10 Tips for Moving Abroad
Whether you've gotten a new job overseas, are heading out on sabbatical, or are packing it all up into a few totes (to be stored at your parents house) for a RTW trip, you're probably pretty stressed about moving abroad. Before you can deal with living abroad, travel, and all of the attendant intercultural issues, you'll need to cope with moving (or storing) all of your belongings. Here are some moving tips and advice.
1. Start sorting out early. As soon as you know you'll be moving, start to weed out your belongings. On our recent move, we reduced our belongings by half, in about 7 months. We still filled a huge truck. And, we have boxes of stuff that we will probably never use. It's difficult to decide what you need and what you don't. So here's a tip: put things away in boxes. If you don't need them in the next few months (barring seasonal clothing), you probably never will.
2. Get organized! Besides moving, you'll need to be sorting out visas, travel plans, housing, inoculations, doctor visits, and more. The more organized you are, the smoother things will be. Use the cloud, so you can check things off wherever you are).
3. Ascertain what you will need in your new location. If you're heading to Southeast Asia, be aware that high humidity in some locations can wreck books and art (and more). If you're heading to a warm location, you won't need winter clothing. If you're going to be living in an apartment, your space will probably be less than if you're going to be in a villa. Give things away as much as you can before you leave.
4. Ask for help. If you have a good group of friends, ask them for help packing up things (and pack with plenty of paper and bubble wrap!). Reward them with a great meal (maybe cooking a meal from the destination to which you're headed) and something special to you, that they will appreciate. You'll be including them in this stressful process, instead of being so busy that you don't have time to get together.
5. Go green. Reuse boxes (we got ours from Craigslist, and have passed them on already to another moving family), and work with companies that practice ecologically sound ways of doing business. I'm impressed with Serenity Movers NYC - they fuel up with biodiesel, use recycled boxes and reusable containers, and minimize waste. It's good for everyone, when you go green. When you arrive to your new place, look to give away the moving boxes and packing supplies - reduce, reuse, recycle!
6. Money and paperwork. Work with your bank (and your new employer, if applicable) to utilize funds while overseas. You'll need to open a new bank account in country, if you'll be there for a while. Ask around - do your research, so that you're not surprised by what may be required. For instance, in the new Wandering Educators Press book, Moving to Cambodia, I was surprised to find that most transactions in Cambodia are conducted in US dollars, that the riel is all paper money and no coins - and the requirements needed to open a bank account in country. If you're going to be RTW (Round the World) for a year or more, find a place that can open your mail and forward the most important ones via email. Figure out what bills you'll need to pay monthly, and arrange with your bank to have automatic deposits taken out. Make sure that your insurance (of all kinds) is up to date and that they know where you'll be.
7. Practice ahead of time skyping or doing g+ hangouts with family and friends. This is especially important for kids, who may feel all alone in a new place and would love to connect with their friends. If they already know how to use the technology, then it's a simple math game of figuring out time zones.
8. Pack all you can ahead of time. Eat off paper plates the last week, get used to living with boxes in the living room, and get it done. You'll be glad, the night before, when you can sleep easily knowing that almost all of the work has been done (except towels and bedding!).
9. What about all that amazing artwork from your kids? While many people take photos and convert all the homemade art to digital, I'm of the old fashioned school that loves to hold papers and frame art. Work out a plan for safe, secure storage if you're going to be out of the country for a bit. Your parents spare bedroom closet is ideal (their leaky basement, maybe not so much).
10. Have fun! While it's exciting to be thinking about travel and living in a new place, you're also sad at leaving friends, routins, and familiar things behind. Build in fun times with friends and family - and definitely take breaks. Packing boxes for months on end is depressing. Make some time for fun and you'll cherish these last few months in this location, before you head out to explore the world!
Remember when you get there to take your time, unpack slowly, and learn about your new place. You'll soon find your favorite coffeeshop, restaurant, and new friends. It's an exciting time!