As you’ve likely heard, we’re moving to Prague. We’re jumping into expat life with four suitcases, two people, one dog and a lot of fingers crossed. The last few weeks have kind of felt like a blur, but I wanted to write down some of my feelings as we get ready for this jump.
[Author’s note: This post was written mid-May and we leave/left for Europe on June 1. So by the time you read this, we should be on our way to Prague through Paris and Munich!]
For starters, it has been really stressful. We officially decided on Prague in March and it’s been ramping up ever since. The hardest part was definitely renting out our place. It was a ton of work to list our place online, do showings, find the right tenants, do all of the paperwork and then move out of our place a month earlier than we thought we would. We had the lease signed on April 13 and needed to be out by April 30. And I just so happened to already have a trip to Toronto scheduled for April 19-26. So we essentially did all of our packing and moving in about 10 days.
Of course, at the same time, my work life decided to really ramp up. As a freelancer, I know it’s a gift to be too busy rather than scrambling to find work. But it’s been so hard to stay on top of all of my work stuff when there’s so much life stuff to get done.
Colin and I have an 80+ item to-do list that we’ve been working on since March. As of writing (May 15), there’s about 20 items left to do and some can’t be done until we get to Prague. So we’re doing well! I’m really glad we have a to-do list and we’re really on top of what needed/needs to get done. But it has been a lot to do. I elaborated more on this in my Moving Abroad Checklist but it turns out that moving abroad, even if only for a year, is actually a pretty huge process.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining too much. Yes, I’m super stressed and these last few months have been hard. But it’s all been in service of something I really want. Moving and living abroad has been a dream of mine for almost a decade. And I’m so incredible fortunate to have the opportunity to do something like this.
It’s funny but the actual visa process, getting our Youth Mobility Visa for the Czech Republic, seems like such a breeze now looking back. In hindsight, while we had to jump through a few hoops to get the visas, it wasn’t too stressful or too much work. And we hadn’t started packing or moving yet, so we had time to just focus on the visas. Finding an apartment in Prague was another big milestone of the last few months. While paying the deposits and signing the paperwork was a little difficult, everything is sorted now and I’m so glad we’ll be arriving having already found a place to live for the year.
Preparing to take Ellie abroad with us has also been another hoop to jump through. Totally worth it, as I don’t think we could actually leave her for the year, but just another thing to plan and worry about. It seems that everything on our to-do list has multiple steps and forms and time-sensitive aspects. It’s not as simple as booking her a plane ticket and going.
Our flight to Paris (en route to Prague) is on June 1st and we had originally planned to rent out our place starting June 1st. We ended up renting it out for May 1st. Moving out of our place early was great in that we got to save a month of rent, ensure our tenants were all settled in, and live in my mom’s awesome West End apartment (thanks, mom!). But, of course, it’s been a little stressful to not be in our own space and to be living out of suitcases. Although I can’t really complain; we now get to walk Ellie on the Seawall along the beach every day! Our temporary life in the West End has also means Colin can walk to work and we have a ton of awesome restaurants and shops right outside our door.
In this last month, we’ve also been working to see all of our friends and family before we go. This has definitely been one of my favourite parts. Not saying goodbye, but just getting to spend time with people we love. I think because I moved from Toronto to Vancouver at 18 and have gone months and months without seeing some friends/family members in person, I’m not as nervous about leaving people. I’m used to catching up over Skype calls or reconnecting with people when I’m back in town.
I’m a bit more worried about making friends once we get to Prague. Working from home, I don’t have a built in set of co-workers to befriend. And, not speaking the language or knowing anyone will certainly make things harder. Colin and I are both introverts who prefer take-out and Netflix to bar crawls and meeting people. But I really want us to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and to try and make friends while we’re in Prague. It would be so easy for us to just keep to ourselves, and I’m sure we will spend a ton of time together just the two of us. But one of my big goals is for us to try new things (dance lessons is one thing I have in mind!) and meet new people.
As we’ve been hanging out with people for the last time in Vancouver before we go, people keep asking us if we’re ready. In terms of our to-do list, we’re almost there. We have a few more things we need to cross off. We have Ellie’s last vet appointment and paperwork that needs to be done no more than 10 days before we arrive in the EU. We have to finalize our phone plans, health insurance and Colin’s licence renewal. And we want to stock up on a few Canadian things we won’t be able to easily find in Prague.
We’ll also need to re-pack our suitcases and likely do a final run to my mom’s storage locker where half our belongings are living. But I know we’re going to get it all done. The big push was getting out of our house by April 30 and getting the tenants in. Now that our house is taken care of and we have our visas to let us legally stay in Prague, everything else seems much easier.
But are we ready to go, beyond just the physical stuff and the to-do list? Are we mentally and emotionally ready? I think so. To be honest, I’ve been so consumed with the to-do list, setting up last dinners and lunches with people, and keeping afloat with my work that I haven’t really checked in on my mental and emotional readiness. I haven’t even let myself get that excited, as any excitement usually gets bogged down with a reminder of more stuff we have to do or that I need to worry about.
But I am looking forward to everything. I’m looking forward to that first walk around our neighbourhood. Once we find our apartment, after getting lost a few times, we’ll set down our bags and just breathe a sigh of relief. Then we’ll leash Ellie and go for our first walk in our new home in Prague. I think that moment is going to be amazing. Everything around us is going to be new and exciting; it’s going to look so different.
And we’ll have finally made it. All of the months of packing and planning will be behind us. Yes, there will still be things on the to-do list. We’ll still have to register with the foreign police, find Colin a job, get Czech phone numbers, open up a bank account, find a grocery store and so much more. It’ll be a lot! But we’ll be there. Our year living abroad will have begun. The adventure will have started and I can’t freaking wait.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us and wished us well on this big adventure we’re embarking on. And thank you for letting me share some of my reflections in this moment before we head out. Super excited to embark on this journey and keep you all posted on our new expat life in Prague!
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