Well, as with many life altering choices, many events led up to and contributed to it. Let's see... the underlying reason is - travel. Since Jeff and I got together 11 years ago, we have been to Europe many times, Central America, Asia, and lived aboard a sailboat for 4 years, (traveling halfway around the world sailing from Florida to New Zealand.)
Our trips have always been a good time. Good food, drinks, beautiful cities and quaint villages. Jeff is an amazing travel planner, he loves it, sometimes I think more than the actual trip. So, there haven't been any major mishaps to complain about and hasn't been much not to like. But, only over time have I really started to gain an appreciation for international travel. Its actually somewhat addicting. The more I have seen, the more I want to see and the sooner my feet get itchy with the desire for an experience outside my normal routines.
Its been over five years since we returned to CA from our life aboard s/v Illusions, our 40 foot sailboat, which we sold at our last port in Auckland, New Zealand. We returned with plans to invest, work, and save for another venture. We met many families who were traveling "cruising" with their kids and we decided at the time that we wanted to do the same thing. I have often wondered what have I really gained or learned from spending this much time traveling and I've decided its the ability to question things and think outside the box. To realize that there are many different ways and places to live happily. It is this perspective that I think will be so beneficial to the kids.
So, as Jeff's career comes to a turning point, we have often discussed what we wanted to do next. . Jeff had worked full time while building a very time consuming log home. He was feeling burnt out, needing a break and change of pace, so after job searching a bit, he eventually decided that staying in the same industry and taking a new job (if he could get one) wasn't exactly what he wanted. Knowing that his current job didn't have good long term prospects, I'd been prepared for some time that we'd be moving somewhere... We contemplated moving all sorts of places. I hadn't really settled on where I thought was the ultimate location, but was feeling more excited about living abroad for awhile as opposed to moving somewhere new in the states. I've come to fully believe that travel is a great learning experience for the kids. But, I was hesitant about spending too much of our savings without a goal. I wanted to figure out a new direction for our lives.
We spent a month in Costa Rica last summer; knowing change was on the horizon, and hoping that getting away from home would help us think clearly about what we wanted to do. We'd been talking about living abroad at least for awhile and we'd thought Central/South America had what we were looking for (low cost of living, the girls could learn Spanish). But, we realized pretty quickly that while we enjoyed our vacation there, it didn't offer quite what we wanted for long term.
I had recently read a book; "What should I do with my life?" by Po Bronson. This book is a collection of true stories about people who have have had the courage to really figure out their true calling in life and follow it. It is not an easy question to answer and most people are afraid or too busy to really figure it out. I'd been suggesting Jeff read it for months but it wasn't till we were away on vacation that he had the time.
Anyway, it was this book that really provided the ultimate inspiration think about how to turn a passion into a career. Reading stories of people's experience completely changing their lives to pursue what they finally realize to be their true calling, made it clear that just looking for a job and moving somewhere just to get an income wasn't sounding as appealing as designing a life and career to suit our tastes.
The result? An entrepreneurial idea combining Jeff's two passions; beer and travel. Now, saying you are passionate about beer might sound a bit foolish, but not the way Jeff looks at it. He is passionate about the culture, ingredients, the entire experience of it. He's looked at opening a brewery, but ultimately decided it was too risky and expensive. So, we contemplated beer tours... Providing tours for other beer enthusiasts (a growing market these days) seemed like a pretty exciting combination of his two passions. But, more than that, its relatively lucrative and doesn't require a lot of capital or risk to start up. But where? Well, time in Central America made us realize that it was culture, architecture, and food/drink we love. Europe just has so much to offer and is definitely the epicenter for those interested in experiencing the history and culture of beer.
We'd first looked at Germany, where we have friends and would definitely be in a prime location for beer tours. Eventually, we began considering neighboring France and Czech Republic which would also be good locations. There was a lot to compare, cost of food, housing, language, and long term visa requirements. We'd been back and forth between the three several times, but it finally started looking like Prague, Czech Republic was winning. It has the lowest cost of living, we could afford to live in the city, something we'd never experienced. Especially after small town living in Big Bear Lake, we were craving a city life experience at least for a little while. Jeff just had to apply for a trade license for the business and they would allow us to get a long term visa.
So, we returned home only three months ago and began setting in motion this plan. Sell the house, downsize our stuff, and prepare to move overseas. With a brand new baby, a two year old and a four year old, I might add. Yes, what about the kids? Most people want to know. Well, they are young enough where we can move around and they aren't in school yet. But, actually, we had planned on homeschooling here in the states anyway. Having met so many families on our travels who were homeschooling, my eyes were opened to the possibility of this for our kids. I have since read and learned a lot about it to become convinced that it can be an amazing way of life and education for our family. We want to look at enrolling them in school at least part time where we settle though so they can immerse and learn the language.
How does this all feel? Not really easy to answer that question. Partially affected by pregnancy hormones and then the exhaustion of having a new baby with 2 kids, my response would vary from day to day, maybe minute to minute. If I wasn't too tired, I could remember the big picture and all these reasons described above that we wanted to do this. Then I'd be able to say I was really excited about this opportunity and that I think it will be an amazing experience for all of us. But, if I was feeling overwhelmed with the kids, packing, trying to sell the house etc. I'd probably say honestly that it just seems too hard, not worth all this work to move us all across the world. But, we just kept working a little each day and selling, giving away and packing our stuff till one day we were finally leaving the house; bags packed for a new life in Prague, Czech Republic!