Words by Caroline Topperman
Our first big move came a couple of years after we finished university. My husband (fiancé at the time) and I were both starting our careers. I was working several part-time jobs and trying to build a career as a dancer and he was in game design. Then he accepted an offer at EA Sports in Vancouver Canada, over 2700 miles away from our home in Toronto. Everyone was excited for us. This was a great opportunity for him and exactly what he wanted to do with his life. I was sure that I’d find something to do, so we packed our things and off we went with nothing stopping us.
On the outside, everything was fabulous, but the reality of such a huge decision hit me hard. He went off to work and I had nothing to do. I started taking dance classes and spent hours wandering the seawall alone. Finally, after several months, I got a job working in a gym which would propel me into my career. My husband steadily rose through the ranks helping publish a number of bestselling games. I opened a Pilates studio, co-owned a gym, worked in insurance, automotive sales, and finally found a great job with a real estate developer. All the while, we were buying, selling, and renovating homes and saving every penny.
Fast forward 13 years and we were both suffering serious burnout. My husband had quit EA several years prior and was working as the CTO of a boutique investment firm and I had just started working on my blog full-time. While Vancouver is a beautiful city, we were restless. With its sky-high cost of living, constant rain, and the pressure to be thin and beautiful, the cons had quickly started to outweigh the pros. I knew I needed a change and not the let’s-go-on-a-great-vacation kind of change. It had to be something meaningful, something drastic. This wasn’t an easy decision, but I trusted my gut. The fear of potential marital issues and an unhappy stressful life scared me more than a complete upheaval.
Having just been to visit my grandmother in Poland, I decided that we should pack up our stuff and move overseas. I didn’t have much of a plan and yet I was positive this would work. There were no negatives. What was the worst that could happen? We’d come back in a few months, maybe a year, with slightly bruised egos and live with my dad for a bit until we got back on our feet? There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance and besides, if you never try you’ll never know. This was my firm belief, but convincing my husband took a bit of work. My crazy plan was way outside of the box for him. How would this work? What would we do once we got there? What about all of our stuff? For me, the road was clear. We would sell our current apartment and keep the two rental units we had. As for our stuff, well it’s just stuff. Most of it could be sold and the things we really loved could easily be put into storage. As for how long we would be going for, that would just depend on what happened once we got there.
I laid out my plan in small, palatable stages. First we decided to take a two-week vacation to Warsaw. Not only was this the longest vacation we had ever taken, but it was also like the honeymoon we never had time for. It was love at first sight. There was a palpable energy in the air. People were excited to be alive and the city was thriving. We looked at each other and put our plan into action. Without telling anyone, we started closing up our life in Vancouver and making tentative plans for a new one in Warsaw. Getting Polish passports was the big challenge and took about a year and a half. In the end it was just paperwork and an item to cross off our checklists.
In a matter of months we sold our apartment and most of our stuff. Then came the fun of telling our families, both of whom live in Toronto. Everyone was shocked. For one, they expected us to come back home to Toronto at some point and since Poland was a country they had fled, they were conflicted about whether to be happy for us or not. Then there was the issue of us not having jobs. How would we live? My husband’s parents, especially, value a 9-5 type of life and having a boss you can complain about. They couldn’t fathom the idea that he might not have a real job and we had to field endless questions. The truth was that I didn’t have all the answers but I also didn’t have any questions. We were so used to counting on ourselves and I’m a very resourceful person by nature, so I knew that we would be fine. We had landed in Vancouver with no real support system and somehow we had managed and come out on top. I knew that we could do it again.
With my cousin’s help we found a lovely 2 bedroom apartment right downtown and near a big park. We were closing our eyes and jumping off a cliff and there was no room for doubt or for second guessing ourselves. This was going to be the biggest leap of faith we had ever made and all we could do is trust that everything would work out in our favor.
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Caroline is a blogger and a writer, who has worked in the fashion, fitness, and beauty industries. From owning a Pilates studio which was frequented by professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities to working with international fashion and beauty brands, she has done it all. Caroline’s first book, FitWise: Straight Talk On Being Fit & Healthy, combines her unique voice and experience. Find more of her work on her blog Styleontheside.com, your no nonsense guide to being Fit, Stylish & Fabulous.