Bold Moves: What My Move to Germany Taught Me About Growth

Sara Kappler
12 min readMar 6, 2024

Imagine this: It’s Saturday morning and you’re sipping really good coffee in your Pacific Northwest backyard, surrounded by the chaos of 3 young children. They’ve put every stuffed animal they could find on the trampoline and are jumping on it, gleefully. You’re exploring the idea of moving to Germany with your German husband, in tiny snippets of conversation, as is the norm when the children are awake.

“So, Germany…”

It’s not the first time you’ve had this conversation; it’s been a recurring theme since Covid hit in 2020 and you’ve wondered why not to relocate, with family there. You’ve talked so often that it’s become an almost existential conversation. You say things like, “I don’t know, why does anyone do anything?”

But this Saturday is different, because you’ve done enough research to know it would take about 6 months to make a move so that it aligns with school calendars. You know the time has come to either go for it or decide not to go for it. It’s an excruciating decision, the future of your children, your livelihoods on the line.

You say things like, “It’ll be a hard year.”

You notice it’s starting to rain, and you set your lattes aside and spring into action without words, saving the stuffed animals from a moldy doom.

“The kids will be ok.” You know you’re not talking about the rain.

You realize the tense of your snippets implies a decision. It’s both anxiety-inducing and exhilarating.

That was me and my husband, about a year ago, in early 2023. We booked one-way tickets, bought a house I’d never seen in person, got rid of 70% of everything we own, and moved to Germany the same year.

How, you might ask? I own an online business, an email marketing agency, and my husband works remotely as a software developer. To be honest, it was a whirlwind, and I’m still processing it myself. We get asked a lot about how on earth we did it — relocating to Europe from the U.S., so it’s time to share the story. I thought I’d explain what this move to Germany taught me about growth from both a personal and business perspective. Because somehow, not only did we all survive the move, the kids are all fine, but my agency also grew and became more profitable.


Here’s my 6 tips for making major moves, in life and in business.

1. We got crystal clear on our vision.

Making a decision to move overseas wasn’t an easy process. It was arduous, weighing pros and cons, so many what if’s. But the hardest part by far was getting clear on what we wanted, for ourselves, for our family, for our future.

What did we want our future to be like?

What didn’t we want our future to be like?

What opportunities would our children have access to over there?

What would they lose over here?

What would the impact of not making a decision at all be?

My husband and I both grew up in Europe, and I think the whole decision boiled down to wanting to give our kids a childhood and early adulthood like we’d had ourselves more than we wanted the American Dream.

It sounds simple, but getting to the place where you’re really clear on what you want is anything but. Everything before you’re aligned on priorities and goals is a minefield of wormholes. After? “What ifs” get dispelled by “This is in line with our vision.”

In business, it’s the same. Making such a big move forced me to get really clear about what I wanted my work-life to be like. And I came to the realization that if my business doesn’t support my life, then what is the point of running your own business? We’d just have to make sure it gives me the flexibility I need. There was no reason I couldn’t work remotely, and it might mean that some projects wouldn’t be a good fit for us anymore (i.e. if they depended on regular personal availability during evening hours PST). I started my business to have flexibility, so it’s just got to have flexibility. Time to put it to the test.

2. We made big decisions first.

It’s so easy to get bogged down with details when facing a monumental task like an international move. Are kids vaccinations up to date? Will the kids hate me forever if we give away this plastic toy? Is that frosting underneath the table; will all our furniture get moldy in a container? Swarms of details filled our minds. If you followed the question trail, you could see that they led back to the big one: If we knew where we’d be living, we’d be able to answer quite a few.

It was a few weeks after we’d decided to move that I said to my husband: I think you need to go to Germany and find us a house. My husband smirked: “And when would we have time to do that exactly? Let me find the magic wand.” There’s never a good time, but we knew we’d have to try because what was the alternative? Moving…twice? Once to a temporary house and then moving again when we find something more permanent? With low inventory in the housing market over there and timing, starting in new schools…twice? That wasn’t appealing.

We decided it was worth trying, and we made time for it. Even the worst case scenario (coming back without good housing options) was to build contacts and knowledge that would help us downstream in the process which we were already committed to. And so, after researching and planning, my husband traveled for 10 days, looked at 8 properties, and came back with 2 we liked. We deliberated, studied floor plans and maps, and made an offer a week after his return. We signed remotely at the German consulate in Seattle in April.

That was a monumental piece of the equation, and it paved the way for the rest of the move; it was an anchor. We had a shipping address. We knew where we’d land, we knew what schools we’d go to, we knew what rooms we’d have and we could proceed with planning all the details — what to ship, what to sell.

In business, there also are big decisions that need to come first. When you’re just starting a business it might be: What’s your service or product? Who’s your customer? What’s your business name, branding? What website will you use? Now, of course, everything is fluid. Businesses change their branding and website all the time. But when you’re looking down the barrel of a transition period, you need something firm to see you through that phase that you agree is firm and you won’t reopen or revisit it. There’s a relief and freedom of resources that comes from snapping down a big piece and calling it firm.

In my case, for the business, I knew I’d need to change addresses and get a mail service in order to simplify the administration as a non-US resident. After doing some research, I decided to incorporate my LLC in Wyoming and that little address with suite number gave the business a place to land, too.

3. The details are messy and necessary.

We’ve all heard the silver lining of how a good clean out or paring down can improve your well-being, and that may be true. But there’s no really easy way to do it. It’s messy and takes time. Going through every item you own, every clothing item, every book, every piece of paper. Do we need this? If not, what do we do with it? Gift it? Sell it? Shred it? Recycle it?

Details are messy, but in the case of our international move, I also found them necessary. It’s how I was able to orchestrate and plan and see how this would all play out. Because it wasn’t just “do we need it,” it was: Will we need it over the next 6 months (and is it worth shipping in the shared container)? Would it go in our suitcase on our flight? If not, can it get air shipped?

It was like there was an invisible tracker in every item and I would visualize things all the time, like practicing for game-day with mental gymnastics. So by the time the big events showed up on the calendar, it was like I’d rehearsed it so many times. Maybe different people cope in different ways but for me it was really important to be involved because that’s how I was able to stay calm — by playing things out in my head as much as I could.

In business, I went through the same process. We had to comb through every contract, subscription, account and ask ourselves what’s the game plan with this? The visualization of how the business would play out, what needed adjusting, when. It was also messy, and time-consuming, but necessary. Without it, how could we plan or communicate change? How could we imagine growing or adapting? There’s a lot of elements to our business that came out of the exercise more buttoned up, simpler, and stronger. And of course there was a lot we could let go of when we looked closely, to make room for what mattered more.

We made a lot of minor adjustments to our business over the last 6 months –we had to. They may seem minor individually, but the collective impact was big for our profitability. From rescheduling calls to be at different times, to proposing quarterly planning instead of monthly planning, to changes in just about every process. Anything we examined that was under pressure, we sought to take the pressure off. It was as if the business needed to be simpler because my life was going to be complicated, my time more limited. And we solved for it and gained so much in the process.

4. The secret to support is communication.

One thing I did early on was host a “moving to Germany” party about a month before our moving date. It was informal, in a park, where we grilled bratwurst and I bought germany-colored balloons. We invited friends and family, potluck-style (we’d shipped most things by then). We took a moment to celebrate the good times we’d had, talked about what lay ahead, grabbed addresses and made loose plans for visits.

Communicating and giving time for us all to process this change was really important — not just to me but especially for the kids. I knew I didn’t want to leave without seeing people, and I knew it would be too easy to skip during the last few weeks as more things needed doing. This touchpoint with our family and friends turned out to be amazing timing. So many helping hands were offered, and we gladly accepted. One friend mentioned they’d just moved and would take our beds on our last day, and our TV and power washer too, saving hours of hassle.

It’s hard to prioritize communication when you’re in the details, but it really pays off. I followed a similar approach in the business. I gave everyone as much lead time as I could, calmly explained why and how things would change (or wouldn’t change) and everyone had time to process or raise questions or concerns, and we had time to address those too, thoughtfully. I’m proud to say that not a single client or team member left during the transition.

As a virtual, global team we’ve always had a policy of “record the meeting and share back to those who can’t attend.” Our team meetings are now at 7.30am PST once a quarter. I am still heartwarmed when just about everyone shows up. I don’t think I would have gotten as much support and grace if I hadn’t communicated so proactively, so early on.

5. Delegate when it makes sense to.

People often asked me, “Do you need help packing?” but funnily enough, not really. That didn’t make sense to me to delegate, since 95% of the work is “in the weeds” work, thinking through details and identifying opportunities and side projects. There were, however, many things that we delegated gladly.

At one point in the spring, our in-laws asked what they could do. So we said, “Can you help us find a car? Here’s the model we want. Can you look around?” They did an amazing job, and our car was waiting for us at Frankfurt airport when we arrived, with license plates and registration ready to go. What a huge help.

In business, you make decisions like this all the time. You think about what needs doing, ask if your time is best spent doing it, and if not, ask who you know in your network that’s an expert. It’s particularly effective when you delegate things that you’re neither the expert at nor have the time to do, but where you really need a good outcome. Maybe it’s the bookkeeping, the website, the marketing. When you find a partner you trust, it’s golden. In our business, clients count on us to create and execute their email marketing strategies. Yes, there’s some requirements gathering and planning upstream, but mostly they’re not involved in daily back and forth — they train us then trust us to do it for them. In the same way, I lean on other service providers regularly — like say, a CPA to navigate taxes.

6. Don’t underestimate the opportunities.

When you’re undergoing a transformation like this, it really is an opportunity not just to let go of what isn’t working or make minor improvements when you see them. It’s an opportunity to make major shifts, to redesign. To start from scratch and think about what you need and how you can set yourself up for future growth.

From a personal standpoint, that was most obvious with our new house. We were creating a whole new life and could design it however we wanted. The problem of stepping on legos everyday and mom getting annoyed with the constant chaos of creativity? The kids have a lego room now up in the attic. Blank slate, fresh start.

In our business, there were a few notable larger opportunities we took advantage of that I think really changed our growth trajectory. One was developing new processes for our email development and design — which now makes our business scalable at a completely different level. The other was establishing our list growth services, which is a game changer for our clients. We took the learnings from our first year of offering this to select clients, ironed out processes and contracts and expanded a number of accounts with awesome results for our clients.

Both of these were new initiatives that wouldn’t have been apparent or possible without that detailed efficiency and improvement exercise. Plus, who knows what other directions we’ll grow in now as we start establishing more contacts over here in Europe. (I’m genuinely excited to find out!)


I realize this was a long read — it was a long year! But I hope in this reflective exercise, there’s a message that can speak to others, and help shift their thinking about a challenge ahead.

Hard can be good, too.

Now, I’d be lying if I said “It’s easy now!” But I have had more time for writing which has been enjoyable, and I think I’ve become more intentional personally and professionally. It was a formative year, and I’m genuinely excited about our future and what lies ahead.

I will also forever be thankful to the good people who’ve shown support and given me grace.

I’m writing this as I look out the window and admire the view. The window ajar, I hear neighborhood kids playing on the playground, and my 9-year-old just came bustling in to gush to me about the candy he just bought at the supermarket he biked to. Independently. (But he made it very clear that U.S. candy is still better.)

The kids are alright, and you know what? We’re alright, too.



Sara Kappler

I run a CRM-Driven marketing agency. Mom of three. Flexible work advocate. Data nerd. Results-oriented.