Have you ever had a vision and dream that you could not stop thinking about? It always comes up somehow by random conversations, people you meet, places you go. It won’t leave you alone because there is a vision and dream waiting to be unearthed. It waits to be discovered and brought to light and realized. That’s what France was for me.
The idea of going to Europe had been on my heart for years. Particularly, France felt like a vitamin I needed — I longed and craved for it like Vitamin C, there was energy in this place. I knew that spiritually I was supposed to travel to this place for a season and there was an exchange that needed to take place. I needed France and France needed me. The people I met and the things I experienced all came into perfect harmony even in the imperfect moments.
I realized how fluently I speak the French language; I spent a week in Switzerland and traveled to the village of Bonstetten in Zürich where my great, great, great grandmother Sophia Toggweiler was born and lived before immigrating to the U.S. in the late 1800’s with her husband, Charles Rossacher, my great, great, great grandfather. I spent time throughout France, with families and friends, in the mountains and outdoors. I explored and discovered and learned so much. And on the way home I spent a week in Iceland which was absolutely incredible and also a huge part of my journey. The beauty I captured and experienced through this journey I will never forget.
So where did it all start? What makes a girl move to a new country at 27 years old?
Perhaps the curious nature she was born with…the need to explore the world… to discover… to adventure beyond the comfortable…to find what makes her soul feel alive and present to the beauty of this world…to be in a place and culture that matches her own priorities, passions, lifestyle, language, and spirit…to share the joy and energy she has with the world…to be spiritually alive…to learn…to meet people from around the world…to cross cultural barriers and grow.
The love for travel, the outdoors, adventure, and the promptings in my spirit started at a very young age. I had always been an explorer and adventurer, traveling to wherever I could to see new places and worlds uncharted, even if it was discovering something new in my own backyard.
My skydiving experience in October 2010 taught me a lot about myself and paralleled my view of our journey in life sometimes. There are times in our lives that we don’t have it all figured out or every detail in place, but we know that we must do something that has been calling us, a constant whisper, a passion. And sometimes you have to jump, before you’re “ready”, and trust that you have what it takes, both internally, and externally to make it happen.
I had taken trips and adventures over the years to other countries and parts of the world. I spent time all over the U.S., particularly my favorite area, the West. I camped and hiked for 3 weeks in the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming while leading a trip. I hiked and traveled all around Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and California. I did skiing, climbing, paddling, backpacking and more. I went sea kayaking in Florida off the Keys. I hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and visited Washington D.C. I spent time in Michigan and saw the Great Lakes. I spent time exploring in the Carolinas, Georgia, Arkansas, and all over my beautiful home state of Tennessee.
I had explored many places and ventured on many, many travels. I saw my smaller dreams come true for sure, always finding a way to pursue my heart’s passions and the adventures that make me feel alive and bring me true joy. It’s all about connections and taking the opportunities you have before you. I synced with North Face’s motto: “Never stop exploring.” That idea is part of me I think, in my DNA. And I hope to keep exploring always.
I had also used my French in many of my travels, all over the U.S. and meeting people to speak with everywhere I go. I even spoke with the French in New York City in 2014, and in Guadeloupe that summer where I spent 2 weeks on the French Caribbean island, translating for a U.S. ministry team which ultimately connected me to France. I considered moving to many other places and knew I was restless staying in Franklin, Tennessee long-term. So I couldn’t ignore it anymore. There was still a bigger dream that had always been there and it was a bigger leap. It would require more of me than ever before. This bigger dream was to move to the country of France for a season of my life.
I started studying the French language when I was 14 years old. I fell in love with the language and the culture and the European way of life. I pursued the language with diligence and continued learning, speaking and practicing ever since.
I finally arrived in France and could be immersed and speak all the time. Overall, the dream was not just to use my French. It was also the desire to explore this place for more than just a week or two on a vacation. I knew that if I traveled there, I wanted to spend at least a season of my life there if not more at some point.
All of it is a gift that I’m grateful for EVERY single day. I don’t take any day for granted. I see the beauty in all things. Call me a romantic or an optimist, I’m really both. And I’m also a realist. Life is hard sometimes and it requires much of us and there are challenges and obstacles and we grow personally from all of these things. This journey has been equally challenging as it has been magical and beautiful, and I see the beauty in the challenges too. Every day.
I’m also grateful that I had the flexibility and opportunity to make this move. I was in between running my own business that I started in early 2015 and seeking other potential career paths. I was no longer satisfied with any of the “career options” before me and I knew I couldn’t settle. I never really liked the idea of the “American dream.” That wasn’t my thing or my goal. To have enough, to live simply and enjoy life, to build a life and be successful on my terms — that was my dream. And to keep traveling of course, in the most affordable ways possible. I have many passions and pursuits and hobbies, and I want my work to include those in some form or fashion. I realized in those months leading up to my move to Europe that it was time to stop waiting for the next step. For the “perfect time.” This WAS my next step. This was the perfect time. And it was time to sail away.
To get to France, I decided to sell everything I owned and combine that with savings to fund my 3-month stay in Europe. It’s just stuff. I didn’t need a car in Europe and I definitely didn’t need more stuff. I have been happier this season of my life with little and the minimum than I ever have been before with tons of stuff.
(Though, I don’t recommend bringing TWO suitcases and a backpack with you if you want to travel by train and live abroad in different places. I had to send a suitcase back to the U.S. from Switzerland! I couldn’t make it with 2 by train, and traveling light is my method of choice, but I didn’t know how much I would need, or how many pairs of shoes, you know, the essentials.)
I did what it took to get to Europe, including being willing to be uncomfortable both before I left and while I was there to experience the adventure fully. To me, that is where I find the adventure of life, in the times we are willing to be uncomfortable as well as enjoying the journey. The in-between. Being uncomfortable awakens our senses to being alive. We focus on our needs, not just our wants. We can soak in even more the simple things and moments. At least that is my experience.
My hope is for others to see their dreams through too, if they haven’t already. If traveling to Europe, or anywhere abroad, is on your list, I have a few tips and some helpful information on my page: How to Plan & Pay for Your Next Adventure.
Regardless of what exactly our dream is — whether it is travel, a job, a place, anything. I think it is important to remember these few things:
1) Your dreams belong to you. And as long as you believe in yourself, you don’t need any stamp of approval except the one on your passport 😉
2) If you know in your heart you are being led in a certain direction and the opportunities are before you, you feel balanced spiritually, you aren’t just being impulsive, you’ve thought it through, the resources are there, the door is open? GO!!! The time is now. All we have is the present and we can’t let life pass by and let it happen to us. We get to happen and be present in this life, to create, to move, to have a voice and a choice, to affect the world, to share our stories, and to live freely and joyfully. We have a vote.
3) Warning: You may have haters on your path as well as supporters. You will discover you have 3 types of friends: those who pretend to be happy for you; those who are not happy for you at all (which are the “friends” you usually end up letting go of and may have not been actual friends to begin with); and those who are authentically happy for you and want the best for you, celebrate with you and your joy, your successes, and are true friends. The last category is the type of friend you want to keep close. The healthy ones.
4) Be prepared for both negative and positive reactions. Be open to wisdom spiritually and practically. Be vigilant as you consider your direction and decisions. But at the end of the day, this is your life. And the haters don’t get a vote. You be you, and you let them be them. Be un-apologetically you and be the best version of you.
5) Your dreams CAN come alive. It might take time, planning, saving, sacrifices, and connections. But if you know you’re supposed to do something, you must do it intentionally and courageously.
6) Lastly, do not give up. Keep moving forward. Always.