First…the preliminaries.

Expatriating is something that I think would feel more satisfying if it were instantaneous, pulled off quick like a Band-aid, leaving U.S. life in a messy pile.  However, for most folks (including me) that’s not feasible.  When done well in advance, slowly and methodically, it can temper the inevitable stress of the process.  Notes, links, and things for me to remember follow:

Inspiration:  I listened to a lot of podcasts, and read Vagabonding.  I was going through a bad break-up with my job, so I needed a lot of “you can do it!” in my day to get back the confidence required to make the decision.

Deciding:  I was seeing a therapist throughout the deciding process.  I could definitely recommend this.

Planning:  Timeline and checklists.  The timeline started out general and got tighter and more specific as our departure date came into focus.  For checklists, I used Evernote.  I could share the task list with Bryan which made the list less overwhelming.  When it got down to the wire, I switched my daily task list to Todist, which is cool, because it syncs with the Sunrise calendar.

Moving:  I’m a big fan of spreadsheets (said the Virgo) but for the inventory of the boxes we again used Evernote, and shared the box list.  Each box had a letter and number with a corresponding note listing the contents, and the letter/number combo was then written on the front of the box.  This way if we want to send all or some of the stuff, we know which box(es) to choose.

Storage:  We got rid of a lot of stuff, but we kept some furniture and items we wouldn’t want to have to buy again.  We found a storage spot far out of the Bay Area, and arranged for automatic withdrawal for payment each month.  All the furniture is at the back, boxes up front, and there is space leftover vertically and horizontally for more things.

Flights:  We purchased a ticket far in advance using an aggregator app, Momondo. Our dates were flexible so we whittled the price down substantially.  Also, got a layover in Europe which helped too.  We ended up with four, one-way tickets on an overnight flight via Norwegian Air for about $2000 for the lot, with one stop in Copenhagen.  Norwegian is comfortable, the only drawback was we didn’t order the meals so we will pretty much be ignored throughout the trip.

Packing:  I listened to an interview with Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta where he talked about his family’s move from Guam to SF.  He, his wife, and five(!) kids came over with one backpack each and a box that they sent before leaving.  We actually got this minimal, but discovered sending the boxes totaled over $1000, so we decided since we were checking a bag of surfboards, we would just transfer the box contents into duffle bags, and check those too.

Ground Transport:  Renting a car is difficult if you don’t use credit cards.  Impossible when abroad, in fact. They don’t accept debit like they do here, so if it all hadn’t come through in the end, we would have needed to prepare to pack light and take a train, or get a credit card just for this purpose.  We found out the hard way and waited too long to start the credit card process which created some stress.

Housing:  If we were living in our own home, we would have tried a home exchange.  Since we were not, we used Homeaway which is the VRBO of Europe.  We scored our first homes with this service, and the French homeowner has been communicative and friendly, and full of advice and support.

We’ll soon see how well these preliminaries have served us; we leave in three days…




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