I have become a bit too confident about my international moves recently. Having relocated overseas 5 times in the past 3 years, I thought I knew the tricks and could make it happen whilst I’m on the road. How wrong was I! I was setting off on a Europe-wide tour, which would allow boyfriend and I, only 3 days to pack, clean and leave. When I put this ambitious plan together, I didn’t know we would be sending our belongings on their international journey without a destination address. Here is my personal expat story along with tips and tricks to help you.
Packing for the 6-week journey across Europe
I left home for 6 weeks just before moving internationally to attend a funeral in Finland, a wedding in Romania, an art exhibition opening in the UK, followed by house hunting in Spain. The weather in Malta, Turkey, and Spain were blazing hot, whereas Finland and the UK were the polar opposite. You can’t wear a floral dress for a funeral or a black dress for a wedding. What on earth do you pack for a trip like this? Anything and everything, it turned out.
Comparing moving quotes whilst working on the road
I had to compare moving quotes, browse Barcelona homes and try to work full time, whilst spending as much time with my family as if I was on a holiday with them. I found that the best time to get work out of the way was on a flight, where I wouldn’t have to feel bad about staring at the screen. Unfortunately, we had completely underestimated the price tag of an international move from Malta to Spain. As Malta is a little island in the Mediterranean sea, the demand was not high enough to push the prices down. Who knew that sending boxes from New York to Europe was cheaper than sending the same amount of boxes from Europe to Europe? The pressure was mounting as we had already promised to give our Malta apartment away on a specific date, that was now approaching way too fast.
The date is set – but we are not
My journey took me to Istanbul, Finland, Sweden and the UK, before we made it to Spain to begin apartment hunting. It didn’t help our budget that I had booked wrong flights to Barcelona either. We now had 4 weeks to find an address to send all of our boxes too. Turned out that this was not going to be as easy as I had hoped! Firstly, the apartment prices in Barcelona have increased quickly over the past few years. Some say the rental prices have climbed 200% in just a couple of years. Many contribute this to the introduction of Airbnb which, has now since been banned. The demand was so high for small rental apartments that we had at least 10 local people in the viewings with us. I had to learn Spanish in a few hours and start making calls for house viewings, as we were getting zero replies to our messages sent in English. Having written Spanish sentences with Google Translator and reading them on the phone out loud, we recorded the calls through the loud speaker so we could double check the details of the viewings we had just booked. The pressure was mounting when the international house move was only two weeks away and we still had the Romanian wedding to go to. We kept hitting one obstacle after another. And we still hadn’t booked the international moving company, as we didn’t have an address to send our boxes too!
Admitting defeat and resorting to plans B, C, D and Z
By the end of May, our international relocation was less than a week away and we had to leave Barcelona behind with zero success on the apartment hunting. We had a wonderful pit stop in Romania, where we attended a fabulous wedding. Unfortunately, we had to skip the part of the trip where the wedding guests traveled to Transylvania – I knew we were experienced movers but we didn’t want to squeeze any more time out of the moving arrangements! It was around this time that my boyfriend found out he would have to write and submit his Bachelor’s Degree dissertation during those 2 days we had put aside for packing.
Entering the full panic mode
When our flight landed in Malta, our moods were getting quite serious. Turned out that Malta is a too small island to have large enough cardboard boxes for international moves. This inspired me to write a blog post on why it’s so difficult to get cardboard boxes in Malta. You cannot just simply order them online. Apparently, you cannot order them by phone either or by visiting shops. In a moment of desperation, I took to the streets and just wandered around in search for large enough boxes to fit our lives in. As you can’t really find reasonably priced bicycle bags on the island either, I had to visit construction sites for packaging materials. Finally, I found great bubble packaging material to wrap my bike in. We still faced the million dollar question of where to send our moving boxes! Luckily, in the end, a friend let us borrow her back garden in Spain. Surely it doesn’t rain in Spain and soaks the 1000 dollar computer hardware inside the boxes, does it? Of course, it rains in Spain.
So what do you do when your house move is in 5 hours, you haven’t finished packing, haven’t started cleaning and haven’t submitted your university dissertation? When the international moving company failed to send you their quote and when you find out that your moving day (when you are flying out of the country) is a national holiday and the moving companies won’t be working?
You do what any responsible adult would you. You have gin and tonics on the balcony and then go boating with your neighbour. That’s what we did.
Top tips how NOT to move by Dream Work and Travel:
1. Don’t leave the packing for the last two days
2. Don’t move without having an address to move to
3. Don’t forget the gin & tonics and boating when things get tough!
Raisa is a serial expat, who believes that as long as you move to new and exotic destinations frequently, you will never need a vacation again. When she is not busy making new plans, she runs a blog called Dream Work and Travel.