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Why Would You Give Up Everything and Move to Europe? Why Not?

Submitted by Bethany on Wed, 08/15/2018 - 10:00

For almost as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of living abroad. My mom always had the travel bug, and she instilled it in me at a young age. The fever really hit when I was in junior high and I went on three school trips to Europe (and my mom went as a chaperone!). Most people do a study abroad when they are in college, but I went through school so fast I never took the time (undergrad in three years, then straight to grad school for another three years).

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By the time I graduated with my Master's of Divinity I had student loans hanging over my head and it was time to get a real job. I spent a year living at my parents and working as a hospital chaplain resident (not a well paying job but pretty 'real' nonetheless). After that I got my first real church job, which included a parsonage all my own, and I finally felt like I was an adult! My dream of travel and living abroad seemed like a distant memory. 

Then along came Joel. We met online (thanks, OK Cupid!), fell in love and got married. We also dreamed of living abroad together. We both love to travel, though my privilege has allowed me to do more of it, and in the early years of our relationship we did travel quite a bit. But then we kept doing those "adulting" things people encourage you to do. Joel graduated with his master's degree and started looking for a grown up job. I was ready to leave the church I had been at for four years and started looking for a chaplain job.

We both found jobs we were excited about in Fort Dodge, Iowa so we packed up and moved there. Before we knew it we had bought a second new car, bought a house, and then filled that house with furniture. We were plugging along, doing the thing that most grown up Americans do. Get up and get ready for work, go to work, come home for dinner, watch some TV, go to sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. Somewhere around my 30th birthday I looked at where we were in life and realized that we could do exactly what we were doing for the next 40 years until we retired. Ack! How boring! 

Look, I get it, throw in a couple kids and this is exactly what most people do with their lives. But I was raised to believe that I could be anything, do anything I wanted (*insert joke about millennials here*) and I wanted something different. I loved my job, I really did, but the thought of doing the same thing over and over for the rest of my life, with only two weeks off a year, well, I just couldn't do it. Throw in the fact that I never really got a real weekend (working every Sunday morning) and it made it even harder - you miss out on so many life events when you work weekends (weddings, baptisms, confirmations, even just a weekend getaway is impossible, and forget about ever enjoying a three day weekend) and it was just too much. 

So Joel and I went started dreaming about what "different" could be. We had talked off and on over the years about selling everything we own and moving abroad but now we started to talk like it could be a reality. It took a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, and there are definitely things we would go back and change if we could. But I wouldn't change anything about the adventure we are on now. 

When we finally started telling people outside of our inner circle what we were planning to do (about May of this year) we tended to get one of two reactions:
     1. Are you crazy?!?
     2. Can I come with you? 

Our answers tended to be:
     1. Yes, probably.
     2. No, but you can follow along on our blog! 

The most interesting encounter I had was with someone from my past. We ran into each other and she asked me about the rumors she had heard about what we were planning to do, and I confirmed that yes we are selling everything we own and planning to go live in Europe in other peoples houses for an indeterminate amount of time. Her response was option 1, and then - WHY? (In a tone that said 'I think you are stupid for even considering this'). I simply responded that this was our dream, and we were going for it. Her next response made me really sad, both for her, and for anyone else who thinks like she does.

"Well you know most people never live out their dreams and no one ever died because of it. So why do you think you need to do it?" 

In part, I suppose, it is the truth. So many people never live out their dreams, and they live on anyway. We acknowledge that it is in large part because of our privilege that we are able to follow this dream (white, middle class, well-educated, no kids, etc.). And yet, what would the world be like if more people did follow their dreams? And what's more, I didn't want to live a life where I didn't at least give it a shot. 

I shrugged and said to her:

"Why not?" 

The conversation kind of came to a halt there, and I needed to be on my way so we left it at that. But I keep coming back to this conversation, to her dour look on life, and it always gives me pause. I wonder what dreams she gave up on at some point in her life. I wonder what her dreams would be if she gave herself permission to follow them, even now. 

One of my dreams with this blog is to inspire others to live out their own dreams. Whatever it is you want to do with your life, you can go for it! At least give it a shot! In the end, things may not work out. They might not work out for us long term, but we have back up plans, and for now we are really enjoying the journey. You might crash, you might fail spectacularly, but in the end I think it would still be worth it. 

Why not? I'm sure you have a million reasons why not - the kids, the bills, the obligations, the everything. But what would happen if you let that small voice inside you that whispers your dreams speak a little louder. What if you listen to it just a little bit more? Your dream might not be quite as drastic as ours - in all likelihood you can stay where you are, keep your possessions and start living out your dream from there. Maybe you already are living your dream life! Everyone's dreams look different, but the important thing is that we all pursue our own and encourage others with theirs.

So I encourage you to go for it. Whatever it is you have been dreaming about, wake up tomorrow and take one small step towards it. Heck, don't wait for tomorrow, get started today! Then come back here and tell me all about it! I want to hear about the dreams you want to make reality! 

And when someone asks you "Why?" ... just shrug and say, "Why not?" 

XOXO, Bethany