Expat Life

Making the Decision to Move Overseas

A common response when people find out we’re moving to London is to ask “Why?” Sometimes that question is asking us what’s taking us abroad, in which case our response would be work. But other times, why implies, “Why would you leave when your life here is so great?” It’s always a little disconcerting when someone asks me that, and sometimes I want to respond with, “Well, why not?” and turn on my heels and walk away. But instead of being offended, I try to explain as best I can why we’re making the decision to move overseas.

My response would date all the way back to 1999 when I left Singapore after living there as an expat for three years. Ever since that day, I’ve wanted another opportunity to live abroad – to travel to as many countries as possible and immerse myself in each of their unique cultures. This was so important to me that before we were married I discussed it with Cory, making sure that we were both on the same page and that whatever jobs we took would allow for the possibility of foreign exchanges in the near future.

A few years after we were married, reality set in. I was still in college and Cory was working 90-hour weeks just to keep his job. Lexie was very young, too, and fitting in a move overseas at that time just wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead we moved to Florida – a small enough move that it didn’t require a complete life overhaul, but a big enough change that my wandering spirit was appeased, for a little while.

Sure enough, within three years I was ready to move again, and so we came back to Tennessee to try farm life for awhile. We liked it so much that when an opportunity to move to Hong Kong came around last March, we declined it. At the time, I reconciled that decision in my mind as one we made because we were content and felt settled here. But the more I thought about it, I realized it was more about settl-ing than being settled. It was easy to stay here, and hard to move. My wanderlust was slowly being consumed by the comfort of routine and familiarity.

After our trip to India a few months after we were offered the move to Hong Kong, I realized we were at a crossroads, a point in our lives where we could go one of two ways and whatever choice we made would influence everything else to come. I knew if we stayed here much longer, we would probably never leave. But if we left, we’d likely never get what we have now back either. These thoughts consumed me until one Sunday morning in church I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time for us to go. We hadn’t even been served our chips and salsa at lunch that afternoon before I’d blurted out to Cory that it was time to make good on that promise we made to each other to never lose our sense of adventure. In less than an hour, over some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, and with Lexie’s input, we decided we were ready to tackle living abroad.

It took me three weeks to choose a paint color for our living room, but only a couple hours to decide I was ready to live on another continent. Funny how some of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make are often the easiest. We gave ourselves a week, just in case any of us changed our minds, and then Cory let his boss know that we were open to any and all overseas opportunities. Then the waiting game we’d play for the next eight months began, but that’s a story for another day.

So when people ask me why I’d leave a perfectly good life for the unknown, I just smile and tell them I’m an explorer, and explorers never leave a perfectly good life – they take it with them.

Making The Decision To Move Overseas

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
I don’t much care where –
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.
– so long as I get somewhere.

Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland

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  • Charmaine Y
    June 3, 2017 at 8:00 AM

    This is so beautiful Sarah! I love reading about HOW people move abroad because that’s something I am constantly trying to do! Even though it has its challenges, moving around teaches us the biggest lesson in life – how to be adaptable and how to grow from it. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 4, 2017 at 4:14 AM

      Thank you! You are absolutely right about it being one of the best ways to learn to be adaptable. I learned a whole lot from living overseas as a kid and it has been a pleasure to be able to watch my own daughter learn and grow in the same way!

  • Kerry
    March 31, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    Gosh Sarah Kate you write the most beautiful posts!! I love reading your words and I really loved reading why you guys have chosen to move overseas. Good for you for having the courage and desire to seek and explore!! Now I need to figure out why I am missing your posts when they come in??

  • Shelby
    March 16, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Sarah!! It’s been a while since I’ve caught up with your blog. You’re living in London?! Oh my gosh! I can’t wait to read about your adventures!:)

  • Macey
    March 16, 2013 at 4:40 AM

    OMAGOSH!!! Love that last part…they never leave a good life, they take it with them!! :)
    You have to eat some digestives when you’re there. And have tea.

  • Nicole
    March 16, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    That it totally you-to take 3 weeks to pick a paint color, and one hour to want to up and move your life! I also love that you listened to Lexie’s input :) I can’t wait to read about her life one day, about how she’s gotten the travel bug from her parents, and wants to travel the world! It’s an amazing thing you’re teaching her :)

  • Emmymom
    March 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

    That is so awesome, so awesome that you are both on the same page and feel the same way about it. I think I could totally do London as there wouldn’t be the language barrier, though it would be cool when my kids are young for them to really learn another language.

    While we haven’t moved overseas, we move about every 2 1/2 years because of my husband’s job and so totally understand that itch. Even when I am perfectly happy in a place you can’t help but get it and be ready for something new. Though Lucas recently told me he hopes we never move again as he loves his school so much, so my heart is settling a bit more too.

  • Jo
    March 16, 2013 at 3:24 AM

    I’m so excited for you and your new adventure. Having done the whole moving abroad thing ourselves I can tell you that it is what you make of it. Yes, you will miss home. Yes, you’ll have days when you want to just pack up and go back But …. and there always is a but, there is so much to see and experience and it’s great for kids to see how other people live.

    Plus, you’ll be close enough for a visit

  • Connie Weiss
    March 16, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    I find this so interesting.

    There is something to be said for putting down roots, and I believe that my husband’s roots are down and spread across the street and have wrapped themselves around some sewer pipe. I know he’s not adventurous and I can’t change that about him. I’m not even sure I’ll ever get him to leave the country on vacation, much less for work and to live!

    I find other cultures so fascinating, I’d move to another country in a heartbeat…I mean come on, I moved to Utah once didn’t I?

    I’m so looking forward to seeing London through your eyes.

  • Erin P
    March 15, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    I love your exploring spirit! I would jump on an opportunity like that in a heartbeat. I can’t wait to read all about your other country adventures – PLEASE have lots of them since I most likely won’t be traveling overseas for awhile!

  • Stacie Stamper
    March 15, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Love your outlook!

  • Mrs. Match
    March 15, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I love the way you describe why you’re leaving. It’s much better than just saying, because of work. I personally don’t share the travel bug, but I respect those that do, and I will gladly follow along and “travel” with you through this blog.:-)

  • Marie
    March 15, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Sarah I love this post, you explained yourself perfectly and I feel I know you more personally now as well.

    I totally understand that decision making process too. I am really decisive so whether it’s what to eat for lunch or where to live, I just need a few minutes :)