I knew things had to change the day I sat in a closet rocking back and forth on the phone with my BFF in full on panic about the direction my life was going. Somewhere in between preschool choices and my husband's career, I had lost my dreams. My husband and I had our children very close together. Our 3 year old, 2 year old and newborn were all I had time for. I was losing my vision of life. I panicked. I was on the floor in my closet eating Oreos going on and on about how I was loosing myself and I was terribly afraid of making the wrong decisions when it came to my children. My BFF let me finish, then responded with words I have never forgotten. She said, "Candi, as long as I've known you, you have spoken of the same thing, the exact same thing. You have always been you. Why change now? Do that. Be you."
I have always wanted to move to Europe and become a photographer. I was indoctrinated into being a Francophile as a child by my French immersion public school education. There has always been something about Europe that pulled at my heartstrings and I have always known the moment I had a chance to go that I should.
I became mommy and being mommy changed me. As it should have but I no longer thought about me or the vision I had for myself. I didn't view my husband and I as a couple anymore. We were mommy and daddy. That's all. We had three babies and that was our life.
My husband and I have discussed moving to Europe many times. I loved Europe and he wanted to learn Spanish, hence Spain. We would prepare the paperwork, we researched and organized our plan, we almost bought plane tickets, and then I'd chicken out. Always making some excuse as to why it wasn't the right time.
My husband retired from the Army and began to work in management at an oil plant in Texas. Have you ever heard of someone hitting rock bottom? Emotionally, my husband and I were there. He was working 12-hour days, 6-7 days a week. We never saw him. He would come home every night and say, "this can't be it." And I was still stuck; still feeling lost knowing I possibly wasn't making the right decision. We needed a change.
In the winter of 2014 when we revisited this idea of moving, my mind was already circling around why this was bad. So bad. We have kids and he had a good job (though he was working himself to death). We had no real financial plan for Europe. We just wanted to move. I decided to apply for a teaching position and we started the process over.
In April I received an email saying that I was awarded an assistant teaching position in Spain. How excited I was. How mortified I was. This is real. We had no excuses. Nothing holding us back.
I told my husband. Do you know what he did? He quit his job, submitted a visa application and went to Spain. He left to find us a place before I could change my mind again. I sat in Texas stewing between positivity and gratitude. Pissed because he left and grateful that he did.
The kids and I followed behind months later. The moment we arrived I just knew I was home. With a big nudge from my husband, we were here. My family living in Europe. And all of my fears are now obsolete. My life has never been better. Now that we are here, my fears seem trivial.
Here are seven things that I was afraid of versus what actually happened once I moved abroad.
I thought we would starve.
Reality: I have never starved in my life and I have no idea why I thought we would.
I thought we couldn't afford it.
Reality: The cost of living is so cheap that my husband and I have made do with our modest incomes. Our money goes a long way here. There is also a US military community in Southern Spain. My husband being retired, we have access to all of the amenities.
I was afraid that there would be racism.
Reality: The entire time we have been here I have never experienced racism. What I find is that people are so fascinated with African American culture and life that they genuinely want to know about you culturally.
PHOTOS VIA CANDICE ROBERTS
I feared my kids would not pick up the language.
Reality: My son has been in Spain for 8 months and is now bilingual. My son is the one I take with me to translate when I need to run an errand. It's just easier for children.
I thought it was so far away from our families.
Reality: My parents have already been to visit (so has my BFF) and they are returning this summer.
I was afraid of all the things I saw on the news.
Reality: I know the news can be scary, but I feel safer now than I have ever felt. I now watch American news horrified.
I was afraid that if someone got sick, I wouldn't know what to do.
Reality: Even with my minimum wage job, I have public health care for my entire family.
PHOTOS VIA CANDICE ROBERTS
Our children are learning to navigate the world in an unfamiliar environment and that is a strong life skill to have.
This was the best gift we could have ever given our children. Things were hard for them at first, but now they are thriving.
I could have explained this differently. I could have glorified this process. Don't get me wrong, moving here is my dream come true. But it wasn't about moving to Europe. It was about self-fulfillment. My husband and I needed to create the life we wanted, not the life expected of us. Now, I have no more anxiety and we both have finally allowed ourselves to work on our dreams. We feel like ourselves again. All because we finally decided to follow our hearts.
Now that we are settled, our quality of life has improved tremendously. We spend more time together now as a family than we ever have. We are experiencing new things, together. My husband and I have gotten closer. We even eat healthier. We have made new friends and have made future plans for travel. This time, with no hesitation.
The most important thing that I have learned from this process is that my fears were never valid. If my husband would not have forced me to jump, we would still be looking over the edge wondering how things could have been.
Your dream may not be to move to Europe, but you have a dream. My favorite quote in world is my Anais Nin. She says, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." It won't be easy, it may even be scary as hell. But the scariest thing in the world to me is not doing what is in your heart. That is what hurts the most and that is what kills your spirit.
As my BFF said, "be you". We chose to move to Europe because it was better for us. We chose to blossom.
Have you ever thought about moving abroad with your family? What is stopping you?
Candice Roberts is a travel and lifestyle photographer, and is the owner of Bare Borders Travel. She is currently living in Spain with her husband and 3 children, experiencing the world little by little as a family. You can follow her photography and travels via Instagram. #cmrphotographie and #bareborders