Someone had to say it.
Are we crazy? Perhaps. Isn't everything good somewhat crazy? A little too wild, a little too risky, and gosh, it better be a little too good to be true.
The first time I planned a move abroad, I did it in about 12 hours. I made up my mind, I told the correct people, I ran around to get the necessary signatures from my professors, I whipped through course catalogues to build a schedule, in a phone call record of 3 minutes I convinced my dad to let me move to Italy, and then I hit purchase on a plane ticket and went to bed. I didn't think twice about a single thing. Later, I hit some problems during the semester because of my all-too-fast-not-at-all-informed-adventure planning. Thankfully, now that I'm so much older and clearly more mature, I'm taking six months to plan it. And I have a partner in all of this. Albeit, a partner who does almost everything with little to no planning. Match made in heaven.
We decided to blog about the entire experience early on for two reasons: (1) there are many others who would love to create a business that can be taken anywhere and it's hard to find pointers on this kind of thing, and (2) we want to remember this crazy idea in all of its details; the good and the bad, and probably the ridiculous. Every few weeks, you can check in and see how the planning is going and what we've learned to do or avoid. Also, you can follow along on Instagram with our Europe-tag #runEUwild and our forever-travel-tag #kerntravelogue.
BUSINESS TIP: BLOW YOUR OWN MIND
The best business advice I've ever received was from my nineteen year old sister. I was commenting on my work and the work of other photographers and how hard it can be not to compare yourself constantly or not to be jealous of others' experiences; that delicate balance of community and competition. She looked at me and said, "Who cares what everyone else is doing or what they think of your work? Just blow your own mind." From the mouth of babes, right?
There's a lot of truth in that small charge. We can easily get wound up in what others are doing or how we stack up against those in our markets, or we can put our heads down and work our butts off for our own personal dreams and goals. Imagine the feeling of taking your ideas to the next level, further than you can even imagine at this point. Whether you're at home or on the road, working at the in-between job or the job of your dreams, seek out the opportunities to push the envelope and see what more could be out there. Don't be afraid to chase the just-almost-impossible. That's how this dream became a reality.
So, that's the first step: blow your own mind.
A LITTLE BIG THING CALLED RESEARCH
Full disclosure forces me to admit that I research things I will never need to know about and/or use. I blame my History degree for my appreciation of sifting through stacks of information for hours (although, I no longer use highlighters). I'm often stuck on one topic for weeks before I have a question about something else and move on. Josh and I work in coffee shops most days and on one particular afternoon when I was finished working but he was not, I thought, "I wonder how many American photographers are living as expats in Europe. Is that even a thing?" So I typed into Google just that.
After scrolling through many (too many) pages, I started looking into three or four photographers in greater detail (with my favorite being Ashley Ludaescher of Chasing Heartbeats). I read their blogs as I tried to figure out when they moved or when their businesses really took off, while taking note of style changes after their moves and looking for key phrases used on all of their blogs that might be more relatable to European couples. Ya know, all of that research. After a few too many cups of coffee, I braved up and sent out some emails. I introduced Josh and I, shared my appreciation for their work, and asked if they had any pointers on moving a business abroad. And they did.
These first few email exchanges gave me some key information about the market for creative wedding photography, the rising number of competitors, and the ways in which to network abroad. But networking comes later.
WHERE YA GONNA LIVE OVER THERE?
Direct quote from my grandma.
This part was exciting - where did we want to live? We're talking about Europe so almost everywhere sounds magical and potentially perfect. Without much talking, we both knew that Florence would be one of our bases. First, Josh jokingly mentioned he'd take me on a date to my favorite Italian restaurant, Quatro Leoni, when we first started dating. I've been casually reminding him for four years, so it's about time. Second, Florence is my heart city. From there, it became a strategic game of positioning ourselves near-ish everything we wanted to visit and every place we're hoping to shoot in.
Florence. Berlin. London. Dublin. These cities give us access points to southern Europe, northern Europe, and central Europe all while keeping our overall travel costs lower. (So much more on budgeting living and travel expenses later.)
Our biggest piece of advice is that you'll need to take into account the cost of living in each city. We've found that renting a furnished apartment for either a month or two in these cities is quite similar to paying rent in an American city. AirBnBs and hostels sometimes offer a good deal, but more often than not, they're far more expensive. (London, I'm looking at you!) By renting furnished apartments, we're covering all of our utilities, linens, washing/drying, and housing in one easy payment. Those payments are also earning us more airline points.
As you pick your cities consider: popularity for destination weddings, languages spoken by locals, frequency of activities that you enjoy (London is more or less on our list just so Josh can go to as many Chelsea games as possible), and weather. Because weather is everything in my book.
BUYING THE TICKET FOR THE RIDE
Honestly, it didn't feel real until we purchased our plane tickets. I mean, we made a huge announcement video to tell the whole world and we laid on our bed yelling out cities that we wanted to visit, but you can always back out of something. Except for a non-refundable plane ticket. And that's how you seal the deal.
There are a million and one resources out there for travel hacking (look here, here, and even here), so we won't pretend to be experts. I will, however, tell you that our tickets were free, minus the $78 we paid in taxes and fees. Yeah, you heard me, free. So you should really do some research.
We have three airline cards: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card, United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. The first is used purely for domestic flights. The last two are how we are getting to and from Europe for free. We basically put every single purchase we can onto our international airline cards, and employ some other legal, but sneaky, point-gaining tactics (thank you, Nomadic Matt!). While there are yearly fees on each card, the benefits far outweigh the cost of each, and we highly recommend all three. Let me repeat: we're going to Europe for (almost) free.
Next time we'll be covering how to build up the hype (like this), how to start advertising in the correct markets, how to network with professionals around the world, and what your CPA has to say about all of it.
Autumn & Josh