I had lived in Tasmania, Australia (the birthplace of my mother) for 15 years when I decided to move back to my birthplace (Texas, USA) following the death of my beloved Granny. My Dad was unwell and suddenly alone, plus I had reunited with a childhood friend who took the opportunity to, very romantically, confess his love for me after all these years. Who wouldn’t move thousands of miles to give that a go? Come on.
So here I am struggling to find work, eating way too much chili and cheese (sometimes together, sometimes separate) and thinking about what to write. It just so happens, I do have some experience to offer. So below I have prepared a handy hint for moving overseas. Whether you’ve just gotten a job with a wonderful charity in Kenya or are a returning ex-pat like me, you might just find this information useful!
Tip #1: Excess Baggage
Unless your company is paying for your relocation costs (hello, shipping container) or you are willing to spend your savings on shipping things like 5 faded black t-shirts with stretched collars, you’re going to have to get rid of some things. Okay, most things. Sort through your possessions, sell what you can, donate the rest, then do it again. Be harsh. Do you really need that dress with the torn strap you’ve been meaning to fix for 6 months? Or those throw pillows you got in your first week adorned with the local flag/map/crest? Most likely, the answer is no. For things you’ll truly miss, bulky items like furniture, why not take some photos. They’ll only take up space in your hard drive and when you get to where you’re going, you can print some out and put in frames to remember the items you left behind. Remember, this is an opportunity for a fresh start. New furniture, new clothes, new life!
I thought I was being clever by taking only one checked bag and a small carry on from Australia to the USA. Guess what? At almost every single flight I was over the baggage limit. I ended up paying hundreds of dollars in excess baggage charges. Always, always, weight your stuff before you get on a flight. Domestic flights are often way harsher on baggage limits too, so check everything. Twice! Oddly enough, I discovered that if you take 2 suitcases, rather than one large one, you can get away with taking more in weight (but this doesn’t apply to all airlines, check their policy online). Sometimes I think all that time in the air has gone to their heads.
Like any huge life-changing decision, moving overseas brings another kind of excess baggage, the emotional kind. I know, it’s a bit girlie but it’s good to think this over before you burst out crying every time you’re told your physical excess baggage will cost you precious dollars. Start to mourn your friends and family ahead of time. Come to terms with the fact that (at least for now), this is a permanent move. You won’t be seeing your once-a-week coffee and lunch buddy for a year. You won’t get your Mom’s warm hug every time you need it. You won’t be able to just pop out to your local cafe where the owner knows your name and order. Accept the fact you’re giving these things up for a good reason and that it’s a decision you’ve made on your own terms. When you get to where you’re going, you can drown yourself in the local culture, people and food (see Tip #2, coming soon). This excess baggage is the heaviest to carry, so don’t ignore it. It’s only going to get heavier.
Next time: Tip #2: How to Not Double in Size in the First Month (or How to Learn from My Mistakes)
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