Thoughts on What’s Next

I’ve been really struggling with whether or not to post this blog post. I wrote it mostly in January and February of this year, although it has been tweaked and added to and modified many times since then. I’ve struggled with it because although I believe in openness and generally love to share my processing and decisions openly with my community, this processing has felt a little too big, a little too vulnerable. It’s also felt like too many people in my life right now would have too much of there own biases and desires associated with this decision – I didn’t want to get some people’s hopes up and crush others. But, lately I’ve been feeling like it’s time… It’s time to put this out there, it’s time for people to know where we are at and what my current processing is. But, let me start by saying that this post is just processing – nothing more, nothing less.

This past January marked the four year anniversary of our move to Prague. Since then I have been thinking a lot over the past four years and all that we have experienced in our time overseas.

Looking back over the past four years has actually been a strange experience for me. When I think about the individual experiences I’m overwhelmed by how much has happened in these four years and how many truly wonderful things we’ve experienced. When I think about the friendships we’ve made in the past four years, well, I’m a bit amazed.

But, then I think about the person I was when we moved and I can’t help but get a little sad. That girl was so open, so hopeful, so excited about life. Sure I was still my introverted self, but I remember really enjoying meeting new people and make new friends. The girl I see in the mirror now is far more tainted, closed off and pessimistic. In many ways I feel like I have grown a lot since coming to the Czech Republic, but in other ways I feel like my heart has shrunk instead of expanded.

I also feel like the girl who came was eagerly trying to learn how to listen to God, eagerly anticipating the movement of his Spirit in her life, eagerly seeking him and eagerly excited about the possibilities of his church. I was still my critical, analytical self, but I was excited and open. The girl I see in the mirror now isn’t exactly that way anymore. I feel like my spiritual life has shrunk over the past four years. I am sure that is largely my own fault, but I also feel like it wouldn’t quite be the case if we had stayed in the US.

Lately, as I’ve processed through some of that I’ve been really struggling with wanting to move back to the states. I feel burned out on living in Prague.

Living overseas has a lot of benefits as I’ve written about often before, but it’s also stressful in a way that living in your home country can never be.

  • We have made some really incredible friends here, but we’ve also lost some really great friends due to the transient nature of being an expat – people move regularly.
  • According to the scientists, we have lowered our risk of Alzheimer’s and increased our creative thinking, by living overseas, but we have also put our minds, bodies and hearts through a level of stress that only someone who has applied for a visa, bought a place overseas, sold a place overseas, lost money on a place overseas, looked for a job overseas, and just generally survived the details of daily life (such as going to the post office, paying bills or grocery shopping) in another language can really understand.
  • We have begun the long process of learning a foreign language (or at least Bryan has), but I honestly think we don’t speak English as well as we used to and our English vocabulary has suffered.
  • Our marriage has grown in ways that I don’t think it ever would have if we had not left all that we’d know for an adventure where all we really have is each other, but our marriage has also lacked the growth that could have come from a longstanding mentorship with an older couple who’s been far down the road ahead of us (due to the transient nature of expat life there are not a lot of older couples in the expat community. And, honestly, it would be hard to really be mentored by an older Czech couple due to the difference in culture and language – not impossible, but harder.) I don’t feel that our marriage has really suffered because of this lack, and we have been grateful for the many friends who have walked beside us in our marriage over the past four years and challenged us in many ways, but I do feel ready to learn from those who have been married for 20+ years and can give a deeper insight into what it means to love one another.
  • Living in Prague, we have had opportunities to travel and see places that we may never have seen. We have had amazing experiences that we will always treasure, but we have also missed out on weddings, births, birthdays and other experiences with friends and family in the states.
  • We have met people who we never would have met, and forged friendships with people who we, honestly, may not have been friends with if we had met in the states. These people have showed us a different view on life and taught us to look at things differently too. We love these friendships and will always remember them and cherish them, but our pre-existing friendships with those we love and cherish in the states have suffered over the past four years.
  • Because we are all living in a foreign land, without family, we have made bonds and friendships with expats here that are far deeper than most people make under normal circumstances – friends who, out of necessity and choice, have truly become family for us, but our flesh and blood families have missed out on many of the early stages of our son’s childhood.

In the process of living here for the past 4 years we have stretched and matured and grown as people, but we have also experienced overwhelming stress and some of the deepest heartaches that we have yet endured.

These are just some of the pros and cons of living overseas. I don’t feel like any of the negative sides of these things are alone worth moving back for, and up until now even all of them combined never felt like enough to move back for. But, they exist… and combined with other thoughts and feelings they slowly begin to nudge me in the direction of wanting to move back “home.”

When I wrote before about why we stayed in Prague for 4 years I wrote this:

“We moved because we dreamed about living a different sort of life. We dreamed about living intentionally and distinctively. We dreamed about welcoming adventure instead of fearing it. In moving to Prague we knew we were taking an active step to pursue our dream and become the people we wanted to be, and in that pursuit of ourselves we felt at home. We stayed to continue that pursuit.”

Lately, though, I’m not so sure that staying would be the best way to live intentionally and pursue becoming the people we want to be. Lately, I don’t like who I am in Prague. I feel like staying would in many ways be the easy thing to do. It’s moving, going back, starting over again, that seems the bigger adventure. And although moving back feels like it would be a relief in many ways, it also feels scary. I know things will be different then they were when we left. We would want them to be. We are different people now then we were when we left.

I also think that as I contemplate why we moved here, I realize that our reasons were fairly selfish. One of our main reasons for moving was to “better ourselves”. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with that, but I do think that I’m not quite in that same place now. I can’t just think about what’s best for me, I have to think now about what will be best for my children as well. I can’t just think about who I want to become, but instead about the people I want them to become. I think staying could be good for my children in many ways, and I trust that if we stayed we would make it good for them, but at the moment I think that the states could better fill both the needs that I see in myself and the needs that I see in my son and his soon-to-be sibling.

I honestly don’t know what this year will hold. We have decided and committed to being back in the stages until the end of the year. Maybe after that we’ll be ready for a fresh start in Prague, maybe we’ll have such bad reverse culture shock that we’ll be desperate to get back on a plane to Prague. But, at least for right now I feel ready to say goodbye to Prague, ready to close the door on this chapter of our lives. Ready for a new stage of life and a new adventure.

I wrote before that:

“Staying in Prague has always been a very clear decision. The reasons [I wrote about] are good, true, reasons for why we have stayed, but beyond them there has always been a less tangible more unofficial reason why we have stayed – something that can only be explained as a feeling or a still small voice saying, ‘Stay’.”

I no longer hear that “Stay.” In fact instead lately, if I’ve heard anything it’s been a quiet “Go.” For the first time since we moved here four years ago I feel completely free to leave. My spirit seems to say, “it’s finished.” There is definitely a part of me that feels really saddened by that. Sad that I might not be living life with friends here, sad that we might not be moving out to Zelivka and living in that community, sad to say goodbye. But, there is no part of me that wants to fight it. It feels right to leave. It feels like now is the time.

I feel very unsure about what the future will hold, but for the first time in a while I feel ready to truly welcome whatever comes.

Rejoicing in the journey –

Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

The Year Ahead

So, after two blog posts on the subject, I’m guessing you all know by now that we are pregnant. Yesterday marked the beginning of 13 weeks and my first trimester coming to an end. Being pregnant has radically changed our plans for this year and I thought it was about time that I filled you all in on what’s been going on.

The past two months I have had a steady decline in my health that has resulted in slightly more than an 8 pound weight loss (not a big deal for some, but sort of a big deal for me since I didn’t have any to lose to begin with AND I’m pregnant and should be gaining weight). Anyway, the short of it is that I have always struggled with allergies and food sensitivities, and although we have made a lot of progress on improving my health in the past few years, since becoming pregnant again things have really deteriorated.

Because of that we have decided to head back to the states, for a while… actually we leave Prague 2 weeks from Today. We still don’t have our schedule completely worked out, but we will be in the states from early March through the end of the year and will spend some time in Arizona, Seattle, and hopefully California as well.

I’m looking forward to being in the states so that I can see my wonderful midwife there, my chiropractor there (who has greatly improved my sensitivities and health issues in the past), and be closer to family. We have been feeling sad, though, to leave Prague so suddenly and have such a short time to say goodbye to some dear friends, but we also feel like this is really the right and wisest decision for us right now.

It has been hard to tell our friends that we are leaving so suddenly – I’ve made more than one person cry. I don’t like making my friends cry. It’s difficult when you know that the right decision for you is going to hurt people you care about. I guess life is just like that sometimes, but it really sucks.

This next two weeks will likely be crazy for us. We have to essentially pack everything up and move out of our current place, so I’ve been spending most of the past few days cleaning things out and organizing – something I used to sort of enjoy, but have been totally overwhelmed by lately. Let me just say, packing up your entire house with a toddler is NOT fun. I make piles of things to giveaway and things to keep only to find that within a matter of minutes Thad has gotten into them and mixed them up and I have to start over. I get a box packed only to have Thaddeus pull everything out of it seconds later. Yeah, it’s been a bit frustrating. Plus he’s just been so out of sorts with all the chaos and I haven’t been able to give him as much attention as normal and it’s really taking a toll on him – poor little guy.

Well, that’s where we are at right now. Not sure if there will be much time to write in the next few weeks, but I do have some posts half started so hopefully I’ll be able to finish them up and it won’t be completely silent around here. Pray for us as we pack, say goodbye, and try to re-enter life in the states for a while. We’d really appreciate your prayers and kind thoughts.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Sustainable Organic Farming in Prague: An Interview

One thing that has frustrated me about living in Prague is that I haven’t always known how to find good sources of food here in the Czech Republic. My husband and I stopped eating almost all processed food almost 5 years ago, but it wasn’t until I got pregnant about 2 years ago, that we really started thinking about where even our “unprocessed” food comes from. We started learning about farming practices and the difference between organic and non-organic produce. We started reading about sustainable farming practices and how commercially raised animals are treated. We came across research about what different animals should naturally eat and how commercial farms give them foods that aren’t best for their health, or ours, just so that they can produce a higher yield more quickly. We wanted to start eating grassfed livestock and pastured chicken and only organic produce, but it felt totally overwhelming to find that here in Prague. Since I don’t speak much Czech I had no idea how to search for this type of thing.

That’s why I was so excited to learn about Bohemiae Rosa. This local Czech farm has blown me away with all that they offer grassfed beef, lamb, and goat meat, pastured chicken (which means that the chickens are TRULY free range and spend most of their time outside), eggs from pastured chickens, homemade pate, homemade bacon, homemade pickles, organically grown produce, unpasteurized honey, and so much more. They are not officially certified organic yet (the process takes 2 years), but they follow organic principles. Even better they also implement sustainable practices and think about what is best for the animal, the environment, and our own health as well.

They speak WONDERFUL English and deliver right to your door in Prague (as well as having a few distribution sites throughout the city). I’ve gotten three orders from them so far and I’ve been so happy with each of them. We’ve gotten delicious vegetables, fresh fish, tons of eggs, tasty bacon, and even some beautiful liver. I have been so excited about this farm that I decided to interview the farmer so that we all could learn more about this sustainable farm right in our backyard.

So, without further ado, here is my interview with Ingmar:

You call yourself a “sustainable farmer” what exactly does that mean to you?

Sustainable means that production methods need to include the nature of the animals, the surrounding nature and general welfare of our planet and all that live. It takes organic much further. Organic means no artificial fertilizer, no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides.

It is perhaps best to give some examples:

If you feed a cow organic feed, you can call the beef organic (it it spends a certain amount of time outside). However, the nature of the cow is that it is a ruminant: it does not naturally eat grain! Grain actually increases the acidity of the stomach, causing the cow to get ill. This can be so severe that in the US cows are slaughtered at 14-16 months, they cannot keep them alive any longer. Sustainable practices then ensure that the cows only eat grass and straw (or in winter).

Flying your lettuce or other vegetables around the world in a airplane is obviously not good for the environment, sustainable in this case means buying local (officially with 160 km of the farm).

Chickens raised in a barn with 60,000 together, on organic feed and access topasture is called organic. The nature of the chickens (bred to sit and eat all day), is that few will actually go outside the barn. Anyway, just imagine the logistics, a day has 86,400 seconds, will each chickens go out and in the barn, they would have only 14.4 seconds each to do so (7.2 seconds to get out and the same to get in). This is not something that actually happens, so the chickens rarely go outside.

Sustainable means that the chickens are raised outside in small groups of max 250 each on sufficient land and grass. They do have a chicken house where they can sleep and shelter from the rain, but they spent most of their day outside eating grubs and insects that increase the omega-3 in the eggs tremendously.

How did you become a sustainable farmer? Did you grow up wanting to be a farmer or did something happen in your life that led you to that path?

When our children were born my wife and I started looking at the labels of store bought food, and what we read scared us! We became avid readers of books and reports on how food was converted from something that was essential and healthy to something that kept long well and looked good, but did not contain anything of value. Instead we realized that much of the food available in stores was actually dangerous to eat because of the toxins etc. Along the way we also learned that the production and processing methods applied were not friendly to either human or nature in the long and short term. It was then that we decided that enough was enough and if big business could not feed us properly, we would do so ourselves. One thing led to another though and it is easy to produce too much for one family, so we decided to share our food with those people who would appreciate it.

How long have you personally been farming? How long ago was Bohemia Rosa started?

In 2003 we started looking for a farm in the Czech republic, and in 2004 we found the Statek in Otradovice. It took 2 years to finalise the purchase and another 4,5 years to renovate it and start production in earnest. So we have been farming for almost 3 years now, building up the herds and learning along the way.

What does an average day on the farm look like?

At the moment I start the day at 7 am, but in the summer much earlier than that, and finish in the evening when I lock up the hens. This is in summer at about 10 pm but in winter around 7 pm.

During the day I still spent too much time on sales and marketing, as we are still busy building our customer base. The rest of the day I organise the farm work and the food production.

How many people work at Bohemia Rosa?

We have a group of 10 very good employees that work with us permanently, and depending on need to employ a further 20-25 people, especially in summer.

What are you most proud of at Bohemiae Rosa?

That our customers love our food!

You produce your food “without using pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers.” So, I’m curious how do you control pests and produce a good yield? What types of natural fertilizers do you use and what advice would you have for home gardeners who want to grow organic produce?

Yield is a problem when you do not use chemicals. On average the yield is about 50% at the moment, but with special planting techniques, a lot of hoeing, companion planting and selection of pest resistant plants we aim to increase the yields. What we discover is that after a few years the yields actually go up because we do not use chemicals, the plants seem to develop their own resistance in absence of chemicals.

We use our own farm manure and use horse manure from a neighboring horse farm  as fertilizer. This we compost in a sustainable way for 1 year (with a minimum of heavy machinery and labor).

We actually produce sufficient volumes now that next year we will start selling our compost to the public.

You also do not use antibiotics or growth hormones on your animals and all your animals are given good living conditions. Your live stock is grassfed and your poultry is pastured. I think this is truly wonderful, but I’d be curious to hear why you personally decided to raise your animals this way?

It is a personal choice as well as concern for our health and environment and animal welfare. It is bad enough that we need meat, so we might as well make the life of our animals the best we can.

Do you ever supplement with grain for your live stock and under what circumstances?

Our sheep, goats and cows are only grass-fed, but our pigs and poultry get grain as part of their diet. We never deviate from that rule as it is bad for the ruminants but also bad for us. Grain has a deleterious effect on CLA in ruminants (this is a good fatty acid, that keeps the animal lean), and thus on us. In effect, feeding grain makes the animal obese by removing the level of CLA, great if you want to produce meat fast and are not concerned about health, but a no-no if you want the best for yourself and others.

What do you do when one of your animals gets sick?

We usually separate them from the herd or group so they have more rest and are able to feed at their leisure (but always in view of the other animals). A common problem with pigs is that they misstep and strain their ankles. In this case the vet sometimes gives them a shot of codeine to alleviate the pain. This goes out of their system within 6 hours by the way). When they get a cold the vet gives them a cocktail of vitamins, which is harmless but makes the animal feel much better.

Sometimes in summer poultry or rabbits get affected by coccidiosus, to which they will build up a natural resistance. It the worst case we will feed them medication and when better, process them into dog food.

What goals do you have for Bohemia Rosa and how would you like to see it grow in the future?

What really surprised us is that many of our customers want fruit, vegetables and dairy, all organic of course, next to their meat. So we have already expanded our gardens with an extra 1,5 ha for next year and will plant even more fruit trees in spring. Many customers have also expressed concern about the slaughterhouse we use. We know it to be a good one, but still have decided on building our own so we will be able to get organic status on the slaughterhouse as well. An additional benefit is that we can slaughter more often in smaller batches, so we can sell most of our meat fresh instead of frozen. Hopefully the slaughterhouse will be ready in spring. Having a slaughterhouse on the farm also does away with live animal transport, which is stressful to the animals. We will be one of the very few organic slaughterhouses in the Czech Republic.

I know that at this time you don’t offer dairy, is this something you might offer in the future? Do you know of any good grassfed dairy farmers who sell raw (unpasteurized) milk?

I just had a talk with the health and veterinary inspection last week about this, and they told me that we can sell raw milk, as long as we make it clear that the risk is with the customer. Having calculated the cost per liter I hope that the customers are willing to spend 50-60 kc per liter however, and this will leave only a few crowns for ourselves. Anyway we have decided that we will test the market, as soon as we have purchased the milk cows.

Cheese production requires large investments in facilities and if the milk sales come through in sufficient volumes than it is something that we consider as well.

And last, a more specific question that I’ve personally been wondering, Is your honey pasteurized? Or raw? Do you offer Royal Jelly, Bee Propolis or Bee Pollen at all?

Honey is one of the fastest selling products we have, and all the Royal Jelly etc are now used in expanding the number of bee hives. Out honey is not treated in any way, we take it out of the hives, remove the honey from the frames by centrifugal force and put it straight into the jars. The additional benefit for hay fever sufferers is that this way they build up some resistance to pollen (as these are now naturally in the honey).

Is there anything else that you would like me and my readers to know about Bohemiae Rosa?

We work hard at making good food for our customers and obviously sometimes still make mistakes when selling it. We have had issues with wrong labels, no labels, wrong prices and quantities etc. Please forgive us if we do. We offer a 100% guarantee when you complain, so please let us know when something is wrong up that we can correct it.

Our farm is open to inspection by the public and we also have a small hotel, so please visit us at least once to see for yourselves how we do things for you J

I loved doing this interview and learning more about Ingmar and Bohemiae Rosa and I hope you enjoyed it too. After my husband read Ingmar’s response all he could say was “We need to be friends with them.

Well, Ingmar, we love your philosophy about food and we’ve loved all of the food we’ve tried from Bohemiae Rosa! Thank you again for taking the time to share with us about Bohemiae Rosa. I hope that my husband and I can make it out to Bohemiae Rosa soon, to meet you in person, and see your beautiful farm for ourselves.

Personally, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

PS – I was not paid or compensated for doing this review/interview, this is just my honest opinion and I genuinely am completely excited about this beautiful farm.

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Why we’ve Stayed in Prague For Almost 4 Years

Not too long ago I wrote a post about why we moved to Prague and about how we are existential migrants. Today I want to write a little bit about why we’ve stayed in Prague for almost 4 years now.

When we first moved to Prague we both agreed that we needed to give ourselves a minimum time commitment. We knew that if we didn’t have something set before going into the move then we could very easily just move back when things got hard and we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to push through and give Prague a fair chance. We agreed that we had to stay for at least one year and I’m so glad that we did. If we hadn’t stayed at least that long we would have never met a number of people who have ended up becoming some of our closest friends.

Since that first year we have been almost constantly reevaluating our time here. There are regularly days when things are hard and we miss our family and we wonder if Prague is really the right place for us. The first few years, in particular, though, every time we asked that question we felt very assured that Prague was exactly where we needed to be.

Why did we feel that way? What made us decide time and time again to stay in Prague?

The short answer is that in an odd way Prague felt like home to us, and we felt surprisingly comfortable here from the beginning.

We felt at home amidst the foreign.

It sounds like an oxymoron to say that we felt at home amidst the foreign, but it’s true. I can’t speak for my husband and his reasons, but I can try to explain to you a little bit about why I think I felt at home amidst the foreign. This article says that most Existential Migrants “leave their home cultures because they never felt ‘at home’ in the first place.” For me, that’s sort of true. I’ve always felt a little awkward and uncomfortable in general and I think for a long time before moving to Prague I didn’t really feel at home in my home country. Being surrounded by the foreign suddenly it was perfectly ok and acceptable to be a little awkward or uncomfortable, it was even expected. With that came a feeling of freedom, I could relax into my awkwardness a little bit and that made me feel comfortable. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.

Bryan and I also really value cultures and languages, and difference. We value people having different opinions and ideas, different sets of experiences from ours and different perspectives. Surrounded by people who are very different from us and who think differently than we do, we felt at home and comfortable sharing our own ideas and thoughts. I remember so many times leaving a group of people and exclaiming to each other how much we loved the time and conversation, how much we loved so-and-so for sharing their outlook which was SO different from anything we had ever heard before. We would remark about how the people we hung out with where people we probably wouldn’t have been friends with in the states, or even had the opportunity to meet in the states, because they were fairly different from us and our normal circles, but we loved them and loved being with them.

We love how being in foreign situations, and meeting people who are different from us stretched us and in that stretching we actually felt comfortable and “at home”. Of course there are a lot of places in the world where we would be surrounded by a much more foreign culture and atmosphere than Prague, but Prague is still so different from our home country that we felt there was lots we could learn from that difference and that made us excited. It made us want to stay longer and soak up all that we could of the foreignness.

We felt at home amidst a dream.

We moved because we dreamed about living a different sort of life. We dreamed about living intentionally and distinctively. We dreamed about welcoming adventure instead of fearing it. In moving to Prague we knew we were taking an active step to pursue our dream and become the people we wanted to be, and in that pursuit of ourselves we felt at home. We stayed to continue that pursuit.

But, soon after we moved here we also connected with another dream, a dream that took us out of ourselves and, at least for me, was a significant reason why I wanted to stay in Prague past the 1 year mark.

Soon after we moved here we got involved with a church plant here. It was a church that looked different from the typical church and a group that was equally different. I loved it. We met in people’s homes, coffee shops and art galleries, often we didn’t have a set sermon but instead all interacted with scripture together. It got me excited about church again and I felt like I jumped in with my whole heart. I wanted to stay in Prague because I wanted to be a part of what God was doing here and particularly what He was doing in this group. I wanted to stay in Prague because I felt like I had a home and place within this dream/vision.

These past few years have truly been a roller coaster ride, and much has happened with this group of people and this dream. I still want to see what God will do here in the Czech Republic, but I feel less and less certain and more and unsure about my place within that work. But, that’s for another post…

We felt at home amidst the expats.

Expats are a unique group. We come from all different backgrounds and experiences, and yet we find we bond quickly because we all have one shared experience which shapes us – moving overseas. We may come for different reasons, but we all feel the pull of the foreign to some extent. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all embrace a particular openness to the “other”. I find that really refreshing.

Among expats I find a disproportionate number of people who are “like me” even though they may be ENTIRELY different from me. I find others who share my values for openness and diversity, for living creatively on purpose, for pursuing those things that really matter (because in a foreign country you quickly learn what is essential and what is not). Often expats are willing to go deeper more quickly and relationships develop at a sort of super speed out of necessity.

Expats are also a group of people with stories. They have done things, seen things, and been places. They aren’t content to just work normal jobs and raise their kids. They are often the kind of people who say yes to things instead of saying no and then see where their yeses take them. I like that. I love hearing people’s stories and I love the types of stories I get to hear in the expat community.

Bryan and I like being expats and we like the expats we meet. And so far we haven’t been ready to leave that community behind.
Staying in Prague has never really been an easy decision. As much as we may feel at home here, we also already have a home in the states and there’s a lot that we miss out on by being here. But, for the past nearly 4 years staying in Prague has always been a very clear decision. The reasons above are good, true, reasons for why we have stayed, but beyond them there has always been a less tangible more unofficial reason why we have stayed – something that can only be explained as a feeling or a still small voice saying, “Stay.”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Why We Moved to Prague: We are Existential Migrants

People often ask us, “What brought you to Prague?” or “Why did you move to Prague?” or something like that and I usually struggle with the answer. I laugh and say, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Or I shrug my shoulders and say, “I guess we just liked Prague.” Or sometimes if I want to get into it more I might say, “We could work from anywhere at the time and decided we wanted a bit of adventure and to experience something new, so we decided to move to Europe.” But, really all of these answers fall short. They may be true, but at best they only touch briefly on our reasons for moving here.

I’ve really never known how to define all of the subtle motivations that led us to pick up and move our entire lives overseas.

Recently I read Andrew Jones’ beautiful thoughts on global nomads. Andrew and his family have chosen a much more radical life then just moving overseas like Bryan and I did, they are, as he put it “serial travelers.” But, there was a lot in his poem that I could relate to or that at least stirred longing within me.  As I read through his post I came across a new term, a term that intrigued me and then shook me. A term that really helped me to shed light on our own decision to move. The term is existential migrants.

Here’s how this article defined existential migration:

existential migration is “conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.” It is different from “economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration” in that it is a chosen move, not driven by economic or political needs.

This is definitely our story. We did not need to move to Prague, or anywhere else, for external reasons (such as economic or political reasons), but very early in our marriage we realized that we did need to leave. We needed to leave for internal reasons… existential reasons. We needed to leave so that we could grow and reach our potential. We needed to leave so that we could really start our own life together instead of living under the shadows of the previous lives we had experienced as single individuals. We needed to leave in order to become the creative, experienced, interesting, cultured, open-minded people that we wanted to become.

This article discussing existential migration really resonated with me. It says this about the existential migrant (emphasis mine):

These individuals move cross-culturally, sometimes repeatedly, in search of self- understanding and adventure. Such people are actually seeking to resolve deeper ‘existential’ questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘how can I fulfill my potential?’, ‘where do I belong?’, ‘how can I feel at home?’… The study generated impressively consistent themes including the importance of independence, the need to live fully, the need for freedom within belonging, the value of experiences of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness. Among these migrants there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign and a consistent contempt for the conventional and easy life of the settled community.

This is why Bryan and I moved to Prague. We are existential migrants. And in some ways, no matter where we end up, perhaps always will be.

More on these thoughts later…

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.