Not many people talk about the preparation that goes into moving overseas.
If you are here, you probably get that when people suddenly appear in a place that looks exotic and luxurious, it may seem like they are “lucky” bitches or bastards. The truth is, unless they are young backpackers who are just starting out, there’s a lot of exhaustive work, decision-making, uncertainty, and emotional upheaval.
It can be a MAJOR pain in the ass.
I’m going to be sharing some short essays and photos about what this process looks and feels like in the coming weeks. This isn’t to prove anything to you but show you in real time what all this looks like up to the moment I take off. (and then part 2 starts when the plane lands!)
I can do it, anyone can, and I’m here to help if and when you may decide to do something similar.
I also want to say that I do know of a few Bosnian refugees, and I want to humbly acknowledge you, or any of our ancestors who had to leave their homes on short notice. To them, this could be child’s play, but to me, it DOES feel like a big deal, even though I’m not complaining.
Warning: I say shit a lot here only because the word just really seems to fit.. not my mood, but the context. I’m sure you can handle it. 🙂
Also.. before you read on.. if you are planning on shipping some of your possessions, this blog won’t be covering that. This is something I still need to investigate, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be shipping anything any time soon.
Should you decide to ship some items.. it could benefit you to do your move in “phases.” That was my original intention… to leave some larger items behind with a friend and then arrange shipping on a trip back at “some point.” Shipping can get complicated. I’m not sure that this is going to work out for me after all so I’m not going to discuss shipping at this time.
Storage spaces are another option, but I decided that keeping on top of another monthly bill, (which I am trying to keep to a minimum) flying back again, or finding someone willing to sell or take on my possessions that will probably be forgotten about anyway, also wasn’t an option.
I decided to “Rip of the Band-aid” as quickly as I could and allow myself 2 check in bags and one carry-on, maximum.
If this is the route you are taking, this blog may be helpful.
Preparation Part One: Getting rid of material possessions. (The logistical part)
I’m only about one month into this.
This process involves Craigslist, local listings, checking email daily (I have like 6 email accounts) hoping to god everything will sell, saying goodbye to things I may be attached to, and making lots of decisions each day.
• If you are in a similar position as I am.. (single, living in an expensive city) consider downgrading. Forget your ego, the typical American dream of big houses with custom wooden floors and walk in closets, what your friends or your mother thinks, and rent a room. That $2,000 can go towards funding your move and probably 2 months living expenses (all of it, not just rent or mortgage) in some parts of the world.. or even 3 months.
• Book a flight and “reverse engineer” from there. You will hear me say this a LOT. If you wait, your chances of procrastination SKYROCKET.
• Make peace with being in Camping Mode until your flight out. Can you get rid of the bed? Futons work fine. Pots and pans? Use a toaster oven. 90% of your clothes? Check.
• Find friends who may enjoy being the “keeper” of some of your favorite items that you can’t bring.. but also can’t bring yourself to sell to strangers. Things like books, drums, something your grandmother gave you, etc.
• Get Trello or some other project management app (I use this for almost all of my big projects) I would be willing to share any lists I have, as I create them.
• Buy a bunch of bins for sorting: Sell, Donate, Discard, and Maybe. Keep the maybe bin small.
• Open your luggage and start packing. Now. I know it sounds weird, but it gives you a more realistic starting point. It also helps you visualize and get closer to your departure day, which, in my opinion… DOES get things moving along.. both with mindset and the Universe, which will begin to cooperate with you!
I’m willing to bet that you will be constantly adding, subtracting, evaluating, and re-evaluating everything in that bag until the day your flight leaves.
• Buy a portable scale. Is that heavy leather coat worth packing? Can you buy most of what you need at your final destination?
• Start taking photos to upload on sites like Craiglist and local Facebook groups dedicated to selling stuff locally.
• Schedule an “online day.” Your job description: uploading all those photos and descriptions to online classifieds, and getting the word out.
• Schedule a yard sale today. This will also help you avoid procrastination.
• Start creating a “yard sale” space. Keep the stuff you plan to sell separate from your living space, if you can.
• Set a timer. Work for an hour, and take a break. If you tell yourself that you have to work till you complete a task, it might not ever get done, or even started. It helps prevent overwhelm. Put on some motivating music!
• Say goodbye to paper. Recycle almost everything. Scan the rest.
• Yes, you will be donating and selling a lot of books. (good news for nerd like me.. I’m writing a WHOLE OTHER BLOG about books!)
• Keep all important documents and items in a separate place, in a basket, etc.. if you tend to be disorganized. You may be great about keeping track of your passport and keys abroad, but life may be a little chaotic at HOME for a while.
• Start telling people about what you are planning to sell. I may have a buyer for my car just from word of mouth. Sure beats having to do a transaction in the police or DMV parking lot and stressing over the clearing of a cashier’s check.
• Schedule downtime. You WILL need to rest.. trust me. There have already been a few days in which I honestly could. not. think. I was even worried that I might forget how to drive. Getting in an auto accident right now would most certainly SUCK. And you WILL need to think. A LOT.. in the coming weeks.
• Be patient with yourself. I’m grateful that I don’t have to quickly “flee” my home, humble as it is.
This might also be a FANTASTIC time to um, start meditating in earnest?
Emotional baggage and letting go (phase one)
There’s nothing like having a fixed and limited amount of space and weight to transport your earthly belongings in hollow metal tube to the other side of the planet.
It took me a month to wrap my head around that this is what I’m going to do.
What the hell do you bring? What kinds of decisions do you make? What stays, what goes?
When you are older, you can’t really rely on the 20-something’s trick of just stashing boxes in your parent’s basement. (sorry, kids, that’s cheating.) When you are older, your parents have already moved on and are either living in their own (pared down) space, in another state or country, in assisted living, or made the ultimate paring down/move to ANOTHER plane. (left the planet)
As I mentioned, the process of editing, paring down, and all the decisions that go with it can be exhausting, but it’s also a FANTASTIC exercise to go through.
What do we really need? What can we leave behind? It’s surprising the shit we haul with us from one move to the next, and never use.
It can also involve some MAJOR resistance. So far, it has not been a systematic process, but a series of “sprints” and “stalls.”
I tend to get RUTHLESS with boxes and hefty bags for a day or two, and then for the next week, I’m in the midst of a pile of more shit to sift through. This tends to slow things down, and has me feeling even more “blocked and unsettled.”
Let’s get stark and REAL.. Do you bring the wedding pictures? Your old art? The books you love? Something someone gave you that means a lot? Things that might seem kind of stupid, but you have an honest emotional attachment to?
This process of letting go takes weeks.. it seems. Again.. I couldn’t help but think of war refugees that had to leave everything behind quickly. I can’t imagine it.
What silly thing would you take with you?
Not to mention that during this process, you can say good-bye to the nice little nest/refuge of peace you created as your possessions migrate from one box or goodwill bag or recycle bin or back of your car or any other available space.. because you won’t have furniture to stash them in anymore.
And you will have 5 part time jobs while you are essentially camping.
You will start to hope that you can keep your energy and your wits about you and not fuck up something really important along the way.
And realize it in a lightning bolt moment of panic 20 minutes into your flight.
..or just plain old lose your keys or forget to make an important account transfer and find your bank account overdrawn the next day.. the fun that makes your average stateside stressful days.
Oh, and you will probably look like cold shite warmed over. Glamour? Ha. Nope.
Everything’s gonna be cool.. right?
I’ll be writing about this again, if the spirit moves me, closer to the BIG DAY. (or immediately afterwards)