Traveling Abroad Before Children: Why Everyone Should Do It
Newly married to my high school sweetheart at the young age of twenty-two, my life didn’t feel all that different from how it was before saying “I do.” My husband and I were being forced to live separately due to his job in the military, which meant that I still lived at home with my family in my childhood bedroom, like I always had. The main changes in my life were rocking some diamonds on my left ring finger and a joint bank account that saw more money than my college checking account ever did.
Then one day, about ten days prior to our long-distance relationship finally coming to an end, my phone rang. It was my husband calling from his temporary living space in Missouri. We were due to move in together (finally!) in less than one month to our first home in Tennessee. However, this phone call came with new and exciting news -- the Army had decided they were going to move us overseas instead. Cue the panic of my 22 year-old self (still living with mommy and daddy) now faced with the reality of not just shacking up with my husband, but making our new home and life work abroad.
Flash forward three years and my husband and I, having made that big move overseas to Italy, don’t regret a single moment of it. In fact, if we had a penny for every time people told us “How smart of you guys to take on this opportunity before you have children!” we’d surely be rich. The opportunities and growth we’ve experienced by packing up and hopping on a one-way flight to Europe in our early-twenties - just us, our dog, and the clothes from our bedrooms - are invaluable, both for ourselves and our marriage.
We have grown exponentially as individuals and as a couple. By being forced to literally figure out an entire new life on our own, we have become experts in our marriage. We’ve been forced to learn so much about one another and ourselves, both while we’re together and apart. Did our relationship go through some growing pains? It sure did. Did we beat those pains down right on the head and keep moving forward? You bet.
We have built more confidence in ourselves than we ever thought possible. Moving to Italy, we were literally tossed into a whole new world. A new language, new rules and laws, new customs and cultural norms. Just stepping foot out of my front door every day took courage. What if the neighbors that speak zero English want to talk to me? What if the two-way street that looks wide enough for a compact car doesn’t fit my American sized jeep? What if I get randomly stopped by the Carabinieri for a document check?
We have fallen in love with a new culture. We have completely embraced the Italian lifestyle. No more bacon and eggs and extra-large coffees for breakfast. An assortment of pastries, meats and cheeses, and an espresso will do. Italian rolls off of our tongues more frequently than English. We can bring our dog everywhere, you say? Boats, trains, subways, buses, hotels, restaurants, malls. You name it, she can come. You’ve got us hooked. What’s that? A required mid-day rest time built into the day? Inconvenient for us Americans, maybe. The most relaxing time of the day? Definitely.
We have become experts in international travel. After successfully visiting over twenty countries and countless cities on a budget, all we can say is Thank you, Skyscanner and budget airlines. Round-trip flights for €20 and international trains where you can eat and drink until your heart is content – Europeans sure know how to do it right.
We have gained perspective on how others live. Americans do things so differently than Europeans. They value different things, move at a much quicker pace in daily life, eat different foods, and spend their free time indulging in different activities. At first, these things seemed really odd and absolutely inconvenient for us Americans. Luckily, we have since learned to embrace nearly all of the different aspects of European lifestyle. We love their slower-paced lifestyle, their nightlife is the best, and the food is to die for. America’s quick beat routines will surely be an adjustment for us once we return.
Traveling abroad is a life-changing experience, one that we will forever reap the benefits from. While taking the opportunity to travel abroad at any stage of life is more than a good idea, my husband and I are so grateful this experience happened for us before having kids. Not only are we more confident as individuals, but our marriage is fortified, too. And now that we’re preparing to enter the next stage of our lives - becoming parents with twins on the way - that relaxed Italian lifestyle we’ve been educated in should come in handy more than ever.
About the Author
Jackie is an army wife who has spent the last three years living abroad in Italy with her husband, writing for Buzzy Blogs as she traveled. Now heading back to the United States, Jackie and her husband are excitedly preparing to welcome twin girls to their family later this year!