Q&A: Moving to Freiburg, Germany

What a chapter of life! A few weeks ago, we shared on Instagram that we were selling our family home (the same one that inspired the beginning of this blog!) and moving to Freiburg, Germany.

We’ve had so many questions about our move, and it’s been unfolding more and more ever since we put the For Sale sign in the yard. Thank you so much for all of your love and support as we’ve been putting dogs in cars for showings and our life in boxes. It’s such a treat to sit down and deliver the overdue update on this big idea! 

Why did you decide to move?

Have you ever wondered if you’re running life in default mode?

I think this really all started a few years ago, in fall of 2019. We had settled into our new home the previous year – the second, larger one you buy after moving out of the starter home. We were in the neighborhood where you raise kids. We were deciding on elementary schools. Markus was associate partner at his firm. We were settling in and settling down. I think, as life was starting to gel into a rhythm we could live in through our daughter’s high school graduation and beyond, I started to wonder if we were settling. 

We had roots going down here, but were starting to dream about new projects, business ideas and a slower pace of life. Going from an 1,100 to 2,000 square foot house, I realized how much happier we were with a larger yard but how much work a larger home footprint felt to me. How much space did three people need? 

I realized what I really wanted, at least for a while, was about 1,000 square feet of living space, more access to nature and the money invested in our home and the monthly budget for our living expenses freed up so we could pursue more passion projects. 

That got my head turning, and for a little over a year I was on the hunt for a little place to call home and some land to put it on. We went to tiny home manufacturer open houses and drove everywhere from East Texas to New Mexico to look at land. The best ideas seemed to take us to dead ends. 

While it could feel exhausting to be under such an exhaustive search, we kept trying to keep going and keep faith in the idea that as long as we were looking around, the plan was in play and would find us. I did have one major meltdown in a West Texas Chipotle parking lot. Then, one day in fall 2020 it seemed to hit like a lightning bolt – maybe we were looking in the wrong country. 

Why Freiburg?

Our checklist for knowing when we found our new home seemed easy enough at the time: manageable cost of living, access to nature (specifically mountains for Markus), community and educational resources for children. However, as we wound through Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, nothing hit all of our boxes. 

At the same time, we were now in the “zoom with everyone you know” chapter of the pandemic. Markus’ cousins and aunt live in Germany and had recently all decided to relocate to live closer to each other. They had decided to look around together and find a new city where they would all thrive. Freiburg, located in the most southern area of Germany, boasts a maritime climate, the most hours of sunlight per day in the year for any German city, and the infrastructure and resources of a small city coupled with the charm and pace of a small town. A twenty minute drive to France and hour drive to Switzerland, Freiburg’s train station and location on the Autobahn makes it a European travel hub. Surrounded by the Black Forest, it delivers on the mountains. 

As we had gone further into the research on how to make some room in life to change careers, we had continued to feel road blocked when it came to health insurance in America. Going from the top tier corporate health insurance we were privileged to have through Markus’ corporate job here to paying high costs for less coverage through private insurance was intimidating. 

At the same time, while we looked in gorgeous rural areas of America, I had trouble finding schools and community for young families. The Freiburg move not only seemed to give us what we were looking for in home life but also access to free healthcare and education that would be a big wind in our sails as we were transitioning careers. 

As much as I wanted to live in a smaller town, I’m still a city girl as well. I love the access to the arts that living in Dallas provides (I was an art dealer in Dallas for two years at a reputable gallery, assisting on museum acquisitions and working in Miami art week). The proximity of Freiburg to Paris, Basel and other major epicenters for contemporary art felt like a way to be in the environment that serves my day-to-day life without losing other sides of myself. 

I am looking forward to becoming as close to Markus’ family as we’ve been able to be with mine as we lived in my childhood neighborhood for the last 12 years. Markus’ maternal grandparents live a train ride north of where we will be living in Heidelberg. Markus’ Mom passed away last year, leaving his uncle to care for Oma and Opa as they are in advanced age. I’m grateful our move will put us nearby so we can help and cherish time with grandparents, just like we were able to do with my grandmother here before she passed. 

As hard as it is to put this much physical distance between us and family and friends here, I’m inspired by how we’ve all found creative ways to keep in connection and contact while isolating in the pandemic. I know our trips home will be special to us. Having moved abroad with my family while I was Heidi’s exact age, I know this is the opportunity of a lifetime for all three of us that feels too crazy and kismet to pass up. 

Markus on a childhood visit to Freiburg!

How are you able to live there? What’s your plan with visas and immigration?

Markus’ maternal side of his family is originally from the Cezch Republic. During WWII, the area his family lived in was occupied by the Nazi party and the family was forced to move to Germany, settling in Heidelberg. Markus’ paternal side of his family lived in Germany through WWII as well. When Markus’ maternal grandmother was seven months pregnant with her first child, she decided to move the family to America. She knew no one in America and spoke no English at the time. The German family lived in Nebraska and when Markus’ father joined the Army, he was naturally stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, where he met Markus’ Mom and where Markus was born. This made Markus an American Born Abroad through the U.S. Military, granting him dual citizenship until his 18th birthday. 

The process of Markus having his German citizenship reinstated was actually pretty easy. Since neither of Markus’ parents are living and therefore in possession of birth certificates and other documents, we had to chase down some paperwork through German government offices over email. Everyone we worked with was remarkably friendly and helpful. In one meeting at the German consulate’s office in Dallas, Markus was once again a German citizen and passport holder. 

This will allow our daughter and myself to move with Markus to Germany. The path to German citizenship is fairly easy for our daughter if we choose to pursue it once we settle in. I am also able to begin the process of obtaining my Blue Card, which would allow me to have my own work and living visa for Germany. 

Shopping on a trip to Germany in 2007.

How are you getting there? What are you taking with you and how are you getting it there?

Our first trip over to Germany will definitely be an adventure! Our family hasn’t traveled internationally together since Heidi was a year old and we took a short trip to Mexico. We’re also bringing our two dogs with us, adding to the pandemic era paperwork and logistics. For this reason, we are splitting the trip into two flights and a train ride over a few days. We’re hoping organization, flexibility and a travel pouch of prescription medications for emergencies (for both dogs and humans) will get us all there in one piece. 

In terms of our possessions, we are not taking much. We’ve each gone through our clothes to get most of what we own down to a suitcase per person. With the changes in climate and daily life and our daughter in another growth spurt, it feels easier to let things go here and see what we need on the other side. 

The same is true for a lot of our home items. We sold all of our furniture in a yard sale. The current shipping crisis continues to motivate me to let things go rather than face the costs, logistics and timeline I will be up against trying to bring a lot with me. 

The biggest attachment here is to a lot of our art. So many pieces we own hold important memories in our life, and moving our art from home to home has served as a special way to keep continuity through our family changes. As we wrap and box out little collection, we are organizing pieces by importance to us. They are going into storage here so as we settle into life in Freiburg, I can make the final call on trips back to Dallas to determine what we need and ship things over or let things go accordingly. We are also hoping a little time will allow the shipping issues we’re all facing right now to die down. I’m interested to see what we end up with abroad and what we’ll be ready to part with as our new life takes shape.

What are you all doing for work there? Where will Heidi go to school? 

It’s so crazy to think about how, when we were first thinking about moving from the city two years ago, remote working seemed so avant-garde. Leave it to a pandemic to help us see how (seemingly) easy it could be to work from anywhere. 

While Markus is pursuing some new projects and fields of study, he’s freelancing as a technical writer. He was able to sign on with an agency and start working on projects as a side project while in the last stretch of his engineering work. It was a lot to manage, but a good way to boost confidence and get acclimated in the midst of a lot of change. He’s paid into our U.S. bank account. 

My work transition was more confusing and emotional, but I’m so happy with where I am with it now. It always was a head scratcher to me that, right as I was launching my first business, I was dreaming about moving. As we’ve stayed here over the search, Camp Crafty has been a roller coaster – from taking off even faster than I felt I could keep up with at times, to the sudden dead stop in the pandemic to it’s just as sudden resurgence this year. Along the way, I’ve had to bring on help to be able to take care of family and serve my customers. Two of my employees have become more than employees to me. I’m so excited to be restructuring the company to a joint partnership with them, and having their incredible imaginations and work ethic with me at an executive level. I’ll continue to work for the business from Freiburg and am extremely excited to be able to take us into deeper projects I’ve never been able to break into while here in the chaos of each week’s party prep. The restructuring is also my permission slip to myself to write more here and begin other projects I’ve had a strong calling to pursue. 

Education for all children is one of Germany’s biggest values. Last spring, Heidi attended a German international school in Dallas that offered the German public school curriculum to families here. Not only did we love the other families in the school, the curriculum was a great match for our family education values. I was incredibly proud of our daughter for how much language she picked up through the immersion experience. Germany also offers “preparatory schools” for students moving to Germany from other countries, where students get their German to a level of fluency while working on their coursework so that they can eventually transition into the German public school system and thrive. Germany also has private Waldorf and Montessori schools, so we plan to look at those in our search as well since we enjoyed using a Waldorf homeschool method last year and are in a Montessori program now. 

As for all the other unknowns, we’re excited to discover them with you as we begin to make the trek over in a few weeks! You can follow us on Instagram for more daily updates on our transition. 

Have you ever moved abroad? We appreciate your tips! 

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Quinn Mercado says:

    Congratulations to the Neubauer family! I look forward to seeing the pictures and adventures you share!

    1. lillyneu says:

      Thank you so much Quinn!

  2. Heidi says:

    Your home tour on Design Mom caught my eye, especially as we relocated from DFW to the UK with our kids a few years ago. I’m also a Heidi (born to US military in Germany) and we have loved ones not far from where you are moving – I look forward to reading more about your adventures abroad!

    1. lillyneu says:

      Hi Heidi! Thank you SO much for reaching out! It’s so nice to meet you!

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