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7 Priceless Tips for Retiring Abroad (#2 Could Save Your Sanity!)

By Elizabeth Dunkel April 18, 2019 Lifestyle

International moving is not for sissies! It’s a jolt to every cell in your body. I know – I just did a reverse commute!

Whilst many of my compatriots are finding their new retirement havens abroad, I recently moved back to the U.S. after living for 25 years in Merida, Mexico. (Why did I make that decision? Well, that’s a topic for a future post!) Today I want to share with you my hands-on experience in international moving.

If you were, at some time in your life, a corporate person who moved internationally, you know that you didn’t have to lift a finger, your company did all the work and paid the bill. But when you have to move yourself, that’s a whole new learning curve. Here are some things to consider.

Early Investigation of Options Puts You in Control

Do the work. Start early with researching your options for moving and the companies that can move you.

Who will be your freight forwarder? Will you ship by container or pallet? Air or sea? What are the different costs and time frames? Take the car or sell it? What about the animals? So many new things to learn, different variables, costs, pros and cons to consider.

Don’t Even Think of Packing Yourself

I always packed by myself when I moved locally or in the country. But now my things were going to be stored, jostled, and crane-lifted. I hired international packers who knew what they were doing and how to cushion the blows.

They used stronger boxes of different sizes for different things. They knew how to pack paintings and fragiles. Moreover, they knew how much to pack in a box.

Brilliantly, my international packing company arranged for customs agents to be present, so I didn’t have my boxes opened later for inspection without me being there.

Do You Really Need to Take Your Furniture with You?

I owned beautiful pieces that I had custom designed and cherished for years. But they served a tropical climate and a big house lifestyle. I was going to move into a one-bedroom flat in a big city.

Moving furniture and cars is pricey! So, I sold all my furniture and made the decision to move only things that had emotional value in my life – 41 boxes worth!

When I arrived at my new flat, I bought a bed, a dining table and a couch. Now I’m unpacking and seeing what my new lifestyle is like before I buy anything.

Garage Sale Early and Often

There’s no such thing as one garage sale. You will have many. Have the first one earlier than you think you should have it, and sell things you can totally live without and haven’t used in ages…the extra serving bowls, brooms, linens you don’t like anymore, etc.

As you get closer to your packing date, you can start paring down to your essential stuff. At the very end, after packing, you’ll also find huge quantities of stuff you can’t believe you own that you’ll need to get rid of fast.

Closing Your Accounts

Start early (earlier than I did!) to investigate how and when to close your existing household accounts: cable or satellite TV, mobile, landline, internet, and utilities.

I learned the hard way that some companies require a month’s lead time to terminate accounts, and by then, you may be gone. Dealing with things long distance is never fun.

Plan a Refuge

Arrange for a place to stay (with friends, preferably, but a hotel is fine too) when your house becomes too barebones to sustain you.

I stayed in my house a bit too long, sleeping on the couch in the living room with no curtains on the windows. Staying with friends is comforting in a time of great disassociation and stress.

Stick Around!

Don’t think you can wave to the moving truck and then go to the airport. Plan to stay at least one week after your things ship. My final week in town was crucial, with customs paperwork, taxes, closing accounts, banking, seeing doctors, and farewell lunches.

It also gave me a much-needed rest from packing and all the associated stress. I caught up on sleep before I flew, knowing that I’d need strength to start the unpacking process.

Bonus Tip: Call in Your Tribe and Ask for Help

When friends know exactly what you need, they’re only too happy to help out. So, be specific: Can you come over and sit with me? Can you feed me dinner? Can you take me to the doctor? Will you have lunch with me?

Moving is a stressful shakeup of the soul. Let’s benefit from all our experiences.

What moving tips can you share with us? Any woulda, shoulda, coulda that come to mind after you have moved? Please tell us in the comments box below!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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