The Story of My Life: We are Moving Out of the Country. Again.

December 9, 2015 Katja Presnal

Go with your heart

One Year Anniversary and Time to Leave

This week we celebrate our one year anniversary back in New York by packing our things, and scheduling another international move.

It was magical to be back in New York City for Christmas time last year this time, but we all felt deeply saddened we had left Europe after living in Sweden for three years, and after just having visited Paris on our last vacation, on our way out of Europe. We arrived right on time for the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree lighting in New York City – and the demonstrations that surrounded it last year; immediately giving us the harsh reality how much had changed in the three years we had been gone.

It’s odd now to look back. Just last month the terrorist attack happened in Paris and the situation in Sweden is very different too after a year. I don’t wish we were still in Sweden, but I also wish we hadn’t come here.

Magnolia Bakery, NYC

Truthfully, we felt like we failed by moving back to the US and by not staying in Europe, (or not moving to Asia). But we tried to make it work. We thought buying a nice house would help. We thought putting kids to good schools would help. Kids got caught up on the three years of New York schools in a matter of weeks, and all three are honor roll students. It truly is true: world travels, exposing to new cultures and going the hard way in life helps kids to excel at school, and not just in theory.

Truthfully, we have not enjoyed our time in Binghamton, NY, area. We live in Vestal. It’s “the town” when country people say they are “going to town.” I can find every big box store and chain restaurant just around the corner from us. Our “town” is a four-lane road full of strip malls, and I didn’t even buy a car so I don’t have to drive it through any extra times I don’t have to. I don’t like the fact I have gone to Target more times the past year than the past ten years before that. And yet, sometimes, I feel like going to Target is the highlight of my day here. I don’t want to be that person. And I feel like a snob saying these things aloud, and I don’t want to be that person either.

Nomadic living

And it is funny, especially because I am so far from a snob. Second car isn’t the only thing we didn’t buy when we moved back. We also don’t own a TV, any gaming systems, microwave oven… or even beds. Now I realize how sad it may sound that we have hoped to leave so desperately, that even in the seven and half months of living in our house we haven’t even bought beds, and are still sleeping on mattresses on the floor. For the first four months I also kept my clothes packed, hoping there was a mistake, and we can move out soon. This is the reality of nomadic living. Living out of boxes, sleeping on the floor, living in hotels, and not owning many things. And we are OK with that.

Now I feel relieved, and even smart because we didn’t spend all that money on things, and we didn’t stop hoping and working for a way out. We didn’t settle.

People often ask from us which has been our favorite place to live in, and every time I answer diplomatically that every place has its good points and bad points, and a lot of your happiness and your content depends on yourself. That’s what SKIMBACO really is. It could be “skiing in Colorado” or “shopping in New York” or “museum hopping in Paris” or “sailing in Finland.” You just need to find what is the best in the place you are. I still agree and sign that statement, but maybe I am having a mid-life crisis or something because this time I am screaming and stomping my foot on the ground, and I am determined to argue that this place is not for us, and we should just leave.

It’s not the place alone, I know locals like it here. It’s me, it’s us. We kissed the world, and we liked it. We don’t have to settle, if we don’t want to. I don’t have to find the silver lining in Vestal, NY, if I don’t want to. It’s not that life is hard here, it’s almost the opposite. It’s too easy.

I kissed the world. And I liked it.

Things are never one-sided, and there isn’t a perfect place (do you know one? I’ve visited 30+ countries and lived in 20+ towns, none of them is perfect.). I am not naive, and I know that running away isn’t the solution either. If I am not happy in the inside, I am not going to be happy wherever in the world I am.

I’ve had many flashbacks to memories and feelings I had when I moved to the USA the first time in 1998, and had the biggest culture shock of my life. When we moved back from Germany in 2002, I was too busy with two babies, pregnant and renovating a house upstate New York, that I didn’t even have time to think of culture shock of coming back. I think Matt had it the worst then, and he had really hard time settling back in the USA. I was just trying to stay positive, because I didn’t think we had any other option but to stay here.

We waited for the opportunity to move back to Europe for ten long years. Matt started working for his current company in 2008, when we moved from Colorado to New York. One of the main reasons he took the job, was a hope to get international assignments in the future, and move back to Europe. Then finally we moved to Sweden four years ago. It’s funny that many, even those who know us well, say “how easy it is” for us to move and leave. None of this has been easy, and I know it won’t be easy. But it is worth the pain, worth the hard work, and worth sleeping on a floor and not having the latest and the greatest of anything.

Mailbox in a snow.. It's time to get a new mailbox and move again!

When we got to Sweden, I started posting my “Good Morning from Sweden” photos on Instagram (follow me?) every day. I was just thankful for the sunrises I saw every day. I was in a place where I felt like home, even though it wasn’t even home. That’s what I miss in my life. The small moments of gratefulness “I can’t believe this is my life” and “I am so lucky to live here.” It’s the feeling I had every time I landed at Arlanda airport in Stockholm and smelled the cinnamon buns; the smell that combines my childhood memories in Finland with the new memories of baking with my kids and the gratefulness of living in Sweden and coming back home. Those are the things I miss. The small things. Life fills with small things.

It would be easy to say that we want to run away from the USA because of political environment, level of education, cost of healthcare, gun laws, GMOs and FDA — and a list of many other things. Technically it is all true, but ultimately we are just people who want the best for their kids, and enjoy life to the fullest. To me it really is quite simple: I want to look outside my window everyday, feel excited and safe where I am, and thankful for my life. And preferably I want the view look pretty too, and to be something that draws me outdoors to explore more. I want the best for my children, and I want to help them to make educated decisions for their future. They all have two passports, speak a few languages, and I want to continue to help them to become global citizens who have a wider view of the world.

It pains me to say how much I want to leave. Especially because many of my best friends are American, and you live here. Many of my dearest friends live in state of New York (and I would most likely feel very differently if we lived closer to NYC). I love this country like my own. But honestly, I had these same feelings when I moved out of Finland. I love Finland, and so many things and people there, but enough was just enough, and I was so ready to leave. I would love to return back to Finland, and I am sure one day I will be happy to return to the United States.

However, we are heading to a completely new country, where we haven’t lived before. Not in Europe, but staying in North America. We are moving to Canada. Now, what could go wrong, eh?

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live globally inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (36)

  1. Container Homes Canada

    Welcome to Canada! It’s such a beautiful country, especially if you love winter! So many winter activities can make it even more interesting!

  2. Monique

    In so many ways, you wrote this for me :)

    I am going through one of the toughest moments of my life and in may ways it is tied to where I live, and I just wish I could pack and go.

    I am sure you will enjoy Canada!

    Good luck and I will be following your new adventures!

  3. Beautifully written, but you are a beautiful person, so I would expect nothing less :) I think you are all very brave to acknowledge it isn’t working and choose for yourself, I know that feeling exactly when you know it’s time to move on. I wish you all lots of luck and love in Canada… and we will Skype soon to catch up. promised. really really promised this time :D xx

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Everything about moving here felt wrong, and we knew it wasn’t for us from the beginning, but we just didn’t have any other choice. In retrospect, it really turned into a good thing, I can’t wait to move to Canada! AND yes for Skype call!!!

  4. Wow just wow! I would love to do something like this and sometimes wonder what is holding me back! You will make your new place your home!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      We have gotten many opportunities in the past too, and the question we always ask “will we regret if we don’t take it” — if the answer is “yes” – we must go.

  5. Welcome to Canada! Although we live in Calgary we have visited Nova Scotia often. The Maritimes are beautiful and the people so friendly. Good luck settling in.

  6. What fun adventures lie ahead for you and your family. fyi…I too lived in Binghamton NY – only lasted 10 months! lol! It was the only other place I lived besides right outside of Boston. I would love to be more adventurous like you!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      That is so funny that you were here too… You have to give other places a chance!!! But then again…. Boston area is gorgeous, don’t leave :D

  7. Unfortunately there are a lot of cities and communities in the US that are exactly like this with no soul or regional identity, they are out there especially where I live in Hawaii. Hope your next move finds you with some wonderful and authentic experiences that will inspire you and your family.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      That’s it, you get it. It’s not about being “perfect” — it’s about soul and regional identity. I love living in a place where I can feel the history of the place, but I can also feel that things are progressing and moving forward and are modern. Here, the time sits still somewhere between late 1980s and 1990s and it doesn’t feel “historic” :) We felt like we traveled back in time when we got here. And not in a good way. We lived in a 400-year old house in the last place, and the living was more modern than here.

  8. Boy, can we relate! We’ve gotten used to sleeping on mattresses on the floor in both Costa Rica and now the Netherlands. Did you actually buy a house when you returned to NY a year ago? That scares me, because we are about to make a similar move (we mean it this time!), and I really don’t want to see us “up and leaving” again in a year. We’ve moved at least twelve times over the last three years, over five countries… and we’re so hungry for a real HOME. But then, you know, we want to keep traveling at the same time. ;) I think this inability to commit to one place is a common trait in the pool of traveling families… and it does concern me.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Yes… we did buy a house. We lived in hotels for 3,5 months, looking for rentals and over 30 houses to buy, and there were not many options here. We really hated this place the minute we arrived, but tried that if we buy a house, make it our own (after renting for ten years), we would like it more and would be able to settle. We were hungry for HOME too. Then we ended up dumping ton of money on fixing the house, and realized that home ownership does limit your travels quite a bit… :)

  9. You big tease Katja! CANADA?! How exciting! What part of Canada? You didn’t say or I read to fast lol!
    Funny enough the more I read about Finland the more I want to move there and yet I know NOBODY there. What did you like about Finland?
    There are great Canadian blogger networks on FB I’ve heard too. Make sure you look them up!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Nova Scotia! And yes… Finland IS special and amazing, and now I would move back in a heartbeat, but it’s not easy for my husband to find a job there in his very specialized industry. You have to go and visit!

  10. Leigh Powell Hines

    You will embrace your new home with grace. I, however, am still sulking a little that you will not be my neighbor.

  11. I agree with Katarina above: I would love to go to Canada too! Somehow I imagine it being a little bit similar to Scandinavia, at least the climate, the calmness, the modest modern people. Looking forward to follow you there!

  12. Have I said how much I adore and admire you Katja? If not, I’m saying it now! Thank you for articulating that wanderlust and love of life that is in so many of us. Absolutely do not settle! And I love your quote about “kissing the world” – I had a taste of that last summer and can’t wait to get back to Europe (specifically London, and definitely Paris).

    But I’m most excited to learn that you’ll be sharing your pixie dust here in my country of Canada. It is a country that is particularly welcoming to people who love to travel because we celebrate the history of those who first settled this country and all those who have come since. I love the eastern coast, though I’ve only been to Newfoundland – I have no doubt you’ll fall in love with the natural beauty of Nova Scotia.

    But as special as the east coast is, I hope you’ll find time to make your way to Toronto for a visit! I wish you and your family beautiful and memorable travels always!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      It is scary easy also to settle. It is so easy. But once you go the hard way once, twice, several times, you won’t settle that easily any more. It becomes painful to try to settle and fit in in something that just doesn’t fit. You know you CAN, and it would be easier just let it go, and go with the flow and find the silver linings instead of doing all the hard work and make the changes.

      We are so excited about Canada! I have been to Nova Scotia twice, and it is absolutely stunning. A bit far away… but stunning. This will be my first time living on the coast since I left Finland, so I am extremely excited about being by Atlantic!!! And yes, I hope our paths will cross soon!

  13. I share many of your same feelings, and I’ve lived here my whole life. I want nothing more than to pack up and give somewhere else a try. Congratulations on the move. I’ve always wanted to visit Nova Scotia…

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      You have to come and visit!! Packing and moving is scary, lots of work, and all things don’t automatically turn better with moving. But sometimes you hit the jackpot, find the gold on the end of the rainbow, and that’s what makes it all worth it. The shittiest part is that like with so many things in life, you FIRST have to take the leap of faith, and do all the work, and then you see if you will get the jackpot.. or lose it all. :D

  14. Naomi

    This is my favorite post you’ve written, and that is after 7+ years of reading your blogs! I love how your entire family has embraced travel and internationalism. And I’m looking forward to learning all about Nova Scotia through your eyes.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      I should have guts to write what I really think more often…. And thanks for being there. The only reason I am still sane after all of these years of moving around is to have friends like you online.

  15. Katja, although we’ve never met, I’ve followed you since way back, before the lifestyle blog, before the magazine, since almost the beginning I think, since those cute little shoes and the Tom Cruise family thing. I’ve watched your children grow up vicariously, and lived the moments from behind my screen. I can identify with all you’ve said above and I am happy for you and your family to be able to experience yet another part of the world!I’ll look forward to all the morning goodness from across the border!
    Go with God my friend !!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Thank you so much Deb. That’s one of the reasons I love traveling and moving around — my online friends are always with me! Can not wait to say “good morning from Canada” :D

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