Monday, March 31, 2014

Expat Experiences: The Process of Moving Abroad

"So, how are you planning to move all your stuff? Are you sending everything in boxes by post?" my best friend asked curious.
"I don't think so," I replied puzzled, "why would I do that?".
"Because they're your clothes and stuff. Ain't you taking it all with you? What if you needed something and suddenly realised that you left it in Tenerife?" she answered, even more puzzled than I was.
"Well, I guess I won't need so many miniskirts and sleeveless tops in Holland. Besides, I have so many clothes I don't wear anymore that maybe I should get rid of some instead of packing them with me"

*     *     *     *     *

Welcome to another installment of The Expat Experience link-up, hosted by Molly of The Move to America. The topic for this week is 'The Process of Moving Abroad' and though I could tell you a story of two about how tedious bureaucracy can be, I chose not. Instead I rather focus on clothes and some other trivial things which are often overlooked, probably because they're way less important. Part of the reason for telling the story this way is because I have always moved within the European Union (with the exception of Switzerland) so I have never gone through the process of asking for visas or similar, so I don't have any advice to offer regarding those technicalities.

The Move to America

A couple of days before I moved abroad for good my best friend came to see me at my parent's and at some point the bizarre conversation opening this post took place. When she saw that my bedroom looked exactly the same it did as when I lived there she wondered why I would leave and not take everything I could with me and at the same time I wondered why would I want to take as much stuff as I could with me when I knew that most of it wouldn't be of any use. At least my instinct was telling me so.

I have now moved several times and so far, my intuition has proved right. I think one of the most important phases of the whole process of moving abroad is planning thoughtfully. First do some research about your destination and then plan accordingly (and I guess this goes exactly the same for the research and time needed to apply for visas, permits and whichever paperwork is needed). Planning goes further than making a list of what to take and what not, though. Another side to planning is organizing your time properly so that you can buy anything you need for this epic move and don't rush during the 24 hours previous to your flight or trip, and also leaving enough time aside for you to enjoy with the people you love and know will miss. And for me, this is probably the most important part of the whole process. To try and understand your feelings, to listen to your heart and do as it tells (as cheesy as it sounds). Clothes, books, toilettries, kitchen appliances you may or may not take with you but you can sure buy something similar almost everywhere. but the one thing you're taking with you, whether you want it or not, are feelings, fears and insecurities. The love and memories of the people you cherish. And the sorrows and regrets. That's why I think that allowing yourself time to enjoy with the important persons in our lives is a crucial part of the process of moving abroad. Moving abroad is moving on to a new stage in life and to do this succesfully it is necessary to have some kind of closure and to know that everything is and will be alright while we are away.

As always, some advice I have found useful when I was preparing myself to move abroad for good.

Do some research about the place that will be your new home - you don't have to become and expert and sometimes it is always better to not know anything at all and look at everything with fresh eyes. But some basic knowledge about the place and its people will always be useful to prepare your move. And it can help you to overcome your fears as well, in case you're dreading this move but had no other choice.

Spring clean your appartment or house before leaving - one of the things that living abroad has taught me is that we often accumulate too many material possesions. And so much we don't need! Preparing to move, abroad or not, is the perfect opportunity to go through your stuff and get rid of the things you don't need. Starting with all clothes you haven't worn in the last two years. (Boyfriend's rule of thumb is 'if you haven't looked for it in six months, you don't need it' but I usually need more time to draw such drastic decisions)

Spend some quality time with your hometown, just you and her - I talked about spending as much time as possible with your dear friends and family before leaving but your hometown also deserves a bit of your attention. After all you don't know when you'll see her next time and even if you think you won't, you will miss her. For me, quality time with Tenerife means going swimming in the ocean and watching the sunset at the beach.

Have you ever moved abroad? How did you prepare for it? Any advice?

Have a lovely week!

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  1. This is really useful for those wishing to move with the EU (like Mrs Tee Pot's post) as I am sure any advice about how to pack, what to pack - or not, and what you found useful will be so helpful to those contemplating the same.

    Thanks for joining the linky!

  2. Great thoughts! I agree with your boyfriend - if I haven't used something in 6 months and there's no sentimental attachment to it, it goes in the donation box. We like to keep things simple here, too!

  3. I wouldn't take everything with me either. I would take some key pieces (wardrobe) and purchase everything else when I got there. HAHAHA Especially if I planned on living their extensively. Great points Irene! Even if you don't go anywhere, it's a good idea to keep things minimal where you live.

    1. hehe I also take as less as possible because I know that I will always buy some stuff wherever I go. I don't know why but I always wear clothes similar to what people around me wears, so somehow I have to redifine my style when I move and that means some nice shopping :)
      But as years pass, I embrace more and more the idea of minimal living. Material things are not that important to me. I rather splurge on daytrips :)

  4. Brilliant advice especially the last point, I wish in the midst of all the pre-emigration stress I took some time out to enjoy and appreciate where I was #ExpatLinkUp

  5. I do miss my hometown sometimes (although we had a rocky relationship) but you're absolutely right, the most important thing to do before moving is spending it with the people you love and everyone trying to have some sort of peace with this change of situation. Great sunset!

    1. Oh, I can totally relate to your comment. I also have quite a rocky relationship with my hometown and yet I miss it! And I totally agree with you about coming to peaceful terms with this huge change!

  6. Yo creo que tu experiencia es un grado y ya veo que se te da genial lo de hacer el traslado, Irene. Yo me volvería loca y una vez en el sitio pensaría que me he quedado cosas importantes y he llevado otras que realmetne no merecían la pena. Estos consejos están muy bien. Seguro que tus mudanzas están hechas con mucha cabeza ( sólo con leer el primer párrafo así me consta) Bss:)

    1. Bueno, he ido aprendiendo, pero aún así siempre traigo de más (al menos en mi opinión jeje) Por suerte en los últimos años me he acostumbrado a dar mi ropa sin más, cosa que antes me parecía impensable. Pero algo de lo que me sigue costando desprenderme es de los libros. Y eso sí que pesa y ocupa espacio!

  7. Great post! I am totally horrible at planning things like that. I always forget to pack stuff or bring something important. When I moved to America I tried to only bring the things I really need which wasn't easy to decide. And there was always something that I wished I would have brought. :)

  8. Great tips, Irene. I do remember having to fit the smallest amount of clothes mostly essentials in my suitcase which was nearly impossible, but managed to do so. It is indeed a perfect opportunity to sort out things we have accumulated over the years. It's so true and I believe in it too, clothes ignored in the last 6 months do deserve to go to the donation pile unless they have sentimental value.


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