Monday, March 25, 2013

We're Heading Back to England... And Plan to Stay Awhile

As you may have read, a couple of months ago my husband and I traveled to England without our sons. And while it was a kid-free getaway, it also involved househunting, school touring and attempting to learn to drive on the other side of the road.

Because we're moving to England!

My husband works for a large, Fortune 500 company. And while working for "the man" (as I like to tease him) has its drawbacks, one of the perks was that we might have an opportunity to move internationally for a period of time. We've desired that kind of experience for our family for years. With facilities all over the world, we didn't know where or when something would come our way. And then I got the text that changed our lives back in November when he was there on a routine business trip.

(Please note my husband's calm, matter-of-fact tone, complete with practical details like train ride duration. Then note my tone. It appears I'm having a panic attack. This is us in a nutshell.)

And now here we find ourselves, planning to set off "across the pond" for the next three years.

A little FAQ to sum up the situation:

-Where will you live?
We plan to locate ourselves somewhere around Stamford, a small community about an hour north of London by train in the Lincolnshire area. It's quite charming and famous for being the home of Burghley House (which itself is famous, at least in the U.S., for being where several scenes from the movie Pride and Prejudice were filmed). We may adjust this depending on housing availability when we arrive, but that's our target location.

"The Meadows" area of Stamford
My husband will actually work in Peterborough, a larger city just about 10 minutes away. Many U.S.-based companies have offices in Peterborough, so I've been told there is an active expat organization in the area.

-When do you leave and how long will you be gone?
We hope to move in early June, although the immigration process is unpredictable and there are other hiccups that I'm sure we'll deal with along the way.

It is a three-year commitment. I think this is an ideal length of time: we'll be able to do plenty of traveling, feel settled in our new town and lifestyle, and yet return to the States while our boys are still early in their school years. (And before we start missing our families too much!)

-Will you keep blogging?
Of course! Our travels and adventures are bound to get more exciting and interesting. I hope you'll stick around and keep reading. I'm planning to do some site redesign in the next couple of months, and I'm sure I'll get busy with all the tasks that moving requires. So things may be a bit sporadic around here until we're settled. But Arrows Sent Forth is definitely not going away!

On a professional note, I am longer blogging for Visit Indiana (since my Hoosier travels are temporarily coming to an end). I have also wrapped up some other freelance writing commitments I've established here in the last couple of years.

But fortunately, I've been able to develop a relationship with, the largest website devoted to British culture (which, interestingly enough, is headquartered in northwest Indiana). I'm looking forward to sharing not only travel stories and video there, but also our experience adjusting to the British way of life and becoming a family of expats.

-Will you be on House Hunters International?
I can't tell you how many people have told us to call the show. The pressure of finding a new home over there is plenty, I don't need cameras following me around!

But seriously, my husband and I had the chance to look at several places while we were there. Those exact homes will likely not be available by the time we arrive, but at least we got a sense of our options and price range. Some were adorably charming in a uniquely European way. Others were modern and spacious and very much in keeping with the style of homes you might find here in the States. We would definitely lean toward something with historical character and closer to town so that we might walk as much as possible. But who knows where we'll end up.

Hopefully my husband will go over again to select a place for us prior to the move, or we'll do some temporary housing until we find a long-term home. I'm trying to embrace the unknown (which is difficult for me!)

-And finally, how are you feeling?
A really thoughtful friend asked me this immediately upon hearing the news. To be honest, until she posed the question, I'm not sure I had stopped to take a breath and really think about that.

We are very excited that the international experience we'd always hoped would come our way is in Western Europe, a part of the world we already love and can't wait to share with our sons.

Quite honestly, we're thankful there will be no language barrier beyond debates over whether its a cookie or a biscuit or color vs. colour. I suppose this means it is less exotic... but I've got a 3- and 1-year-old who are fluent in the language of Tantrum, so I'll take easy when given the choice.

We will live 10 minutes from a train station that will get us to King's Cross Station in London in less than an hour. Which will then get us on a train to just about anywhere in Europe. I've already priced flights to various cities and am finding it is far more affordable than flying in the U.S. And we'll be right along a major motorway that runs from the south of England straight up into Scotland. The variety of travel experiences at our fingertips will be pretty amazing.

Letting our kids get acclimated to a new way of life is exciting and (in my opinion) so beneficial. To know what a big world it is and to have their passport stamped at such an early age is incredible. We feel extremely fortunate to be in this position.

But it is bittersweet.

We're beyond sad at the thought of leaving family and friends and significantly impacting the grandkid/grandparent/aunt/uncle/cousin relationships. (And losing their help, which was always available at a moment's notice!) I've never lived more than an hour away from my immediate family. So this will take some getting used to for me. I frankly have trouble even thinking about it.

And while we're really looking forward to giving our kids a great travel portfolio, we had always hoped they'd be a bit older to remember it better. Little Arrow, who turned one in December, may have few memories of this experience. (But if they develop British accents, so help me God, I may never be able to discipline them. The cuteness would just melt me.)

I'm also nervous for Big Arrow. He's a sensitive kid and I'm sure this big change will affect him (mostly positively, no doubt, but the transition will likely be bumpy at times). Children in England start school full-time, all-day at age 4, so we've got him enrolled and he'll begin this fall. That in itself will be a major adjustment for a kid who still regularly naps and is used to spending hours upon hours with his mom. The boy who constantly asks me if he can wear sweatpants to preschool will soon be donning a blazer, trousers, button-down shirt and a tie each morning.

None of this would stop us from embracing this adventure. But I think it's important to acknowledge that making a move like this is not just endless walks down cobblestone streets and as much fish and chips as our hearts desire. It will involve sad goodbyes, major disruptions of our day-to-day routine, and establishing ourselves in a new community.

But it's all part of this experience, for which we are incredibly grateful. We feel ready to take this step.

So pull on your wellies, pour a cup of tea, and follow us on this new journey. Cheers!