What it really takes to move your family abroad

So, how do you pack up everything and move to a foreign country?

Warning: This is not a packing list, because moving abroad isn’t about packing, it’s about living. Are you ready?

Shout it from the rooftops

First, you have to have the courage to stand up and tell the world what you want to do. You tell everyone you know that you are moving abroad, you shout it from the rooftops, this makes you accountable. Then you focus on what matters most to you and your family and the why.  Make a list of all those reasons you should do this, then you make a list of what you are afraid of and your concerns, because those are valid thoughts and feeling too. You know, the “What’s the worse that could happen!?” Chances are, the worst that could happen is really not so horrible, life threatening or permanently damaging in anyway, so do not let fear hold you back.

Set a date and take action

Next you set a date and take action, because no one is going to do it for you and you certainly cannot sit on the couch expecting the expat fairy to show up on your doorstep. You start to take action by wanting it so badly you organize your life in such a way that it becomes your biggest priority and before you know it you are making plans, researching and organizing your move. You have to be proactive and not only research but reach out to people that live where you are going, contact a real estate agency, and find people that can help you or offer advice.

Know your priorities

Know your priorities. We managed to get buy with only one car for almost two years because even though we hadn’t made the final decision, we knew we didn’t want to spend the money on another car and just to have to worry about selling it, and by doing this it would save us even more money. We also both work from home so needing another car was not a necessity.

Stop buying stuff. I immediatly stopped buying unnecessary things and expensive things.  You quickly learn to say no to a lot of things you don’t need. Do my kids really need a sixth pair of pajamas?  No. Do I really need another handbag? No. Once you commit to moving abroad this actually comes pretty naturally, its like a switch automatically gets flipped and your unnecessary spending stops. Clearly, you can’t take most of it with you anyways.

Include the kids

Make this a family decision and include the kids in the pre-planning and packing.  One Saturday a month we would have our kids clean out there room getting rid of toys, books, and all the junk they didn’t play with, need or want. We had them sort into three piles, for storage, for donation and trash.  For the most part this was fun for them, but one Saturday Hudson did cry and was very upset about getting rid of all his stuff.  Harris then went and showed him pictures of Costa Rica and their new school and he got excited and went back to sorting.

When you clear away the the clutter the side effect is that you also clear your mind of clutter.  It is a cleansing that feels so good and will make you feel 10lbs lighter. When your mind is focused on one thing and your goal is clear, nothing can stand in your way.


You will probably have some second thoughts and moments of “what the hell are we doing” but not many, because if you truly know deep down you were meant to do then you will be be filled with determination. The entire time we were preparing to leave, I never felt so right about anything in my life.  Sure, there will be little bumps in the road and small obstacles to overcome. This is truly a practice in problem solving and being strategic. Harris and I are not quitters either, so come hell or high water we were going to get everything done before our flight left at 11:00pm on June 30th, 2013.

Stay focused

If I am being really honest, for the most part this was easy for us, but that is because it is in our DNA to do something “wild and crazy” like this. It’s just who we are. We both put our minds to something and we make it happen. Of course there were some heated conversations and frustrations with one another about certain things, we’re not perfect. It was hard work, but we were looking ahead and focused on the epic adventure we were about to have, you have to keep your eyes on the prize. It does get stressful towards the end, when we were trying to sell all our furniture, deciding what to keep and what not to keep, loading up trips to the donation center, and just tying up loose ends. Organized chaos is really what it was.

Have a little faith

The hardest thing and most importantly was saying good-bye to our close friends. That was not easy at all.  We were excited but it was also hard letting go of a strong community, a place we called home and a place where we were loved. It’s rough when you are leaving people that you care about and that are like family, but you have to have a little faith and go back and re-visit that list of reasons of why you are doing this. We had to focus on the why, believe and really just trust our decision and lead with your hearts.

Be savvy and resourceful

Honestly, all you have to do to move abroad is be savvy and resourceful. All the information you need is out there and there are people willing to help you make it happen. People do it every day. If you were looking for some sort of ultimate packing list or an expat concierge, you may not be ready to make the leap;) But I hope this helps not only inspire you but energize you to get up, live your dream and move abroad!

I am not sure where you are thinking about moving but if you’re moving to Costa Rica, I do have some packing tips for moving to Costa Rica. 🙂


  1. Andrea

    Thanks Kristin! Moving your kids abroad has its challenges, but we hope that they will look back and be grateful that we were able to do this and that they have a better understanding of the world and all the people that are in it! The only thought i sometimes have is if – all this moving around will affect them, in a not so positive way. I truly believe the opposite, and that this will help prepare them for life and the world but there is always just that slight sliver of fear that comes into my head, but then it passes;)

  2. Vanessa, DeSuMama

    Hi Andrea! I’ve been looking forward to these types of posts from you! I’m a blogger as well (I *almost* had the courage to introduce myself to you at BlogHer in San Jose!) and my husband and I are still stuck at #1 – shooting it from the rooftops. We put our house on the market, but aren’t sure what’s happening next (abroad, Cali or Florida are the roads we have to choose from). I have so many questions that you would likely think I’m a freak, but I just wanted to say thank you for documenting this journey and I look forward to learning as you go! Xo, Vanessa

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  4. Andrea

    Thanks Vanessa! It is hard for me to write over here sometimes, because blogging is what I do professionally – so when I am not online I am out enjoying Costa Rica instead of writing about it. However, I hope to write more about our experience in the New year. My goal is to not work as much in 2015. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  5. Chrissy

    Very well written, Andrea! I must say that this post is so motivating and inspiring – if this is what you aimed you definitely achieved it! I’m considering moving with my family to Costa Rica and that’s how I found you. Thank you for the inspiration!

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