It’s been a little over 5 months since we left Denver and it has been a constant go, go, go! I’m just now getting a chance to sit down and write a blog post about our move because you know, I’ve been a little busy.
We departed Denver mid-May and touched down in Saigon for only a week to sort out an apartment and get the kids registered at their new school. We dumped all of our belongings, neatly contained in merely 8 pieces of luggage, in the new digs and flew out again on a 2 month holiday to Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. Two months was a good amount of time to unwind before heading back to Saigon to start this new life.
Once back in Ho Chi Minh City (such a mouth full so I’ll stick to Saigon or HCMC from now on), it was massively hectic craziness having to sort out all life basics again, such as visas, cell phone service, bank accounts, apartment necessities etc. on top of getting my CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults aka life sucking intensive nightmare course). Needless to say, I was stressed and exhausted. Sometimes I like to throw myself into full-on mode so it won’t allow for time to over-analyze or doubt. Yet, when I’m in the midst of this self-inflicted, sadistic struggle to keep my head above water, I hate myself for creating this situation. But then! Then everything falls into place and the satisfaction makes it all worthwhile. However, in order to avoid premature grey hairs and wrinkles in the near future, here is a note to self: give yourself more time to get shit done you smug weirdo!
Life’s good in Denver. It’s pretty, it’s hip, it’s happening. Colorado has been voted fittest state and best state for life quality multiple times. The proximity to the outdoors, a thriving food and entertainment scene, legalized marijuana, a hub for entrepreneurs and startups – no wonder Colorado attracts a high influx of people wanting a piece of the good life. We owned a piece of that good life. I’ve had the salon for 6 years and it was thriving, my husband was CTO of a health care exchange, our kids were healthy and we lived in a new house in the hip Highlands neighborhood – as middle class as you can get. We had family nearby and some amazing friends who provided for a fun and full social life. So then, why leave all of this behind?
What it ultimately came down to was a desire for change and a sense of adventure. Both my husband and I had been living in the states for roughly 15 years and had always considered ourselves European transplants. We love travelling and exploring new places and oftentimes after a trip abroad we play with the idea of relocating. Yet, somehow it was never the right time or we had commitments (like jobs and babies!) that tied us down. Here is the thing, though: they are always reasons that seem to anchor us to one place, or one job, or one person and there is rarely that perfect moment. Many people make drastic changes when something catastrophic happens in their life which serves as the engine for change, may it be a divorce/break-up, losing a job or a midlife crisis. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact, I applaud those who have the courage to walk away from an undesired situation and start anew.
However, this wasn’t the case for us. I think it was actually the opposite that fueled the motivation. Maybe because things were going pretty well and we were set in our routines, did I feel that we had become ‘stuck’ in our comfort zones. I, for my part, feel the need to try out something new periodically. I seem to go through phases when I find myself unchallenged and ready to throw myself into unknown territory, may it be career-wise, learning a new skill or moving. Mundane just doesn’t do it for me, mundane doesn’t exactly promote growth. The stimulus vs stability paradigm is very curious and I find it to be a delicate balancing act: excitement but not too much so it becomes reckless; predictability but not too much so it becomes rigid routine. I think we had gotten to the place where we both felt the urge for a change of scenery and finally acted on it.
Too Many Babies
In a way, I was ready for a professional change, as well. I had dedicated 6 years of my life to the salon to make into the successful and established enterprise it had become. Being a small business owner comes at a price, the highest one being time investment. I felt obligated to be available at all times just in case there was an issue at work and trust me, shite tends to happen when you’re on holiday overseas or when it’s your day off. When I was away from work, I felt guilty. Then there was the constant worrying. In the beginning you worry about just surviving, then later on it’s the pressure to not only maintain a certain standard but to grow, improve, perfect. I am aware that a lot of that pressure came from within, something I put on myself because I have competitive and perfectionist tendencies. I don’t like half-assing things. This full-assing (?) it, however, is tiring. I had devoted an immense amount of time and energy into UberChic because hey, she was my first baby. Then I had real babies. There’s no half-assing that, either.
It had become increasingly difficult to balance life with two kiddos merely 22 months apart and work responsibilities. Luckily, my family was sailing the ship smoothly at work while I weathered the storm of dirty diapers, sleep deprivation and teething misery at home. In a way, being on a couple of months of self enforced maternity leave and reducing my presence at the salon afterwards helped me learn how to relent some control. I realized that the business pretty much runs itself and that, in fact, I am actually not needed that much. This realization freed up mental space for me to explore other creative outlets and eventually, I started blogging! Letting go of control felt refreshing and gave me the confidence to completely remove myself from the business. My first baby was grown up and needed to move on. And so did I.
The Perfect Timing
The timing of our move worked out so conveniently for various reasons; it was sort of a ‘now or never’ moment. Firstly, the sale of the business. When the sale of the salon was initiated, so were our plans to move overseas. Out of a sudden, we went from hypothetical pipe dreams to booking tickets and packing up!
Secondly, the kids were at a good age at 2 and 4 when they’re easily adaptable and just go along with everything. They were too young to be attached to anything other than their parents. We also wanted to them to go a German immersion school and I had found a reputable German IB school in Saigon we liked. Both my husband and I went to school in Europe and we wanted to provide our kids with the same international exposure.
Thirdly, the post-election political climate in the US . Although this wasn’t so much of a driving force, it did, however, put the final seal on the deal. Our move is by no means an act of turning our backs on a country we called home for nearly two decades, but rather a way to create distance in order to re-evaluate where we want to be the next two decades, as well as the type of environment we want our children to grow up in. Our little family is very privileged to own multiple passports which allows us to move between countries easily. We can just pack up and try our luck elsewhere and decide to return to our old lives on a whim. Even if things don’t pan out as we hope and we decide to move back after a year, I won’t have any regrets. At least we gave it a try and had a hell of an adventure while trying.
So Far, So Good
We have pretty much settled into our newly adopted home in Saigon’s District 2. The kids are in school nearby and love it and I have started working part time as an English teacher for adult students which I enjoy. The neighborhood we live in is popular with western expats so there is a good mix of western and local businesses around. I am completely aware that we live in a bubble and I ain’t mad at it! When we want more local flavors we don’t have to venture far outside of the bubble or we just take a trip to see my grandma in the countryside. It doesn’t get any more authentic than that.
Moving to Vietnam means coming full circle for me. Many people don’t know that I was actually born here. Most locals don’t recognize me as Vietnamese, I guess the thick accent and blond dyed hair doesn’t help lol! I was one-year-old when my parents escaped post-war Vietnam with me in tow, lucky enough to find refuge in Germany. I have fond memories of growing up in Germany with ties to friends and family still. I moved to Denver at age 19, two months after graduating grammar school to attend the University of Colorado and ended up staying 17 years in total. And now we just moved to Saigon -Vietnam after a 17-year stint there. Ok, I just noticed typing all of this that 17 years in one place (voluntarily) seems to be my thing? The 17 year itch to move continents lol! Let’s see if this pattern continues 🙂
Thanks for reading this pretty lengthy post that I have postponed for so long. It isn’t easy for me to open up at times (my closest peeps would nod in unison if they could) but wanted to share some insight on why on earth we moved halfway around the world as I still get many questions on it. Also big big thanks for following along on this exciting journey so far, I am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead. So many mhua mhua mhuas to you all!
XX – BK
Photo Credit: Jenna Sparks Photography
Photo locations: Denver Downtown and Denver Millenium Bridge
Shop my looks:
Bamboo bag: Cult Gaia
Black 3/4 flared pants: Shein
Lace-up heels: BCBG -old, similar here