We are a family of learners and explorers. Exposure to culture, food, religion, architecture, history, and global family traditions brings joy, intellectually stimulates us, and nurtures our humility. I know I have been blessed having traveled to 5 of 7 continents, over 30 countries, and countless cities. I’ve experienced remote parts of China, Rwanda, and Canada; took a horseback African safari; played golf at a very white, private club in South Carolina (loved the prideful smile from an older African-American butler), and traveled to Paris for an international fabric show and stayed later to explore solo. Who am I? A 50+ working mom who took domestic & international roles, married later, and had kids “later still”! Shelton and I focused on saving early so, as a family, we could watch Messi play in Barcelona & eat just-caught grilled fish at Malaysian night markets.
So, except for some early-entry blues, the Howards are “move masters.” Yet, I remember our kids’ opposite reactions about our big China move: Erin (then 6) leaped for joy while Jordan (then 8) burst out in tears! But, after we web-surfed China, took cultural training, said tearful “see ya’s” and flew 13 hours to Shanghai, the adventure was real. We were instant celebrities...an African-American family with 2 kids (remember the 1 child policy in China?), boy and girl (lucky in China). We worked/studied hard and played harder… visited 9 countries, international swim/soccer meets for the kids, serious Chinese & kickboxing classes for Shelton with an incredible “village” of ex-pats and local friends, making our 3 years “hella wonderful”.
Let’s talk about smooth moves:
1. Pre-visits are a must… spend a week as a resident (after-hours neighborhood drives; school walk-throughs; local eats; event attendance; coffee chats) and ask questions: Is it affordable? Does it feel right/safe? Are the schools good? How about the sports/culture/arts/food scene? the political/race situation? Is it a growth city? What’s the diversity mix, culture? What are the job options? Where will you worship?
2. Share that you’ve moving…let good people know to help you build a village in advance! Keep naysayers away and absorb wisdom from folks interested in your happiness and success. Keep in touch when you move and pay it forward to others.
3. Pay attention – moves are a big deal. You and your family’s moods/adjustments to new surroundings take time…everyone won’t be happy at the same time or all the time. Be understanding, be where you are vs. where you were. Be tourists, take fun classes, find free events, visit museums, get library cards, adapt to the city vibe. We’re now in Seattle - outdoor lifestyle, cultural diversity, and a great foodie scene. We’ve found a church, sports teams, and a nice social circle. Shelton landed a great job after managing our household for 10 years and my “sistah” network of like-minded women keep me balanced!
4. Stay in touch…don’t let miles and time differences deteriorate your remote family/friends’ relationships. Prioritize calls, invite visitors, share pictures and experiences. Remember--they matter and keep you grounded! Everyone should travel more or relocate! Someone did it before…so network, give it a go, and remember you are not alone.
Previously published on Me3Project