Do Something Guest Post: Facing Fears by Taking Our Family Abroad

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Today for our Do Something Series, we get to hear from my good friend from high school, Jennifer Ostler Shields. She and her family recently lived abroad to Europe for six months! Wow. (Check them out!) Here's what she has to say about their experience.

I think most moms know the feeling of excitement, stress, anxiety, and general chaos it takes to get out the door in the morning.  How is it possible that no matter how prepared you think you are there’s always someone missing a shoe that only moms and their “super searching powers” can find? And yet, after all the planning and hustling and herding, it’s always a victory to make it out of the house!  This is the same kind of excitement--and stress--that I was able to enjoy this summer as we were living, working and traveling around Europe with our two young kids, ages 4 and 1. Our adventures out of the house were mostly in foreign countries that didn’t even speak English as a secondary language!  We had an incredible experience and really wanted to make the most of our time there.  To be able to do this, I quickly realized that I would need to face several fears, including my fear of getting around in a completely new place with my kids on my own.

My husband was given an expat assignment for six months where we were based out of Romania.  He would need to travel to different sites and different countries for business and we were incredibly blessed to be able to join him on the adventure.  In our six months in Europe, we visited 20 different countries!  Before we left, we sold our house, our car, and a lot of our belongings so that we could really simplify our life.  It was just a six month assignment and our housing in Romania was taken care of by his company so we didn’t need to sell.  However we felt it would be best so that we wouldn’t have to worry about anything breaking or any damage or anything related to home ownership while we were gone.  It was very liberating to just be able to get everything except our suitcases into a storage unit and fly out!

Overall, I felt like I was doing a good job keeping my fears at bay because my husband was able to be with us on most of our travels and outings during his lunch break.  However, I remember one of the very first moments where I had to put on my big girl pants and face my fear of going out alone with the kids.  My husband had a business trip to Prague in Czech Republic.  I had never been there so I definitely wanted to travel with him.  We arrived in Prague at the beginning of the weekend so we were able to explore some of the city all together which helped me become more familiar with the public transportation and general layout of the city which made the work days easier because it wasn’t too hard for me to go into the city and see a few sights with the kids while my husband was at work.  This worked well for a few days.  However, there was one day where I knew my husband would be gone most of the day in meetings and I felt we had seen most of the sites that I had wanted to see in the city.  The one thing I did want to see was a nearby castle.  It would be an all day tour that we would meet at a designated spot, have a bus drive us out the few hours, then hike up to the medieval castle and drive back.  

Here’s where my “big girl pants” came into play.  My kids don’t do super well on long drives and I was worried about getting to the meeting point on time, what the kids could eat, nap time, could they handle the hike, etc.  But what was my alternative? I could stay in our comfortable hotel room and have a netflix binge type of day.  Those are definitely nice days to have every once in awhile, but I was in Prague.  Did I really want to miss an opportunity because of my fears? Not this time! I booked the tour!
The hike up!
We all got out the door on time, we got to the meeting place on time and we got on the bus on time!  We even made it up the steep hill to get to the castle at the top!  There might have been moments where I had my son in the ergo in the front, my backpack with all our snacks and jackets and diapers on my back and my four year old on my shoulders while I was sweating a bit--but we made it to the top!   I also can’t tell you every single thing that was said on the tour thanks to my two enjoying the sounds of their voices more than the tour guide’s. The pieces I heard were fascinating though.  My daughter also took some great photos on my phone of the things she liked in the castle.  It turned out to be a pretty great day.  

I was also really happy to see another fear of mine be proven wrong on this tour.  I was afraid that the other people in our tour group would have seen two small children and not be too excited to be with them for the whole day.  This was not the case for me.  I was completely humbled by how many people offered to help me or my kids that day.  Their genuine smiles were endearing and their thoughtfulness in tough spots like steep stairs was relieving.  My daughter especially liked her new friend who was a mom of two boys from India.  She and her husband were on their first holiday without kids and yet there she was holding my little girl so I could hold my restless toddler.  What an amazing example and influence for good she was!
At the top!!

It is not easy to think about venturing out on your own with small children in a new city, or a new country with a new language too. And I’m sure I’m not the only mom who sees things that are happening in the world on the news/media and would really just like to lock my sweet, little family safely in our home and stay there! Forever! Thankfully, I had the chance to face some big fears of mine, and face them head on. Instead of hiding my children from the world, we had the opportunity to see and explore the beautiful world and truly be awestruck by the goodness and kindness that abounds.  

Thank you, Jennifer! I admit, that I would have sold my house and my kids... Just kidding! Honestly, that sounds like an incredible, stressful, but empowering time for you and your whole family. Cheers for just jumping right in and putting those fears to bed!

If you'd like to follow more of their adventures, follow Jennifer and her family on Instagram at @theshieldssuitcase.

I would love to hear from more of you, whether it be a simple example of something you are doing to face your fears that I can use in a round-up post, or a whole guest post! Please email me (or nominate someone) at There are more of these posts coming, and I'd love to highlight you!


  1. Wonderful post- change can be a scary thing- almost 16 months abroad so I can relate:) Monica let me know if you want a post from me:) xoxo


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