I Moved Abroad For Love. Here’s What I Want You to Know.

Hey readers,

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long, long time but it’s a big topic and a personal one, too. As a fiercely independent and travel-obsessed woman, the thought of ‘relying’ on a man to influence my future plans scared me.

At twenty-three, I had no concrete life plan, but I knew I was in the city I needed to be in with the man that I knew I wanted to be with. I was living out my dream in Paris with an awesome job and settling into life in Europe just fine. My boyfriend was Belgian but that only made it all the more interesting.

Life was good and love was good.

Then we found ourselves at a crossroads, the kind we never saw coming. I thought the hard part was leaving Texas behind, but what was coming would make that seem like an easy move. Six months into the first flush of our relationship, Laurens had a major work opportunity presented to him. He wanted to know:

Would I move to Indonesia with him?

The idea seemed so far-fetched I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I knew next to nothing about Indonesia and my mind started imaging the far-off foreign world it would be. How would I fit into it? How would our relationship shape up if I were to drop everything and follow him thousands of miles away?

On paper, it was a crazy idea, but I knew this guy was different. I trusted him. I wanted to be with him.

I’m sure my parents were shocked. Paris was already far enough, and now their daughter was moving to some island called Sulawesi with a foreign man they had never met. I made the decision to join him and in a cloud of excitement, I had an optimistic outlook of what Southeast Asia could offer both of us personally and as a new couple. I was in my early twenties after all, and given my love for impulsive travel, I was looking forward to the change and the adventure; I was also freaking out.

I didn’t realize the weight of that moment, but that flight to Indonesia would change my and our lives forever. I had fallen head first for a man whose career would move us four times in the next six years. Each country a chapter in itself with unbelievable twists and turns, and although each expat couple’s story is different and diverse, I want to share ours.

I promised myself both things were possible

Following Laurens to Asia with no clear career plan or talks of marriage went against the grain for a girl raised in Texas suburbia. Deep down, I felt guilty for pausing my budding food writing career and saying au revoir to Paris.

I grappled with the major excitement I felt and the societal expectations of someone with my education and age. Now that I look back it was silly I even cared as much as I did, but at the time I really struggled with what people thought of my decision. Above all, I wondered if I’d be losing ground in realizing my own dreams and path. I swore to myself then that I could do both: follow my heart and live out my biggest dreams, too.

To this day, we’re still rewriting the rule book. I’ve discovered along the way that no expat couple has the same trajectory or magic formula. The past seven years have been full of constant evolution and new homes. I pride myself in being an adaptable, flexible person, usually always up for the challenge. Most expat partners I’ve met from Asia to Europe have an unmistakably free spirit, one that makes the most of the situation they’re in. That spirit is necessary because this lifestyle definitely isn’t for the rigid or close-minded.

Purpose is paramount as an expat partner

In the first few years of moving around for Laurens’s new job, I was way too passive in the way I thought about purpose. I often thought, what if I’m losing time or my purpose passes me by?

No matter how long you’re an expat partner for, it’s crucial to be driven by something – professionally or not. What’s more, you have to go out and seize your purpose and bring it to life. So that’s what I started to do.

I’ve talked to dozens of partners in the same situation. It turns out boredom can be our biggest enemy to happiness abroad. The first few days of lounging around and lunching are great, but it can get old really fast. The contrast of your partner chasing after their career mixed with your idleness can feel frustrating and that imbalance can chip away at your relationship if you’re not careful. For me, finding purpose meant starting a small bag business in Indonesia and teaching English part-time. In Malaysia, it meant writing my restaurant reviews, editing part-time, and traveling into Singapore. Here in France, it means learning French and traveling and writing more than ever. Days fly by now because I wake up with energy and deep happiness. I want it to always be like that.

The constant change of country and career possibilities haven’t made pursuing my purpose the easiest of tasks; it’s still a work in progress and it’s my biggest concern when we consider where we’re moving next. When we leave France at the end of the year, it will be my number one priority all over again.

The partners I’ve met and the sacrifices we’ve made

How far away would you move for someone you liked? Someone you loved? Would you sacrifice a part of yourself, your comfort, or your career to support them in pursuit of their happiness?

Whether it’s short term or long term sacrifice, I can’t help but admire the people we’ve met around the globe who’ve taken the plunge and put their careers on hold or said bye to their families for their partner and their lives together. We’re a special breed. I’ve met men and women from myriad countries and backgrounds, and it’s always amazing to see how different people cope with the situation and make it their own.

I’ve learned amazing lessons from the fearless and confident women in the expat community who are raising a family abroad and assimilating wholeheartedly; from creative and free-spirited bohemians; from educated and driven professionals who don’t let a new country stop them from working; and from the women like me who were still figuring it out and embracing the uncertainty. The sacrifices we make are big and small. From being away from family to learning a new language and having to start all over more than once, I’ve seen people reinvent and restart in impressive ways.

Carving out a career when you follow someone in pursuit of theirs 

“You’ll have all your life to work.”

My experience as an expat partner has been amazing, but when people ask what the hardest part is I tell them without a doubt finding work and building a career. Some couples get lucky and a new country can mean hardly any change in opportunity for the partner. That hasn’t really been my experience at all. Moving countries every few years presented logistical challenges and visa issues, all of which have forced me to get creative in my career options. It was only until Belgium (at twenty-eight) that I finally was able to maintain the same job for two years.

What’s funny is I always worried about getting behind in the work world, but what I didn’t know then was that just by living in Asia and Europe I was gaining invaluable cultural experience, travel knowledge, I was improving my writing and photography skills, and fine-tuning my palate to learn more about international cuisine. It’s only now that it really sinks in just how valuable those country experiences were for me and how perfect the situation actually turned out to be.

But here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no shame in not working. If you don’t have to, then more power to you. Don’t let the guilt mess with your head like it did me. This year I’ve taken the year ‘off’ and I’m loving every second of it – guilt-free. That elusive career chase had me feeling inadequate the first few years of our lives together abroad. Then one-day sage words of wisdom flew my way: “you have all your life to live and work”.

And man they were right.

Expat Identity

Honestly, this topic could be its own blog post!

It can be tricky to move for someone else’s opportunity and to create a life around it. When you’re in the supporting role for someone else it’s possible to lose touch of your own direction and identity.

In my early twenties, I fell victim to that exact thing. It made the process much more intense and I saw I struggled with it more than the other older women in the expat community. I had no real clue of who I was then or what I was capable of. It’s been years in the making to see my identity as a woman shape up, not just a partner. I really believe moving abroad for someone you love is a great thing to do, but before you can fortify someone else or a relationship, it’s important to have a grasp on who you really are and who you want to be. Period.

Moving abroad for love, is it really worth it?

When I reflect back on the adventures we’ve had and the unconventional life we lead, I wonder if knowing then what I know now, would I do it again?

What I know is that my expat relationship with Laurens has taught me so much about adversity, adventure, openness, commitment, and seeking out the world and all it has to offer. It’s been an amazing ride with an amazing man who wanted to take my hand and who asked me to trust him. As my husband, he leads the way while giving me space and time to flourish on my own. He realizes how difficult moving often and far can be, yet he’s always tried to make it rewarding and fun. I’m grateful for that.

What I guess I want to say above all is that life and love hardly ever go as planned. Sometimes one encounter can sweep you up into a current of change, or maybe onto a plane to Indonesia. I made the choice to move for love, but what I want people to know about partners like me is that we’re not simply ‘followers’. We’re supporters. We’re adventurers. We’re dreamers. We’re driven. We’re so much more than you think.

Have you moved abroad for love? Would you do it again? Let me know your experiences below.

27 responses to “I Moved Abroad For Love. Here’s What I Want You to Know.”

  1. I loved this post! I moved to Luxembourg for love, but we moved back to the US earlier this year to allow me to pursue my career. I miss living abroad, and plan on getting back out again soon!

  2. wonderful to share your story. I move away … far away but in the same country and found love. I did not really know when I move to Vancouver if it would work out for me. But of course after I had met the man of my life, staying here was the right thing to do. I move 30 years ago and I know it has been the best move for me . ❤ I have a new blog called FUNandLIFE.2 as the first blog I started a while back is almost full. Maybe you might be interested in following my adventure on the Chemin de Compostelle in France. I read that you lived in Paris. I have been a few times. Great city but living in Indonesia must be fun too. 🙂

  3. I know this is an older post, but thank you for writing it. I moved to Belgium two years ago from Tennessee to be with my boyfriend. We met in India and pursued our relationship for two years with an ocean between us. Once I realized it was possible to move to Belgium, I never even second guessed my decission. It was only once I moved to Belgium that I began to feel all the emotions that come with being separated from your support system. I am very close with my family, so this experience has certainly had its challenges. But more than anything, I have grown as a person. I feel like I know myself better and am more sure of my resilience. People always say I am brave for moving here, however in the begining I felt stupid, naive, and unsure. Now I see the bravery behind my decision, and though I have not figured everything out yet, I definitely do not regret moving to Belgium. I live in a city I love, I have some really good friends, and I have a wonderful job. I am learning Dutch (not easy) and gradually finding my place here. I know I still have some ways to go before I feel really settled, but okay, I am leaps and bounds from where I began. It’s good to hear your story and know you guys have made it work. Always feels a better when you hear stories of people who took similiar changes and are the better for it.

    • Hi Liz! Thanks so much for your sharing your experience. I love hearing other people’s expat stories, especially Americans like me who have taken the leap of faith 😉 Enjoy Belgium – we miss it there!

    • Hi – I know this is an older post – so maybe you won’t see it. But I read that you had moved to Belgium and I’m in the middle of making that decision myself. I’d love some advice. I really want to be with my partner and not do long distance… but that would mean giving up a career in the UK. I don’t speak Dutch/French (although I plan to learn both) but the language barrier makes everything so difficult, mainly because I WANT to work, so I can secure some independence. If you have any advice, I’d love to hear from you. And congrats by the way on making the move!

  4. Hi Monica,

    It’s so great that you have shared this wonderful story with us!
    I have also left everything behind around 1,5 years ago and moved to Zürich. At the moment I am a bit struggling with finding my long term future here although I have been always a very positive person, at this time I am thinking of leaving and leave my love behind, but it’s just such a hard and life changing decision that is not easy to take. So I am really thankful at this time, reading your story. 🙂
    I’d like to ask you if it would be possible to meet you personally or is there any way to reach out to you? 🙂

    Thank you so much in advance for your answer.
    Have a lovely day!
    Warm regards,

    • Hi Alexandra! Thanks so much for your kind words. I understand how you feel; sometimes it takes longer to really feel comfortable and at home in a new country…​the struggle is definitely real. I would love to meet; email me at gorgeousglobe@gmail.com and we can get in touch! x Monica

  5. I loved reading your article. I moved to Belgium from England 10 years ago to be with the guy I fell in love with but my story hasn’t been as happy as yours. I moved over just after finishing university and I had all these hopes for what my career could be but I found it hard to get a job not being able to speak dutch so off I went to classes to learn but found the language extremly hard to learn. On top of that not having a support system over here made my anxiety worse. Now I feel guilty for not working and being able to contribute financially.

  6. Hi there!
    I know this post is old, however I came across it at the right time as it seems…

    I am in a similar position where I must choose to move to a new country for a man I absolutely am sure I want to be with, or stay comfortable in the city I was raised in.

    I met a guy studying abroad in London, it was the greatest year I’ve had. When I came back, long distance did not work out. Fast forward, it’s been three years and ive encountered a terrible relationship after him.

    We recently rekindled and nothing has changed in terms of how we feel about each other. However I am terrible for overthinking and I’m doing just that. I want to take a leap of faith because since we left each other I’ve fallen into a deep despair of being overworked and under appreciated.

    Is there any way I can contact you for advice? Your article really helped me gain a sense of hope.

  7. What a great post! I am currently packing up my home and moving to Mexico to be with my boyfriend. I’ve been reading about other women who have done something similar and I find great inspiration in it. Hopefully my journey will be eye opening and worth it. Thank you for your post

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I just moved from NYC a few weeks ago to Aarhus, Denmark for love since my Danish boyfriend couldn’t come back to the states due to Covid and we were stuck apart for 5 months. What a whirlwind it’s been, all of the emotions and mood changes are a lot to deal with when being separated from your family and friends, but this article made me feel better. I go through phases of excitement for new adventures and being proud of myself for being brave to doubting myself for moving so far away from my support system to outright fear and sadness. Let’s hope the first set of emotions takes over more prominently as time progresses! Cheers, Francesca

  9. What a supportive and positive comment section. I am currently at the crossroads of a 5 year relationship and have to decide between a future of raising kids in the uk or at home in Australia with my family around. I am struggling at the moment with knowing what to do so it was nice to find this page and read some positivity.
    Thank you for posting

  10. hi Monica, I stumbled across your article because I just moved to Zurich for love and i m struggling here. I livedin 3 other countries and I am quite surprised that im experiencing culture shock here. I feel that i made the right decision but keep questioning myself “what am i doing here?” and the only answer i have is “i m here for him”. It may not be the right mindset, yet? Are u currently in Zurich? would u consider meeting for a cup of coffee?

  11. In my case i was dating a guy from USA , we were 4 years in long distance relationship , either he travelled to visit me or me to visit him. But… Then he proposed and we had to decide where we would live. When discussing it , he said he would never move to my place which for me was like a knife in the back, anyways he always asked me to move to his place.
    On my side, moving to USA wasn’t a bad idea, i love travelling and i could take the challenge, but I have plans in my country that I can’t say no, my family need me. What i needed from him was just few years in my hometown until my dad’s business is inherited to my sister and I. Sadly he couldnt bear the idea of living in my country and with all the pain in my heart, we had to break up. Even though we discussed it many times and tried to see it from different perspectives, we realized our plans and points of view were actually on different ways. It was so upsetting for both but i guess was the right thing to do.

  12. Interesting information!
    Janet from Chicago here in love with a Belgium man after giving up on New Zealand men who have left me 💔 for the past 30 years. I speak English and French fluently and have been an ESL teacher for over 10 years among other careers. I’m looking forward to new worldwide adventures with a very loving and romantic Belgium after I get to show him my hometown! I love having friends all over the 🌍 🌎 !

  13. Interesting information!
    Janet from Chicago here in love with a Belgium man after giving up on New Zealand men who have left me 💔 for the past 30 years. I speak English and French fluently and have been an ESL teacher for over 10 years among other careers. I’m looking forward to new worldwide adventures with a very loving and romantic Belgium after I get to show him my hometown! I love having friends all over the 🌍 🌎 !

  14. Really enjoyed reading your posts! I also moved between Belgium and the USA, but in the opposite direction. Born in Ghent and moved to NYC in 2014 to live with my (now) husband I had met in 2011. Can relate to so many of the topics you wrote. I loved the “7 Things I’ve Learned About Loving a Belgian” and read it out loud to my spouse who is a dual US/Turkish citizen. Totally can relate to the career/re-inventing yourself topics as well. We are currently splitting our time between NYC and upstate NY. You can find some stories about our upstate life on http://www.catskillsduo.com
    Happy I found your blog!

    • Hi Peter! I’m so glad you found my blog. Ghent is an amazing city and I miss it quite a lot 🙂 I can’t wait to take a look at your blog!

      All the best from Zurich!

  15. Thanks for sharing your story! I also moved for love. It meant choosing to leave behind all I had done to create a life for myself as a successful, healthy, adult woman. It was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made and one of the hardest ones to live with, if that makes sense. Once I met my partner and now husband, I knew he was it. There was no living for me without him and he was the same. It meant uprooting my life at the age of 33 to move to Germany, after having spent more than a decade in Ireland building a new life there. It meant losing my employment contract, saying goodbye to friends, au revoir to my neighbourhood, l8r to my language, ‘see you soon’ to a culture I knew…and to throw myself into a small city in German (no, I didn’t speak German). Then, the pandemic hit. And as the world becomes smaller and smaller, now limited to our 2-bedroom apartment, I thank my lucky stars every day that my tiny world has him in it. I have NO idea what my future holds in terms of my career or language skills or my now stagnant social network or whether I’ll ever feel comfortable here, but I know that as I am figuring that out, I have the one person beside me, I need. xx

    • Hi Danika! I’m so glad you shared your personal story with me. It’s pretty amazing that you knew so intuitively what you had to do even though it meant completely uprooting your world. Not everyone would be so gutsy to just go for it. Of course, it’s not always easy but I’m glad you feel good about your decision. This has been a crazy last year but we’ll all get through it eventually!! Stay healthy and happy. Sending you good vibes from Zurich, Monica x

  16. Hello, Thanks for your story..I am currently in the process of raising money to move from my home in Nc to the Uk..crazy distance I know. I am a young adult who just turned 18 but due to personal parental trauma and such I have decided I have taken enough! I spoke to my partners parents and them & we discussed the options of me living with them. Yes, I understand I am very young but we have a stable relationship and I feel as if this could be a great opportunity for me to get out and start over with my life. I and my partner have created a gofundme but we haven’t gotten any donations and I’ve tried selling my art online as well..despite no changes yet but I have high hopes for us! I seek hope just from reading the comments saying about how daring other people are as well who have left their homes to be with their beloved. If anyone could give me some advice on moving abroad and tips on like what to do because you can live in the UK visa free but I need to find ways to help me get a visa before my 6 months is over

  17. Such a lovely post. Thank you for writing it. I am in the process of moving from the USA to London. I’ve lived in the USA my whole life. A year ago I met my boyfriend (from London) and since then we’ve fallen in love. Since we met he’s always expressed his desire to move back home… little did I know it would be just a short year after meeting him.

    I recently decided I’d move there with him. My heart says yes, and of course my mind is fearful and thinks of the worse possible outcome. I’ve always followed my heart though and it has never once failed me.

    This post reassured me and reminded me that love is all you need and although life may present challenges along the way if you have love in your life then you can get through anything!

  18. I know this is a few years old now, but this post has made me feel a lot better today. I moved to the UK from Australia for adventure and travel and to kick start my career. At 23, single and newly graduated, there was never a moment in life when I was more free to take off. 5 months into that I met my partner, and 5 weeks after I met him, lockdown began and we moved in together. What struck me was how easy it was to live with him. I knew the second I met him he was it. I know I have a life of happiness and love ahead of me. This week I’ve had covid and have been housebound, and it makes the homesickness 100x worse. I miss my family and my friends, and I’ve been wondering if I can sign myself up to life distanced from them. I think I’ve been telling myself in my despair this week “I will be without my family,” but that’s not true. The world is small, and I can call whenever I want. I feel like I have an impossible choice to make, but I know the right choice is building a life with my man.

  19. I’m glad I found this article. I was unsure if moving for love would be a good idea and this had to do with other people’s opinions of me and my decision to move. I saw that you also struggled with what people would think of your decision. I didn’t want to be that naive girl in love who is unclear of her ‘real’ purpose but I must say that your experience has changed my outlook. You mentioned that it’s totally normal to feel uncertain as long as you make the best out of your adventure. Thank you for sharing.

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