Moving To Europe I – Overcoming Fear & Inertia
As you all probably know by now, we’re in the midst of planning our move to Europe. It’s a BIG move that requires a lot of major change; selling the home we’ve lived in for 8 years; leaving the friends and family we have in the US; leaving our US RV community; starting a new life. It’s exciting, but frankly it’s also terrifying.
You’d think that after living in Asia, Europe and the US, moving countless times and traveling fulltime for over 8 years that we’d be old hands at this. Just another move, right?
But the truth is that big changes are never easy, even for the folks that have “done it” many times. We may seem like we breeze through the whole thing, simply because of how it looks when it’s written down (it’s easy to transform chaos into order in a blog post), but the truth is that we go through the same doubts, fears and (sometimes) freak-outs that other folks do.
So, I wanted to write about that, because this is what we’re going through right now, and I think it’s important to share. Maybe you’re contemplating a big change in your own life? And you’re wondering if all those crazy feelings you’re going through are normal? Do other people experience fear? Or despair? And how do they overcome them?
Well, that’s what I hope to help you with today.
Fear Is Normal!
I think the very first thing I would tell anyone going through a big change is this. Fear is totally normal!!
When I was a teenager there was a really popular self-help book called “Feel The Fear, And Do It Anyway”. It was classic 80’s pop psychology literature, but it made a big impact on me. At the time I was going through quite a bit of depression, and angst. I was confident of certain things, but felt a lot of fear in other things. After reading the book I realized I wasn’t alone in this. Everyone feels fear at some point, and although it may not seem logical, it’s part of the process. So, I learned to deal with it and every time I felt fear, I’d chant the mantra…
Feel the fear, and do it anyway
Life Changes are almost guaranteed fear-inducers. As humans, we get comfortable in our situation and in what we know. Change of any kind is, by definition, exactly the opposite of that. It’s unknown territory with unknown outcomes, and for that reason it evokes feelings of fear and angst. What if my new situation is worse than my current one? What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t succeed?
Feel the fear, and do it anyway
If you’ve made a goal and you’ve made it for the right reasons, and you’ve done your research, and you’ve planned and done your best to line things up to go smoothly, then at some point the only thing left to do is…..jump! You can do things to mitigate the fear (see below), but you’ll never get rid of it altogether. Once you realize that and you realize that fear is normal, then action becomes possible.
Planning Is Critical, But You Need To Break Down The Task
I’m a planner & a researcher by nature. Give me the task to buy a hole punch and I’ll probably spend at least an hour understanding hole punch technology and researching the best punchers on the market. That’s do-able for a hole punch, but when you’re planning a life change it can quickly become overwhelming.
By definition a life change involves A LOT of details, so if you try to think about it all at once, your mind can very quickly go into meltdown mode.
For example for our move to Europe we’ve got to sell our home, figure out the pets, get our health insurance in line, store or sell all our stuff, change our residency, figure out our visa issues, decide where we’re going to live, figure out the pets (wait, did I do that already or not?). What about money? Or bank accounts? Or cellphones? What if the RV sells before we leave? Crap, what if it doesn’t sell? What will we do?? It’s all too much! We’re never going to make it! It’s impossible!
Stop…breathe….take 40 steps back
In my experience the only way I can mentally handle these things is to break down everything into smaller, more manageable pieces. I start by writing down everything I can think of. Then I make a general timeline and then I break down the questions into individual days. If you’ve ever done project management it’s exactly like that, except for life stuff.
The nice thing about doing it this way is that, once it’s all written down, we don’t have to figure everything out right now. Instead we can break it down into 2-3 easy(ish) goals that we dole out between the two of us, and work on each day.
For example take the pet issue. I knew we needed to think about this one well ahead of time, so a few weeks ago we both started researching travel documents and requirements to Europe. Then, the next day I looked up where we could actually get those documents in S. Fl. Then, a few days later Paul started calling around to make all the necessary appointments. So, within a mere week we went from knowing almost nothing about pet requirements to having everything scheduled out, and in the end it wasn’t that bad. The big, overwhelming task (which seemed almost impossible at first) had been broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks (which were easy to complete). Suddenly it all fell into place and it was DONE!
We take this same approach with healthcare, and visas, and living arrangements and so forth. We can’t possibly think about it all at once, but if we focus on breaking it down and taking mini steps (every day) I have confidence that we’ll eventually get it all sorted out.
Having A Fixed Date Is Key
The other thing about big life changes is that it is soooooo easy to procrastinate. If you make the goal to move “in a few months” you might well find yourself those few months later having done nothing at all.
It’s human nature. Your current situation is comfortable (more than likely) so the impetus to actually make a change can wane very quickly.
In my experience there is only one real way to overcome this and that is to fix a date and draw a line in the sand. Then, you just do it! You focus all your energy and all your goals on meeting that date.
For our move to Europe we have a date. In fact we just finalized it two days ago. Tickets are booked and pets are confirmed, so unless something earth-shattering happens in the next few months to change our trajectory, we are leaving Mar 30th. And yes, that’s only 10 weeks from now!!!! Eeeeeeeeeeek!
Feel the fear, and do it anyway
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
The other thing about big life changes is that no matter how much you plan, at some point in your transition process you will feel despondent, or you’ll panic about the fact that you might be making the wrong choice. Perhaps you’ve hit a big set-back in your plans. Or things just aren’t moving forward the way you hoped. Or the obstacles just seem so big that you’re wondering if it’s worth all this angst to get there?
In times like this, I feel it’s important to refresh your mind about WHY you’re doing all this, so you can re-invigorate your energy on the task at hand.
I’m pretty good at maintaining focus. In fact I have a tendency to hyper-focus, almost to the exclusion of everything else in my life (a different kind of problem altogether), but Paul is the type of person who derives motivation from keeping his eye on the prize.
So, for our Europe trip he’s been researching European RV models (I think we may have narrowed it down to 3 or 4! We’ll have to see when we get there and get into them), as well as collecting all kinds of interesting places to see and visit once we get over there (e.g. did you know that the French equivalent of Harvest Hosts, called France Passion offers over 10,000 free stop-overs in France?!!).
For Paul, this kind of stuff keeps him excited and motivated about the change, which is an important part of his process. Plus all that excitement rubs off, so it’s fun and motivational for me too.
Understand That You’re Not Alone
Sometimes your immediate friends and family might not understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why would you leave your beautiful home? What about your job, your friends etc.? Why are you doing this crazy thing?
In times like this, talking to other people who are doing what you’re wanting/planning to do may be just what you need to keep focused. And these days it is SO easy!! From Facebook groups to Blogs, Forums, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or whatever other media you prefer, if you just search around a bit you can find your tribe. Not only can these online outlets help you work through whatever phase you’re currently going through, but they can provide invaluable support and guidance for the actual change itself.
Other people have done this before you, so you don’t have to go it alone!
I’m already on several European forums, and we’ve been chatting to our friends Iain and Kate (Tales from the Scenic Route) who are planning to go RVing in Europe this year too. It’s been fun to share our excitement, and it’s great to have someone to talk to about the challenges too. We are not alone….
Take A Break Every Now & Then
When you’re in the midst of a big life change there is SO MUCH to think about, that you can easily spend every minute of every day just researching, planning and doing the change. After about a week of that your mind will likely go to mush and you will start to feel overwhelmed with the task.
This is a good time to take a break!
No matter how crazy your change, try to plan some time away from the whole process every now and then. A whole day off is great, but if you don’t have time for that even an hour or so will make a huge difference to your mental state. Get outside, go for a walk, or a bike, or a run. Go for a meal with your loved ones. See a movie. Go for a nap in your hammock. Whatever you choose just make sure it’s something where you don’t have to think about your upcoming change AT ALL. The goal is to clear your mind and refresh yourself, so you can dig back into the task with renewed energy when you get back to it.
Trust me, this will make a BIG difference to achieving your goals.
And Finally, Remember That NO Decision Is Final
This is my final tip of the day, and although it may not seem that useful, it’s actually just as important as the other ones.
Many folks have a tendency to feel that every life decision they make is final. I think it’s partly from fear, partly from inertia and partly just human nature. If I leave my job, or sell my house, or move, this part of my life is gone forever!
Well that’s simply not true.
Apart from death and taxes, there’s really very little in life that can’t be changed. Yes, your life will change and yes, if you end up hating your new life you likely won’t be able to come back to exactly the same life you left. But you can always come back! Maybe you’ll end up in a slightly different job, or a different part of town, but you CAN make that happen.
Every single move we’ve made in our lives we’ve made with the knowledge that if it didn’t work out, we could always go back. We’ll try this for a year and see. That’s how I ended up moving to the USA (from UK after College), it’s how we ended up in Asia (through work, many years back), and it’s exactly how we started fulltime RVing (with a one-year plan). It’s the same approach we’re taking for this Europe move. We’ll try it for a year and see.
Oh, and a final little secret? Every big life change decision we’ve made so far has been a good one. We’ve had our ups and downs, our hard times and good, but overcoming fear and inertia has afforded us SO many incredible experiences. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Hopefully some of these tips spoke to you. Maybe you’re going through a big change yourself, or you’ve got some tips of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!