home, write our wills, and collect other important documents such as school and medical records for our children.
Never could I have planned for such a huge undertaking. That was the beauty of it. It was unanticipated, unexpected, and life altering. There were certain factors — the possibility of defaulting on our mortgage due to my husband’s unemployment, the unsettling impact of September 11th — which prompted our final decision.
But, honestly, I had rarely made such a spontaneous and risky decision at any point in my life, even under stress. I had always chosen the careful, safe options. I lived at home while attending college, working and saving money. I had traveled some, but never outside of the country (Canada excluded). I had lived in northern New Jersey virtually my whole life. This decision to drop everything and move to a foreign country, sight unseen, was totally out of character for me and my husband.
Sometimes, however, important opportunities blow through our lives. We have the choice to open our umbrella and see where the wind takes us or close it and walk back to where we were yesterday. Fortunately for me and my family we chose to take an unprecedented chance and experience life on the other side of the ocean.
The stories of our life in England, our travels in Europe and the British Isles, and my work experience for the military could fill a book. Some of those stories would be joyous, some would be mundane, and others would be heartbreaking. But, I would not trade any of them. Our time in England was anything but safe and far from within our control. Concepts that challenge my very being. But, we seized an opportunity and we are stronger and happier for it.
My mother had always wanted to travel to Europe when she retired. She worked hard her whole life but never had the luxury of retirement or travel. She battled cancer for seven years and died at age 59. Through the loss of my mother I gained the wisdom of a lifetime – don’t wait, live in another country.
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