Our Australian Stop Over Part One: Sydney

On “our way” to New Zealand, we figured we would stop over in Australia, as we had never been there, and had considered living there. We did five days in Sydney, three in the Barossa Valley, and three in McLaren Vale, all at Airbnb’s. We had many exciting and great experiences, a few annoying and frustrating experiences, and overall, a great adventure. Read on for an overview of the highlights (and lowlights) of our trip.

To begin, the flights were long. So long! We left our families in Saskatchewan with tears, knowing we wouldn’t see many of them for a long time. We flew to Calgary, then L.A., and then finally on to Sydney. It was a 15 hour flight from L.A. to Sydney, and we spent well over 24 hours in travel. We left on Oct. 30th, and arrived on Nov. 1st, leaving Halloween as only a mist that we quickly passed through. Amazingly, the flight to Sydney wasn’t full, and we had three seats to just the two of us. We were able to take turns lying down across the seats, and actually got a bit of sleep. I also greatly enjoyed Virgin Australia as an airline.

We picked up our rental, and on the other side of the car and road as we were used to, hesitantly headed to our Airbnb in the Surry Hills area of Sydney. This is a trendy area that came highly recommended, but we didn’t enjoy it at all. I recommend staying in the Bondi Beach area if you plan to go to the beach a lot, or in Circular Quay or The Rocks, if you want to be around the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and other main attractions.

Our Airbnb in Sydney was also the worst we’ve ever stayed in. It was so dirty; there were spots of old food and goop on the tables and walls, dirt and dust all over the carpet and tiles, and black mould on the bathroom walls and in the shower. There was no garbage can, anywhere in the unit. I bought a hair dryer, and we ended up turning the box into our garbage. There were no tea towels or washing towels, there were two knives for cooking, one of which had the tip broken off. There was one wine glass… so we shared it. The worst part of all, is that we were on an extremely busy street, and the window was broken. The frame was hanging out of the side of the building, leaving an inch gap along the sides and top. We slept with ear plugs in the whole time! Long story short, we complained to Airbnb and were given a partial refund. Our friends who recently moved to Sydney have seen much worse places on their house hunt; apparently Sydney needs to up its standards. Our friend made a comment about how Australia is a first world country, but many Sydney residents live like it’s a third world country. I was quite disappointed in that, and I feel it’s something tourists should be aware of.


Bondi Beach

We came to Australia in their spring, from reasonably chilly weather in Canada, so we hit the beach on day one! Bondi Beach is amazing, and huge, and beautiful, with white sand, blue water, big waves, a stunning view, and lots of shops and restaurants along the street.

The parking fee is outrageous! There is a lot there, but it costs $15 for 2 hours. To spend a day at the beach is upwards of $45 in parking alone. If you plan to go to the beach, stay in that area and walk! Thankfully, the parking machines were down for two of three visits on our trip, and we paid only once, saving us a lot! I loved Bondi Beach, and the time we spent there. The water is much cooler than in places like Hawaii, but it is warmer than in Canada. There are surfers to watch, and lots of people. We were pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of public toilets, water fountains, showers, and even free wifi at the beaches in Australia. We enjoyed two of the cafes and restaurants along the beach during our visits too.


Opera House and Harbour Bridge

These are two main sights that Sydney is known for, so we visited them several times and had views of them from many different angles, bars and restaurants. If you stay in the Circular Quay or The Rocks areas, you can easily walk to both of these. They are beautiful and worth a see! If you like tours, you can tour the Opera House for roughly $45/each. We chose not to. There are a few bars and restaurants right alongside the Opera House, that we enjoyed a few times. Parking in the lot there is $16/hour! When my parking costs are higher than my alcohol costs, that’s a problem for me. If you book online ahead of time for any Wilson lot, you can get discounted parking, so if you know where you’re going to be, I suggest doing that!

You can also walk on top of the Harbour Bridge for the Bridge Climb if you have $300/each to spend, or you can go halfway up for half price. We climbed one of the towers on the bridge that its creators added to make it look similar to the Tower Bridge in London. The climb was a few hundred stairs, and only $15/each.


Sydney Tower Eye

We were being very budget conscious on this trip, due to our move, but we decided to do one nice dinner out, and we chose the 360 Bar and Dining in the tower. We thoroughly enjoyed our food, drinks, view and experience there! They were great with my soy allergy, and they actually gave Canadian and American style table service. (Most of Australia and NZ requires you to walk up to a bar or counter to order, pay, and then nobody serves you after that.) We ate a variety of appetizers, meals and desserts, all of which were amazing, and even tried the Kangaroo, which was really tender and flavourful! I would recommend this place to anyone who enjoys fine wine and dining. Note that again, the parking situation is challenging. The nearest Wilson lot is a 10 minute walk away, and requires pre-booking for a discount.


Sydney Harbour Cruise

We chose to do a 2 hour, afternoon boat cruise, and it was fabulous. We saw so much of the harbour. Sydney would be an amazing place to do a full cruise to!


Hillsong Church

If you’re a Christian or God follower of any kind, or even potentially if you’re not, you know of Hillsong. They have churches all around the world now, but they started in Sydney, and going to their original location was a major highlight for us!


Darling Harbour

This is another harbour that is less famous than the main harbour, but is also very beautiful, and full of restaurants and bars that capitalize on the exceptional setting. They do free fireworks all spring and summer on Saturday nights at 9pm!


Local Events

We were fortunate to have friends that had just moved to Sydney, and to get to spend two days with them. They invited us along to some local events, and we met some of their friends as well. This really made us feel like we got some of the local experience, and we enjoyed experiencing Sydney with them very much!

Food and Wine Festival in Lane Cove (above)

Melbourne Cup Day (above)

The Lord Nelson Brewery, Sydney’s oldest pub (above)

Navigating our way around The Rocks at night (above)


There are so many more things to see and do in Sydney! Check out Circular Quay and The Rocks areas. The train is easy to use, and pretty affordable. There are great restaurants, pubs, chocolate shops and coffee shops everywhere. There are lots of great places to walk and jog! It’s probably not the best idea to rent a car there, unless you’re like us and are moving with too much luggage! The weather was fantastic and the people were pretty friendly. Other than having disgusting accommodations, we really enjoyed our time there!

Thanks for reading, and happy traveling!

Snakes, Spiders, and Other Bugs in Australia

So, the bugs in Australia…

My husband originally said he wouldn’t live in Australia because of his fear of snakes and spiders. When we booked our accommodations for our 11 day trip on the way to New Zealand, we wondered how many spiders we’d see. I was expecting to see at least one big one, somewhere, and we actually kept our bags closed all the time at the first 2 of 3 places we stayed. I’m pleased to report that we didn’t actually see any big spiders at all! I was surprised to only see very small ones, about the size of an ant.

There are lots of photos and articles that go around on social media and in the news, that give the impression that Australia is just crawling with horrible creatures at every turn. This, we found to be untrue; however, we did discover through talks with the locals, that the bugs actually are a pretty concerning issue. In the northern part of Australia, it is apparently more likely to come across lots of snakes and spiders, and in the outback, they’re definitely common. In the south, the huge Huntsmans aren’t as common, but they are still present.

At our first winery visit in McLaren Vale, we were told that staff are no longer allowed to take visitors on tours of the actual vineyard, partially due to safety reasons. They say that snakes like to live in the vines. Okay – so no going into vineyards or tall grasses or any untamed garden type areas…

We also discovered some other news about spiders through our Airbnb hosts. They warned us about “White Tip Spiders,” and said that if we ever see one, we need to kill it. They explained ever so nonchalantly that the White Tips wouldn’t kill us, but that if we were bit, we would get a high temperature, and an ulcer in the area that would last for years. The bite requires antibiotics as well. They had been cleaning out their garage that afternoon, and only found one, which they said was great for not having gone through it in a couple of years. Those awful little guys also like to live in or around plants. Got it – no plants!

We asked how we would know if we were bitten by one of the poisonous spiders, as opposed to the other ones, and they said that if we notice a red line going from the site of the bite towards our hearts, that means it will kill us and we need to get to the hospital for the anti-venom ASAP. They were surprised that we didn’t know this procedure, and asked how we deal with poisonous bites at home; we explained that in Canada, that’s not a thing! Frost bite is the only bite we need to worry about.

We did conclude that the idea that spiders and snakes are everywhere in Australia, has about the same level of truth to it as the expectation of seeing Moose, Beavers and igloos does, when visiting Canada. Yes, we have those things, but it’s not common to see them.

On another note, their black flies are different from ours, and are extremely annoying! They don’t fly away with the simple wave of a hand near them. They will land on you and sit there until you actually wipe them off. They land on your face. They land right on your face when you’re eating, and just sit there! It’s pretty gross.

We also learned about these big toads they have, that were brought over from Asia in the 70’s as an attempt to rid the country of some other bugs, but there is no predator in Australia that eats them, so now they’ve become a pest. These toads aren’t apparently harmful to humans, but they spit out venom at cats, dogs and other small animals that will paralyze the animal and kill it within hours. People have been losing their pets to this toad venom, and it’s becoming a bit of a problem. So as long as you don’t have an issue with very large toads that spit at you, or a pet you want to keep, you don’t need to worry about those.

Finally, let’s discuss the millipede, which graced the cover of this article. We had heard about them, and been told that tourists freak out when they see them, but they’re quite harmless. This ugly bugger was hiding under my suitcase, and I’m not sure how long he was there! When I folded the lid over and closed up the bag, there he was, crawling at me at much too high of a pace, with all his squiggly legs! I’ll admit, I freaked out, like people said I would!

Greg was thankfully outside, and I discovered the millipede alone. Then I found another dead one, with only half a body, on the other side of the same room. I tried to remember that they’re “harmless.” They may be harmless to my health, sure, but what about my peace of mind? I was glad I didn’t discover these guys until our last day, or I would have been nervous walking to the bathroom at night in bare feet, and the sheets would have been more thoroughly checked! I do believe NZ has bugs like this though… so we may be learning to deal with them, as much as I don’t want to.

We are thankful we didn’t see any snakes or any huge spiders during our time in Australia, and we are looking forward to living in the land of no snakes and no big spiders! On another positive note, at least we know what to look for if we come across those poisonous bites, and now you all do too. You’re welcome?

If you ever visit Australia, now you’ll be prepared. If you have already been, feel free to correct any misinformation, or add a comment with your own experiences and tips! Thanks for reading, blog family.

The Last Starbucks

I have been picturing this moment for years now… picturing, dreaming, envisioning, hoping for, praying for, questioning at times, even fearing it if the anxiety got too tight a hold, but grasping onto it in my mind as clear as day. Greg and I talked about “that dream moment,” many times, when we would be HERE, sitting in the secure area, at our gate, with our last Canadian Starbucks. 

There were many times it seemed like it would never come. I even started typing this post a long time ago so I could read it over when I needed a reminder to have faith and hold tight to the dream. Every time we travel I take a secure area Starbucks photo before we get on the plane; if you’ve followed me in the past, you know the ones.

This is “the last Starbucks” on this side of the ocean for a while. This is the last Starbucks on this side of a one way ticket to New Zealand (I left a blank when I typed this months ago because I used to be sure it was Rome but somehow knew it might be somewhere else).  

This is the last Starbucks on this side of the life we know, the last Starbucks on this side of a life we can almost predict. This is the last Starbucks on this side of safety in our people, comfort in our communities, stability in the familiarity of home. This is the last Starbucks in the same building as family members and close friends, who we’ve just hugged and cried with downstairs. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the biggest adventure we’ve ever known, this side of the contradicting panic and fear, and also complete peace that we have in knowing we’re supposed to do this. This is the last Starbucks as people who have only ever lived in one city, before changing everything we know, and trusting God more than we’ve had to in a while to provide everything we need. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the hugest leap of faith we’ve ever taken. 

This moment is here

This moment is real

This moment is now

Woah.

We’ll catch up with you on the other side of the world! Cheers. 

There Will Always Be Something to Worry About

There will always be something to worry about. Even when one thing gets resolved, and I think, “if this could just happen, then I’ll feel so much better…” there’s always going to be the next thing. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t need God to rely on. Even when one trial in life is finished, it’s backed with another one, of another kind, or the same kind, eventually. This is life, and trials are our teachers.

We struggled all summer to rent our house. We prayed and prayed, because we wanted tenants in the spring, so we could live in our camper all summer and save money for our planned move to Italy this fall. Along the way, through a series of events and lessons, we learned that we are actually not going to Italy; we’re planning to move to New Zealand. (For that story, check out this post, and the next two parts. How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 1.)

We ended up showing the place to our tenants on September 20th, which was a long night for me; 2 of the 3 guys said they wanted it and shook my hand, but 1 said he needed to sleep on it. I had to chose to trust that if these guys were meant to live in our house, they would, and if they turned it down, God would bring someone else. Thankfully by mid-afternoon the next day, they had committed. They weren’t available to sign the lease for 5 more days. Then, I had to trust God that they wouldn’t change their minds over the weekend! On the 25th, we signed the lease. Even then, I was hesitant. It seemed too good to be true. Have you ever wanted something so bad, so long, that when it actually seems to be coming together, you think it can’t be real and might get snatched away in an instant? Every day, I have to choose to continue to trust God with our dreams. There’s always something to worry about. We could always lose something, or someone.

Greg almost died at work last month. I’ll get to that story later. Ever since I had him, I’ve feared losing him. When we were first engaged I used to have nightmares that he either cheated on me or died.

I think it’s fair to say that my family of origin struggles with fear, worry and anxiety. My sister was ill a lot growing up, and we almost lost her to her illness a few times. Being inches away from having your daughter or sister die, more than once, shows you that life is a gift; it’s not stable, and not to be taken for granted. It can also put some fear in you, because you don’t want to experience the pain of watching her suffer, or experience the suffering of losing her, or being ill as well.

When a person grows up with this, it becomes habitual. Then, the older we get, and the more pain and suffering we see, the more there is to fear. I have friends that are alone, either because they haven’t met the right partner, or because they’ve been abandoned. I’ve watched marriages break apart now, of people that got married around the time we did. I’ve had friends get cheated on, abandoned with newborns, left for someone else, widowed at our age! I’ve lost a very dear friend to cancer. The list goes on.

There’s always something to worry about. And the truth is, any one of these things could happen to us. I’ve been personally violently assaulted, and robbed, and struggle with fear for safety. I’ve had health problems, and major lung surgery, and struggle with fear of illness. We’re not immune to the pain of this world, even if we have God. He didn’t want it like this, but the world is imperfect, and there is pain. I have to hold on to and cling to the fact that He can bring good out of the ugly. He can take the broken pieces and put them back together. He can teach me something, and I can use those lessons to help and support others. I have to choose to put everything I hold into His hands, and trust He is good, because – here’s a huge understatement – it isn’t easy, and it’s always going to be a choice. But what is the alternative? Does not trusting God make life easier? Take away my pain? Eliminate my suffering?

I used to hold so tightly to my dream of having a permanent contract in my city’s public school division. When I was young, that was what I wanted for my life. All through high school and University, that was my big life plan; that permanent contract became everything to me. I needed it to be happy. I got married, had a house and car, good church, friends, decent health, family, and when I had that contract, my life would finally be complete. I really believed that for years. One year, I felt God showing me that I had put that contract on a pedestal and I was giving it way too much power in my life.

There is a story I heard about a little girl who gets cheap, fake pearls and loves them so much. Her Dad asks her every night if she trusts him, and if he can have them. She offers him everything she has, all of her other toys, but not her pearls. After several nights of this, she finally decides to trust him. She gives him her pearls, her most prized possession. In return, he gives her back real, genuine pearls.

That story still makes me emotional, because I have identified with it so much, initially in regards to my idolized teaching contract, and then eventually in several other areas of my life. God, our Father, isn’t out there looking to take things from us, just because. He’s got genuine, better things to replace the cheap, fake things we are holding so tightly to.

It’s like my eyes opened one day, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was something else I could do in my life that would be more satisfying and fulfilling and ultimately better for me. Mind. Blown. My permanent contract in my city was my fake pearls. I didn’t have to be afraid of letting that contract go anymore. As soon as I was willing to give it up, my world started opening with new possibilities.

That was a few years ago, and at the time, I believed I had given God all of my pearls. This summer, as I continued to worry about other things, that I was or am still holding tightly to, I realized something important. I hadn’t given God my whole string of pearls. The permanent contract was one pearl on the string. I have many other fake pearls that I’m still clinging to, because I don’t want the pain of losing them, or I fear what God will do with them. There is still work to be done in me.

I can either blame my family of origin and life circumstances for my tendency toward fear, or I can accept where I came from, take responsibility for my own struggles, and choose to accept God’s grace and help as I grow. I went with the second option, and have worked very hard on myself, and on letting God change me, for the last decade. There’s a saying that resonates with me: “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I was.” I’m not where I want to be. I still struggle with fearful thoughts and I will likely have to fight them every day for the rest of my life. I still want to cling tightly to certain things in my life that I want control over, or don’t want to lose, and have to fight to remember to hold them with loose hands. I used to always lose those fights though; now, some days, I win. Thank God I’m not where I was!

Back to the story of how Greg almost died. Greg has been roofing this summer. I don’t like the thought of him up on a roof every day. He’s clumsy. I also found out that he wasn’t wearing his safety harness lots of the time, and that made me more concerned. All summer, I’ve worried about him on the roof. I worried a lot at the start, but every day, as Greg left, I prayed that God would protect my husband. He did. I realized somewhere in there that God is Greg’s Father, who made him and loves him. Greg is God’s son, more than he is my husband. I decided to change my prayer.

One morning I prayed, “God, please protect your son today.” That same day, after Greg had finished roofing, he was at the dump unloading old shingles with his co-worker. They were using a large dump trailer, weighing upwards of 8000lbs. His co-worked hadn’t hooked the trailer up properly to the truck. It was also not working well, and Greg was standing in between the trailer and the truck, working on some wiring. He said that he just got a sense, all of a sudden, that he needed to step away, out from in between the truck and trailer. He dropped what he was doing and moved back. Instantly, the trailer unlatched and fell forward into the back of the truck, snipping the wires in half and crushing the tailgate, right where Greg had been standing. His co-worker was in shock at what had occurred, realizing it was his fault, and remembering where Greg had just been. Greg was shocked as well, and grateful to God for sparing his life. I realized when Greg came home and told me this, that I hadn’t even worried about him dying at the dump. He was off the roof, so I had stopped worrying. My worries don’t help him! God is in control and He thankfully kept Greg safe that day.

We did eventually rent out our house, so we could go ahead with the moving plans. But then I worried the rental wouldn’t go through. And then I worried they’d change their minds! And then I worried we wouldn’t get the right health insurance, or that we would have visa problems, or that our move won’t go through, or that we’ll get sick over there, or there won’t be jobs, or we’ll live somewhere unsafe, or go broke, or not have friends there, or that we’ll lose our friends here. What if we hate it? What if we love it? What will we do next year for work, or the year after that? Where will we live?

For the rest of our days, there will always be unanswered questions, and things we aren’t in control of and can’t know. There will always be something to worry about. As far as I’ve learned this summer, trusting God has a plan for me, to bring me hope and a future, is my best option. Otherwise the worries and unknowns will overwhelm me and weigh me down. What will be, will be anyways, whether I just plain worry, or whether I worry, and then chose to pray and trust and remind myself that God is good, and in control, and has a plan for me. Not easy, no, not easy at all – but possible.

Some days I fail, and some days I succeed, but I must keep choosing to trust, because there will always be something I could worry about. Another way of looking at it, is that there will always be something to choose to trust in; and God has been proving Himself to me day by day. Even as I write this, I find myself still facing some of these fears. I’m thankful for grace as I continue to learn.

How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended Up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 3

The house wasn’t renting, so I had a summer of wrestling with God. We felt we had been hearing Him so clearly for two years, guiding us to this move, and now, this house was holding us back. How will we pay for everything without selling it? (I still don’t know the answer to this). Why didn’t we get renters sooner?

I was really struggling one week, and one morning I decided to go find some nature and have it out with God (cause you know, God is there apparently… I know He’s actually everywhere, but I seemed to think meeting Him in nature would give me answers). Greg happened to call me that same morning and said he had to go to the lake for a quick job that afternoon, and invited me along. Perfect. This was my chance!

As he worked, I found an old, wooden swing set and went for a long swing. I told God exactly how angry I was and laid all my confusion out there. I asked, “why haven’t we rented the house yet?” I noticed that as I was moving on the swing, the same view to the side looked different from the forward swing than it did from the back swing. I could look at the same swing post, and see that it looked entirely different depending on how I looked at it. I thought, “maybe we’re looking at this move all wrong. I heard, “you need a new perspective.” I had no idea what that meant. I went away mad that I hadn’t gotten what I wanted: my phone buzzing with dozens of potential tenants, but I kept the thought in the back of my mind.

I kept spending time every morning reading lots of devotionals about trust, and one day, one of them suggested a journaling practice of writing out my fears and facing them head on. I started praying and writing them out, and I remembered the “perspective” thought I’d been trying to figure out. I kept writing fears, and eventually I got to, “what if it’s not Rome?” I immediately felt a sense of peace when I let go of Rome.

I thought, if it’s not Rome, it’s Australia or New Zealand. We’d never been to either, but we had our eyes on them. We’d talked about traveling to visit them, maybe on the way to Italy since we’d have some time. We had even discussed living in one or both countries after a year in Italy. They were on our must-see travel destinations list, but we hadn’t been yet and I had been unwilling to choose a place to move to, that I hadn’t already been to. I’d seen people do that on House Hunters International and always thought they were absolutely nuts! “I would never move to a place I hadn’t been before,” I had said to Greg. Cue God’s laughter.

Australia and New Zealand looked and sounded wonderful, and my favourite wine is from Australia. New Zealand has great wine and weather too, and is part of the commonwealth. Australia wasn’t accepting people our age for working holiday visas (at that time), but New Zealand was! I met Greg at the gym before teaching my fitness class and quickly said to him, “I don’t think we’re supposed to move to Rome. I think we’re supposed to move to New Zealand. Don’t say anything yet, but think on it during my class.” It must have come as quite a surprise to him, but he just said, “hmm. Okay. I’m open to that!”

We discussed it in more detail that evening, and he was at peace about it too, fully on board, and excited about it. We could work in the wine industry there; I could have a break from teaching, and there would be more opportunity for us to both have jobs. More importantly, there would be the opportunity for my husband to have his dream job. We’d have to start at the bottom, of course, but we’d gain experience in the industry. It’s English speaking, and culturally less of a departure from what we’re used to for our first move ever. Visas are way simpler to get, our dollar goes further, and the climate is warmer. Also, guess what begins in New Zealand in November – the month we were supposed to be moving? Wine season.

We wanted to think on it, keep praying for wisdom, and try it on for size. I suggested that we actually start “trying it on” by speaking like we had picked New Zealand instead, and seeing how it felt. In our daily conversations, we changed out “when we live in Rome,” to “when we live in New Zealand.” We noticed it was easy to say, and exciting. I wasn’t terrified anymore, and Greg was no longer overwhelmed at the prospect of the do list that living in Italy presented us with. We noticed that we were excited again! We began dreaming again, and we felt renewed. We wanted to use our upcoming summer holiday to really invest time into the decision, so we decided to officially choose after the trip was done, and to keep it quiet for the time being. We still had to rent the house anyways, and sell the BMW.

We went on a trip to BC to do wine touring, and to visit some of our favourite cousins (the same ones who challenged my husband to find his passion). They inspire us and challenge us both so much. We explained how we weren’t sure where to move. They advised us not to worry about “the where,” so much as “the what.” What was is that we felt we were supposed to be doing? When we were asked to think of it in that frame of mind, we felt we knew already that we were to be in the wine industry.

Every industry needs Christians. We could be the Christians in the wine industry. I know that seems counterintuitive, or taboo to some people, and we know we don’t have everyone’s support. We know some people are probably praying for us, thinking our souls are lost because we want to work in this industry. That’s fine, and we’ll gladly take extra prayers, but we feel it is where we’re supposed to be, for this time in our lives. Italy couldn’t fulfill that “what,” so we needed a new “where” that could. We ended up deciding on either Australia or New Zealand by the end of our trip; Greg was really leaning towards New Zealand.

While in BC, we filled our cousins in on the house situation and the struggle with the move. We had been praying to find tenants through a mutual connection all summer. We didn’t want to post the house publicly and have someone in it that we didn’t know anything about, as it’s not just a rental property; it’s our home and we wanted to leave it furnished. Word of mouth and social media had not been working. I struggled with feeling like I would be giving up on God if I posted it publicly. Our cousins said that sometimes you just have to pick a date, make a decision, and move forward with it. We decided to try that strategy.

We prayed and chose September 15th. We told God we were trying to trust Him but felt we needed to take action of some kind, and that if we didn’t have tenants by the 15th, we’d post it.

On the 12th, we went to a Wine Locker Member invite only wine tasting, for Villa Maria wines, from New Zealand, with a Kiwi there to lead the tasting. We spoke to her after, and she is from the exact area in New Zealand that we want to live. She gave us her contact info, told us how to make our resumes (CV’s), told us where to buy a car, find a rental, and gave us so many helpful tips. She encouraged us and said we should be able to get jobs in the industry. I hope she’s right! Talking to her was so encouraging, and made us feel even better about our choice. We were pretty set on New Zealand after that night.

September 15th came, and we still had no tenants, so we posted the house. We had prayed that by my brother in law’s wedding on October 5th, we would be able to tell all our family and friends the date we were leaving, and where we were going. It was important for us to have closure and be able to use the wedding as a family reunion in a way, to say our goodbye’s in person, hug everyone and tell them we love them.

Within the first week of the house being posted, we had lots of interest. We set up several viewings, and our first one was three people who we have several mutual connections with, including some of my family members, and our property manager! They had seen the add publicly, and didn’t even realize it was us they had been speaking to! They informed us the next day that they wanted our house for October 1st. This was what we’d been praying for all along and I was beyond excited and grateful!

We moved in with Greg’s parents on my birthday, finalized our health insurance, and booked our flights a couple of days later. We applied for our New Zealand work visas, expecting them to take 3 weeks. I had to submit my driver’s license information on my visa application, but I had just gotten a new one, and it hadn’t come in the mail yet! I had to submit the date of issue and had no idea what it would be. I prayed, and guessed a date, entered it, and applied, praying more that it wouldn’t be a problem, and that I’d be able to change it when my license arrived. Our visas surprisingly came through within only 2 days, the day before the wedding!

We were able to tell everyone in person, and say our goodbyes, just as we’d hoped and prayed for. When my license arrived the following week, I ripped it open anxiously to see what the date of issue was going to be. To my surprise, it was the exact date I guessed when I filled in my visa application! I don’t even have to contact immigration and try and change it, or risk problems when we land. Amazing.

I love looking back and seeing all of the things that had to come to be in order for us to be where we are now.

If we hadn’t been set on Rome initially, I wouldn’t have even been open to moving abroad at all. It had to be somewhere warm, and in Europe for me in the beginning or I wouldn’t have even considered a move.

If we hadn’t been pulled towards Rome, where we thought we wanted to go, we wouldn’t have been planning ahead in order to save money and arrange finances and other details we still needed to get New Zealand visas.

Without the comfort of my English teaching course, we would have had no plausible job possibilities for either of us, and wouldn’t have even considered moving abroad.

If our friends hadn’t given Greg the brewing supplies, he never would have found his passion for the industry, and asked to take the WSET course for our anniversary.

If that watch I bought him hadn’t cancelled for no reason, I wouldn’t have had the money to pay for the WSET course, and we wouldn’t have done it.

If we hadn’t done that course, we wouldn’t have considered working in the wine industry.

If we’d never done the WSET course, we also wouldn’t have our wine locker, and wouldn’t have met the Italian winemaker who discouraged us to look for wine jobs in Italy, or the Kiwi wine rep who encouraged us about possibilities in New Zealand.

If we hadn’t had our 10th anniversary in 2018, we wouldn’t have done the Europe trip that essentially clarified that it was not where we were supposed to live.

Had I not gotten my extended contract at my school in 2017, and the timing of all the other things I mentioned that year hadn’t lined up, we would have tried to move a year sooner.

Had I not gotten laid off in 2018, I’m not sure what we would have decided about proceeding with the move, especially once September came and we didn’t have tenants.

If we had rented the house out even one month sooner, we would have bought plane tickets to Italy, not New Zealand.

God’s timing – it’s a thing!

We still have no idea where we will end up living, or working, and as anyone who’s moved before knows, we’ll be starting up a new life in so many ways. Nothing is certain. It’s exciting and terrifying, all at the same time. Even the things we think we’ve planned now, could still change. Maybe we won’t settle where we think, or end up working in the wine industry after all. Life is so uncertain that way. This is a risk, and it could be incredibly rewarding, or incredibly disappointing. I know it will be challenging, and I know we will learn.

We appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers as we take steps forward on this adventure, and we look forward to sharing the experience with you via my blog, and through the Instagram handle, “ourroadleadstoroam.”

Thanks for reading our story, and following along with us.

How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended Up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 2

We spent the 2017 – 2018 school year doing our best to be grateful for our jobs and home, and all of our blessings here, even though we had hoped to be in Rome. It was a lesson in patience and gratitude. We would get there in September, we thought. In December, my brother in law got engaged, and picked October 5th as his wedding day! He wanted my husband in the wedding, and us to sing. We wanted to be there too, but we thought we were moving in early September. We planned to miss the wedding, and stick to our September plan.

During that winter, I was out of town for a friend’s birthday. We were in a big mall, and my husband and I ended up having a miscommunication that left me pretty upset. I was crying in public; as classy as that is, I wanted to be somewhere alone for a few minutes. I ran into the first store I found (Indigo) and went to the farthest back corner I could find where I could pretend to look at the shelves and finish crying. Low and behold, something caught my eye. I was in the calendar section, and there was one that was upside down and misplaced. I could only see a corner of it, but I thought it looked like Italy, so I pulled it out. Sure enough, it was an Italy calendar. It was 30% off, (and I was going to be 30 when we moved, and found that significant at the time) and I bought it. I saw it as a sign. I couldn’t wait to find out which month Rome was. I was sure it would be September, because that’s when we were planning to go, and it would be so serendipitous! Nope – Rome was November. November? No way we weren’t moving until November. I hoped this wasn’t foreshadowing.

A few months later, we decided we really should be a part of my brother in law’s wedding. We decided to postpone our move to November, and then travel around a bit before finding work for me in January. The only thing that I was disappointed about was that November is probably the worst month ever to travel Italy. They get tones of rain and lots of places are closed down for the winter. There’s a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and as much as I made fun of it the first time I heard about it, I am a full on SAD sufferer! If it’s not sunny often enough, I am upset and tired. If it’s raining when I’m trying to travel or be on a holiday, I am Up-Set! We couldn’t decide where we’d want to travel in November to get out of the rain, and not kick our move off with me being very SAD, leading to Greg being very annoyed.

By this time, Greg also knew he would love to work in the wine, spirits or beer industry. Ice-cream-in-the-square business out; alcohol industry in! A few years ago, some friends gave him some old home brewing supplies to sell for them, and he decided to keep the supplies and try his hand at it. We had no idea how much he was going to love it, and how that passion would lead to him wanting to work in the alcohol industry one day. He found a passion for brewing beer, and over the years and many trips to wine regions, we both found a passion for wine. The answer to his cousins’ question from years ago was finally clear.

As our 10th anniversary was approaching, I decided to get him a nice watch as a gift. I found what I thought was the perfect one and waited for it to go on sale. It had my birthstone on the front, and was clear in the back, and called the “open heart” watch, which felt great for an anniversary gift. I ordered it and paid. Within a week, my money was refunded to me and I was sent an email saying they couldn’t fulfill my order, with no reason! I was so disappointed. Greg, of course, knew none of this, and happened to notice one of our city’s private liquor stores was offering the WSET Level 2 course in the spring. We had wanted to take this before, but it’s not cheap. He asked if we could take the course together as his anniversary gift. Seeing as how I had just been refunded the watch money, and had no idea what to get him, I agreed!

We loved every minute of it, and both passed with distinction. We started volunteering at wine tastings and participating in everything we could to learn more. We made new friends in the industry and had great connections with them over a bottle of wine. When people asked what we were going to do in Italy, our answer was now, “well Chelsea can teach English, but what we really want to do is work in the wine industry.”

We knew it was not easy to get jobs in that industry in Italy unless we spoke Italian or had connections. Our liquor store hosted an Italian wine tasting with a wine maker from Italy on site. We spoke to her of our plans and she made it seem very unlikely that we could get jobs, other than maybe as harvest hands in smaller centres. That was a bit discouraging, but we kept holding onto the idea that we wanted to work in the wine industry and we were going to at least try; I had my English teaching certification to fall back on. We relayed this dream over and over to people who asked what we wanted to do for work, but we didn’t hear ourselves saying what our passion really was.

My husband surprised me with a trip to France for our 10th anniversary in June. We went back to Paris, and spent 5 days exploring several iconic wine regions. (We clearly love this industry.) I was so excited for the trip for all the obvious reasons, but also because I expected God to give me this incredible sense of peace while we were over there. I was sure He would confirm for me that we were making the right decision to live in Europe.

We arrived and on the first night, I had an ear ache. Greg was fast asleep. My doctor advised hydrogen peroxide for my ear aches in the past, and I didn’t have any with me. I started thinking about how I needed to buy some, but I didn’t know how to communicate it, or where to buy it. Then I got thinking about how I would communicate with doctors once we moved if something else happened. I realized a lot of things that I wasn’t feeling good about that night, and I basically had a panic attack. I was up most of the night, pacing the Airbnb and out on the balcony, feeling very unprepared and unsettled about the move. I was sick to my stomach for almost half of the days on that trip, and just felt off about the move.

All the excitement and peace I was expecting to feel were nowhere to be found. I was terrified. We ate at an Italian restaurant on the last night and couldn’t communicate at all with the server. I had a reality check of what it would be like committing to living in Italy for a year. At this point, I still thought we were going through with it, so I tried to console myself; I was probably just getting cold feet. “Everyone probably feels this way when they move,” I thought.

Italian Friday’s were not going well either. Every time we tried to do one, we ended up discussing the things we were worried about; we had concerns and were trying to push through them and get excited again, but the reality of living in Rome began to feel more like a burden than a dream. We stuck to the plan though, as we felt God pulling us towards this move, and He had been pushing us to leave Saskatoon for so long. We figured we must persevere.

As we were planning to go later in the fall due to the wedding, we planned to sell the house in the spring in order to get rid of all ties and all debt. I was using it as a test; if we sold the house, we’d move to Italy. If it didn’t sell, we wouldn’t. Our realtor came over, we picked a price range, he took photos, and said he’d be back in a couple weeks once the snow had melted to list it. A couple weeks later however, the comparables in our neighbourhood had dropped by $50,000! Our realtor said he’d never seen anything like that happen before, and he refused to even list it. We would take a loss on the house if we sold it, and it was my grandmother’s; he didn’t want us to go ahead, and told us to fix up the basement and rent it out instead (we have an amazing realtor that actually cares about us).

Selling the house was my test to see if we were really supposed to move to Italy! What now? Without listing it, there went that test. Even despite the sale of the house being my self-proclaimed confirmation on Italy, I felt extremely relieved. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to sell the house yet. I felt bad that my husband had to continue to maintain it, and I was concerned about finances, but I felt at peace knowing we were keeping it for now. (Looking back on it, we didn’t sell it, and we’re not actually going to Italy. Maybe God was hinting and/or clearly shouting at me about the destination, even then.)

New plan, again! This new plan was to rent out our house in June or July (at the latest), and live in our camper again to save money for our move. I was laid off from my teaching position in June. This was actually a huge answer to prayer for me! I was really dreading facing having to make a decision myself on taking another contract, or turning one down. In my city, if a teacher turns down a contract, it’s essentially career suicide. Jobs are nearly impossible to come by with thousands of grads piling up in town, and only a handful of positions open each year. By being laid off, I was able to move forward with no regrets, and it having been out of my control, and this was a major load off of my shoulders.

We also got rid of our truck. We couldn’t sell it, so we traded it for a BMW that we thought would be a quick and easy sell. (It wasn’t! I am still driving that car.)

We posted our house for rent on social media at the end of May, around the same time as we had the year before. We found our first tenants within 3 weeks last year, and I expected the house to go fast again. Despite the delay in selling the BMW, we were taking steps towards the move, finally! Except our house didn’t rent, and didn’t rent, and I really struggled with that.

…to be continued.

How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 1

“Let’s move to New Zealand and work in the wine industry.” That’s something we just wouldn’t have said or even thought, but here we are. It’s crazy to me that this is what we’re planning now, because we never would have started there.

People have asked what God specifically said to us, but He didn’t just tell us the end goal; it’s been a slow progression of small steps from what we thought we wanted and what we were willing to get on board with, to where we’re headed now. We honestly may not even end up living or working where we think we will, but that will be okay, as long as we keep trusting and following God. We’ve learned that even at this point, God could still change anything, so we’ll just have to see what happens!

This is the story of what’s happened so far.

Shock has been the most common response when we’ve told people that we’re going to move to New Zealand. That’s fair; we’ve been dreaming of living in Italy for two years, and we told everyone that Rome was the plan. It was the plan, until God changed our minds at the last moment.

I used to think I’d never be willing to move away. I’ve learned to never say “never,” because typically when I say I’ll never do something, I end up doing it. God probably laughs in heaven and thinks, “oh Chelsea, you have no idea.”

When we got married over 10 years ago, we planned to always stay in Saskatoon. After all, our families are here, and we bought into the Saskatchewan mentality that you have to get a 9:00 to 5:00, buy a truck and car, buy a house, and tie yourself down with payments, and you should have all the kids too (but maybe on the 5 year plan since we got married young). Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this plan if you’re most people, or if that’s actually what you dream of doing with your life. As we got older, and started experiencing different things, we realized that plan was wrong for us. Our cousins almost prophesied over us that we would move one day, and we started to realize that maybe we would be open to moving… like, a 6 hour drive away. Our minds were so small back then! Those same cousins once asked my husband if he could do anything in the world for work, and if money were no object, what would he do? He was stumped. He had no idea. For years, he had no idea.

You’d probably believe that almost everyone tried to convince us that settling in our city of birth was the only way of life… but we weren’t convinced. We just felt like settling here was just that – settling. We felt deeply that there was something more out there for us.

We started becoming interested in moving overseas somewhere after we took our first Europe trip in 2015. “The Travel Bug” is a real thing and we got it bad! House Hunters International inspires us. People do this. Every day, people move abroad. It’s possible. It eventually got to the point where we knew that if we didn’t make every attempt at this move abroad, we’d regret it for the rest of our lives. We’ve been back to Europe two more times, and we love it there, so when we decided to move, we naturally decided that somewhere in Europe should be our new home. But what would we do there?

I knew of job opportunities in the English teaching field, and as I am a teacher, I felt safe and secure with that choice. I graduated from a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course in the fall of 2017, and we picked Italy as our destination for several reasons. First, we had to pick somewhere. Second, we have been to Italy before, and love the culture, food, and scenery. We decided on Rome because my course advisers told me there are lots of jobs there, and it’s technically in a tropical climate. No winter! (Except it snowed there in 2017.) We didn’t know what my husband would do, though. He always joked he’d sell ice cream in the square. We also always said when people asked us where we would live that we were open to almost anywhere. We always said Rome, but we knew that it might not be Rome, and we were open to living anywhere we got jobs, really.

We used to dream about living in Italy. We would do “Italian Friday’s,” as we called them. My husband would cook an Italian dish, and we would have Italian appetizers and Italian wine, and we would dream together about what it would be like living there.

We rented out our house in the summer of 2017, and lived in our camper as a practice run. Could we live in a small space? (Not a problem). Could I survive with a smaller amount of my clothes and shoes, and no cable? (I did surprisingly well). What would it be like to rent out our house? (It went over plainly awful with some family members and friends, but our tenants were fantastic and a gift from God).

We planned to move to Rome in January of 2018, as that is one of the main hiring months for English teachers. (We were not sure how hopping the ice-cream-in-the-square business is at that time of year.)

Then, several things happened that made us feel we were supposed to be home for one more year. I was offered a renewal on my teaching contract, and the way it all worked out was nearly impossible that I should have had that job. Both of my sisters in law were expecting our two new nieces, and my brother in law, who had been single forever, was dating a girl we figured he’d marry. Our passports needed to be renewed in January, so it wasn’t a good time to leave, and our mortgage was up for renewal, also in January! A best friend invited me on a Maui trip in October to celebrate our 30th birthdays, and we decided to go, and used up our last bit of savings for that trip. So it was decided; we would stay all year, and go to Rome in September of 2018 (another prime hiring month).

…to be continued.