There is no part of moving to another country that is easy. You are choosing to put thousands of miles between yourself and your loved ones. You are dropping yourself into the middle of a strange land with foods and words and customs that are entirely foreign. It’s a natural instinct, then, to surround yourself with as much of what is familiar as possible, and that usually comes in the form of personal possessions, a.k.a. your stuff.
Unless you’re one of those rare people who can fit everything they own into a backpack (I want one of those guys on my Zombie Apocalypse team), by the time you hit your 30’s, you will have accumulated a fair amount of stuff. Some might call it junk (looking at you, Mom), but to you, they are the things that are necessary for survival. Books, clothes, knick-knacks, stuffed animals, dolls, posters, photo albums, Christmas tree ornaments…you’ve lived a life and you have evidence to prove it!
We’ve all gone through the moving process (unless you are still living in the house to which your parents brought you home from the hospital…by the way, you’re not on my ZA team) and we all know that it’s a special sort of hell. Moving internationally is the next level of that hell.
First you have to find a company that will take your stuff from point A to point B for a price that will not make you recoil in horror. Unless you know someone who knows someone, this will require a lot of internet searching and review site lurking. We found a few possibilities and after talking to three places that only shipped professional freight, we landed on a company that was well-reviewed, reasonably-priced and specialized in shipping between America and Europe. They weren’t perfect (thanks to a clerical error, one morning, a week before my move, I woke up to a knock at the door from a group of movers who had arrived to take my stuff to France), but in the end it was a good thing we stuck with them instead of firing them after the twenty minutes it took to convince the movers that I was not the Parisian-bound Sophie.
Then comes the packing. Dun dun duh!!!
I love books. You could say I love them too much. You would be wrong, though, because that’s not possible. When I moved from Florida to L.A. in 2006, I brought about fifty books. By 2013, I had about 400. I knew I couldn’t take all of them with me, so I put on my big girl panties and gave away about 200 of my babies. It was gut-wrenching and I still regret some of my decisions, but seven large boxes of books was all I could afford to ship to Wales.
Then there are the DVDs. And the clothes. The knick-knacks. The stuffed animals. The posters. My writing files which include poems I wrote in college and stories that will never see the light of day. I took no furniture; I sold whatever I couldn’t just give away. I threw out a ton of junk (because despite what my parents think, I am not actually a hoarder) and it honestly felt good to unburden myself to a certain degree. Here’s a few things that made the cut and were packed into a box instead of being thrown into the dumpster.
- Coaster set made out of the record and cover of a vinyl copy of the Grease soundtrack
- Official copy of Hermione’s wand from the Harry Potter collection
- Souvenir programs from almost every musical I’ve ever seen
- License plates from the cars I’ve owned
- CSI: Senses board game
- Old-fashioned cold cream jar given to me by a friend in memory of a story I wrote
- Plastic compass a former friend gave me that bears the words “Find Yourself”
In all, 23 boxes made the incredible journey from my apartment in the Valley to Paul’s home in Powys, braving eight weeks on the high seas and the tiny roads of Wales. The company even had a way for us to track the progress of my boxes, but I chose not to do so, lest I log on one day and find that my worldly possessions had disappeared from the map somewhere within the Bermuda Triangle.
Because of course, Paul already had a home full of his own stuff (including about 300 books), but because he is the type of guy who can make a girl fall in love with him from 3,000 miles away, by the time I arrived to join my stuff in his country, he had already cleared off shelves, emptied drawers and remodeled his entire kitchen so I could cook (but that’s a post for another day). Basically, he made room for me in his life and went out of his way to make sure I felt comfortable in my new home. If that isn’t the heart and soul of romance, I don’t know what is, and I should know because I’m a romance writer.
It took a few weeks to get those 23 boxes unpacked and to find new homes for all of my things. We still haven’t worked out every kink. For example, my DVDs are four double-stacked rows deep on two huge shelves and inevitably the movie I want to watch is on the back bottom row. Also, they are not in alphabetical order which is my one OCD trait. And I am 100% certain I packed my garlic press, yet it is nowhere to be found. But these things will either resolve themselves or will become our new world order. Compromise is the key word in a relationship, right?
Well, it’s also the key word in an international move. You may not be able to hold on to a hundred empty CD cases (even though you’ve long since uploaded all of your favorite songs onto your computer), but for me, getting rid of them put me one step closer to being with the love of my life and starting a new chapter of that life. It also left more room in those boxes for the stuff in which I take true comfort when I miss my American family and friends.
And they do sell garlic presses here.