I’m Emily, a stay-at-home mom of two little boys, and one of the least likely people you’d ever expect to decide to live abroad with her family.
I am a homebody — I have never been much of a traveler. Before moving to Vienna, Austria in April of 2011, we lived within an hour’s drive of every member of my extensive immediate family, and I liked it that way. My mom came over to visit us once or twice a week, and many of my closest friends were people I’d known since I was a child. I had never lived more than a few hours away from the DC area. After our first child was born, I would cringe at the thought of driving an hour to see my parents (our oldest did not like riding in the car) and I put off travelling with him by air as long as I could — it seemed so daunting. There were days where putting him in the car and driving to the mall seemed like “too much”, and I’d just stay home. I always liked to have everything in my life structured and ordered — we had a strict feeding/nap schedule, I liked to have all of my “stuff” with me (just in case) and I would rarely do things outside of my comfort zone (i.e., situations I was pretty sure I could control or at least predict).
In the spring of 2009, when we had just one child, my husband, Dan, was offered the chance to move to Austria for a new job. It was my overwhelming natural instinct to say no, but since I’d stopped working when our first child was born, money was a little tight, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least investigate this opportunity and find out what they could offer. The process of applying, being accepted and negotiating this job opportunity took almost 2 years, during which time we had our second child. During that time, it seemed like an opportunity that was never actually going to happen. Because it seemed more fantasy than reality, I allowed myself to dream of the things we’d do if we moved abroad, the adventures we would take, the fun places we’d go and the amazingly different perspective we would all get from the experience. Also, during that time, Dan traveled back and forth to Austria frequently for work, and I decided to join him on one trip (for a total of 4 days, including travel back and forth) to see if Vienna was a place I could even imagine myself living: it was; I loved it.
When the offer finally came through, we had spent so much time dreaming about going that we actually decided to do it. Before deciding to move our entire family to Europe, I had left the US a total of 3 times in my entire life, and then ENTIRE time of my travel abroad, if you added it all up, totalled less than 1 week. I knew not a single word of German, neither did my husband. At the time that we made the decision to move, our kids were 2 years old and 3 months old. We arrived here with seven suitcases, an 11 year old dog and two small kids . . . and absolutely no idea of what we were doing.
I had no concept of the adventure we were in for: what we would learn, what we would experience, the challenges, the victories, the shift in how I parent, the way I would learn to be flexible and to be kinder to myself. ”A Mommy Abroad” is many things: a recounting of our adventures, plus advice, lessons learned and suggestions for anyone traveling or living abroad with young children – although my original intention (and still my main purpose) is to record our experience, as best I can, in order to share it with our friends and family at home. I also hope that it will help us reminisce and remember the details of this adventure in the future. In order to keep the story as honest as possible, I made a committment to record something every single day of our two year stay here – I was afraid that if I only wrote when it was easy, I’d only write about the good things. (When our stay was extended beyond that, I relaxed this self-imposed requirement for the sake of my sanity, but I do still write a lot, with the goal of capturing the good and the bad.)
We are having a truly amazing adventure. We have been delighted to discover that travel with children, even little ones, is not only possible, it can be fantastic. It takes more preparation, much more flexibility and acceptance that you’ll see and do things differently from a “normal” tourist (which can actually be wonderful — we have gotten to see and experience things most travellers miss). This is our journey of seeing the world, sharing wonderful experiences with our kids and changing our perception of what is possible and what life can include.