Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

Our Stuff is Everywhere

Our shit is everywhere.

We have been dismantling our house for over a month. Piece by piece, items have been sorted, donated, sold, gifted. Our picnic blanket has found a home with friends. Countless empty picture frames are with Oxfam. Gently used travel guides are sitting on the shelves of a neighborhood charity shop. Unmatched socks have found their way to the trash. It is slow. Painstakingly so.

And yet, the end is barrelling towards us, a train that can’t be stopped. I am reminded of the truth: the days are long, but the years are short.

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

Never does the saying feel as true as when a massive life chapter is closing, a new one opening. Each day stretches out. What progress can we make today? What small task can we complete from the mountain of remaining tasks?

The house-emptying is such an endless and thankless job that we fear it may never end. Work trudges on, meetings and clients and commutes. But then, boom, it’s Friday again. And Friday again. And another Friday has come. We have five Fridays left. Four. Three. Train barrelling. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

If we were just moving house, it would be one thing. We’ve done it before. It’s a pain in the ass, but ultimately it’s point A to point B. Change a few addresses, hire a truck, pick stuff up in one place, put it down in the next.

But this time, we’re not JUST moving.

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

We’re wrapping up a life in one country, moving stuff overseas into a second limbo country, trying to sort out a new job in a new third country, planning a two month European road trip, organizing a further two months on the road in the US, and trying to be present enough to enjoy these last moments in London at the same time. Oh, and we’re taking a week-long vacation to the US in a few days, so our timelines, which were already disconcertingly tight, are now laughable.

Our dining room table is still cluttered with items yet to be donated and stacks of paperwork from our moving country still in need of completion. Unlike a ‘normal’ relocation, moving countries means pages upon pages of forms. No just throwing things into a box, labeling it ‘kitchen’ and moving on to the next pile. All of our clothes are stacked on our guest room bed, ready to be added to our moving inventory, which requires us to list each individual piece of clothing we are shipping and it’s approximate value for insurance purposes.

Moving is hard enough. Moving countries while trying to coordinate two road trips and secure a job: that’s near impossible.

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

The going away party we started to plan months ago was over the weekend. When we conceived of it, saying goodbye was ages away. Not even a flicker on the horizon. August? So far in advance we might as well have said five years from now. But 2pm on the 13th of August arrived, as it always does. We parked ourselves at the local pub and welcomed friends, new and old, to mingle, eat, drink and say goodbye. Or, optimistically, see you later.

We fielded so many questions about what we’re doing and if we’re crazy or maybe lucky or maybe adventurous, or maybe crazy after all. In the middle of the party we realized that some friends were in dire need of a good vacuum cleaner, so we walked home to grab ours that was in the donation pile.

We left the evening full of love and contentment and down a Hoover.

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

Our big kitchen donation day is tomorrow. We will load up a car and drive out to Reading where we will meet newly arrived friends from the US who left the States without their kitchen paraphernalia and need to begin the process of creating a home across the pond. It’s kind of poetic when I think about it. We’re all on our own journeys, but the stuff that anchors us all to it flows to great new people as needed.

This whole process of being an expat reminds me so distinctly of being in college. We arrived in a new place, uprooted and maybe flailing around a little for something to cling to. Over the years, friends moved in and friends moved out, the system graduating them to ‘real life.’ Expats are by definition, a temporary fixture in a place. The lifespan varies but we’re all destined to move out at some point.

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

Over three years, we’ve been left by several close friends, as they’ve started their new chapters. And now, it’s our turn.

When we land, wherever that may be, we will inherit from others. We will meet new friends of friends, who will welcome us into the ever-evolving expat community. We will acquire the detritus that others are sloughing off as they move on.

In and out. Arrival and departure. Acquire and discard.

For now, in this moment, I am eager for this weekend. I am counting down the days until we get to indulge in our American life. And in the next breath I try to slow my racing thoughts. Enjoy the stillness.

The peace in the cracks of the to-do list. The spaces between the piles of our shit, which is everywhere.

Have you ever dealt with moving countries? Share your thoughts below!

Moving Countries as an Expat: Our Stuff is Everywhere

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  • August 16, 2016

    I feel your pain. We move country ever few years – we like to torture ourselves like that 😉 but you know – life’s a journey, enjoy the ride. Good luck!
    Tracey Pictor recently posted…City Girl Travel HacksMy Profile

    • August 18, 2016

      Very true…it ensures that life is never boring!

  • August 16, 2016
    Natalie

    Really lovely post.

  • August 16, 2016

    Eugh, I feel for you guys! I’ve done this three times. I moved from the Netherlands abroad indefinitely, which means I sold and donated all my belongings – I prefer to only move with max two suitcases. I lived in Edinburgh for three years, then I performed the ritual of selling and donating all my things again to move to Abu Dhabi. I lived there for two years and I did it again.. Now I bought a flat in The Netherlands. I’m happy I don’t have to go through the motions of moving country towards an insecure future again. I’ve “settled” for my home country and trying to leave as much space for travel as possible to make up for not living abroad 🙂 Good luck with all the proceedings, at least you have an awesome holiday ahead of you!
    Dominique recently posted…Wadden Sea – Mudflat HikingMy Profile

    • August 18, 2016

      Thanks! We are really looking forward to it. Julie secretly loves moving, because it gives her an excuse to giveaway/donate/throw away our possessions. She hates clutter more than anyone I know. The process of actually moving though…never that much fun.

  • August 16, 2016

    Oh, nightmare. Good luck with it all!
    LC recently posted…How to Avoid Freezing Your Bollocks Off at Outdoor Cinema in LondonMy Profile

    • August 18, 2016

      Thanks, just got rid of what felt like half of our stuff yesterday, between throwing it away, donating it to Oxfam, and providing some supplies to a newly arrived expat.

  • August 21, 2016

    That experience hasn’t happened to me yet and I’m sure it is difficult just thinking about all the logistics and what you can bring with you, store or give away. Sounds like quite a big change for sure!
    noel recently posted…Popular train destinations in the USAMy Profile

  • August 21, 2016

    Sounds like you’re off on a big adventure. When one door closes another opens. I’m sure you’ll fall on your feet pretty quickly. Good luck!
    Christina recently posted…Isaan Thailand | Exploring Chiang KhanMy Profile

  • August 21, 2016

    Best of luck — it will all work out. I totally relate as I have two months left in Korea — after two years it’s time to pack it all up and move on to the next place — find work etc. Ahhh!

    • August 22, 2016

      Good luck on your move!

  • August 22, 2016

    Congratulations. You are making space for a new and exciting adventure. Best of luck as you finalize things. I’ve moved several times and in different countries. It’s always a pain, but the once you land, you will have a blast discovering your new environment. This is just the part of the process. Enjoy it as well!!
    Rosemary recently posted…Reflections After One Year as Location IndependentMy Profile

  • August 22, 2016

    Wow, what a journey you have ahead of you! I wish you all the best with your big move and all the packing that goes with it! Can’t wait to see what comes next for you guys
    Francesca @onegrloneworld recently posted…How Study Abroad Changed My Life (and Why Everyone Should Do It!)My Profile

  • August 22, 2016

    Congratulations! It sounds like an extremely exciting time ahead. 🙂 You’re going to have an incredibly eventful adventure! All the best and safe travels

  • August 23, 2016

    Aaah, this post is so nostalgic! It just so happens that I’m moving yet again too and I know how you guys feel somehow. All and the same, I bet this is a very exciting time for the two of you! All the best <3
    Aileen Adalid recently posted…How About a Meow-velous Hotel Stay in a Hello Kitty Room? (Tokyo, Japan)My Profile

  • August 23, 2016

    I know it’s such a pain now, but soon you’ll be able to look back and say “Yeah, we did that!” The next chapter in your lives is going to be so awesome and I can’t wait to read all about it. Enjoy your time in the US!

  • September 14, 2016

    I am actually feeling slightly less stressed out now that I’ve reread your post on preparing for your move. If anything, you’ve provided me some solace and empathy. At this moment, all of our shit is all over the house and we’re in the midst of everything you just discussed. Did not even realize how much stuff has to happen to move overseas, plus re-rent our apartment, sell our cars and plan a 6-week trip in Spain. Oh, and we leave for 2 weeks in Greece and Germany tomorrow! Ha. 5 weeks left!
    Laura Lynch recently posted…Top Hotels for your fall Midwest road trip in Champaign, Grand Rapids, and moreMy Profile

    • September 15, 2016
      Julie

      moving overseas is like a normal move on steroids. Everything is turned up a notch. More paperwork, more logistics, more stress. Hopefully you can unplug for a bit in Greece and Germany! We wrapped up most of stuff in London, and it was a long process, though we are still dealing with moving our stuff around the US, and getting emails about our things clearing US customs…it takes forever!

  • October 1, 2016

    I just found your blog and am loving reading up on all your blogs. I have lived a slightly traveled life and three years ago my husband and I together with our 9-month-old son moved to Israel after having lived in Denmark for 16 years. Packing down our possessions was a nightmare, I did it all in three days. It was a crazy three days! And now we are going to do it again. This time, though I am going to sort some stuff out!
    I look forward to following your journeys!

    • October 2, 2016

      Thanks for finding us and glad you enjoy checking out the site! Moving is always complicated, but until you do an overseas move, you will never know how frustrating it can be. So much paperwork! I’m sure Denmark to Israel was similar.
      Since it seems you are moving on from Israel, what’s the next stop?

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