How to move across the world

Leave the non-essentials behind.

As you might know, or not know yet, our family moved from New Zealand to USA and we did it in about 6 months.

It was a process in which the bulk of the hard work was crunched in 2 months. The rest of it was in preparation and in relaxation of some sort.

The decision to pack up and move across the world requires work no less. I’d say most of it, about 70% is emotional work. Imagine not having the funds to bring all of your stuff with you and to just buy tickets, quit jobs, and land in a new city. What can we do?

So, the next step was to plan. We got quite lucky. My husband and I first made the decision in August 2010 to move and, hopefully, be in Portland by March 2011. Planning could only get us so far, and we knew it, but we were prepared to make some sacrifices. Keep the eye on the prize. It works.

The first big thing was to sell the house. Our house was in good shape but it wasn’t great. It still had its quirky 50s look and feel to it. We didn’t have a lot of money to outsource all the improvements we wanted, and so another big decision had to be made. We asked my parents to look after our child to free up daycare money of $1,000/month that we could use on house improvements. They said YES. Jonno and I are not the DIY types but we know something, so we started with what we knew and learned more on the way. You don’t have to be skilled at something before you jump on it. Just do it! Your goal to accomplish a task will guide you in making decisions along the way.

And so I flew to another country to take the kiddo there to live with them for at least 5 months. This proved to be the hardest and, apparently, the ONLY emotional decision of it all. This was the 70% emotional part.

I flew back after 3 weeks to a home that my husband had already begun work on. For the next 4 weeks, our time after work and weekends were spent on stripping paint, cleaning up, selling things online, giving away things on Freecycle, and finding our dynamic as a couple again. The decision was unilateral at first–my husband’s–which became ours in August 2010.

Friends offered help, which we accepted. Not only that eased up work, but it strengthened friendships that started years ago. I got to know them more and now care for them more than I expected I would.

We put a deadline on when to put the house on the market, and we did it. That deadline was a guide and put us in action. We didn’t spend time on finding the right realtor. They are nobody’s friend. We decided to contact the realtor who sold us the house and signed her up. She even gave us a discount for repeat business. I haggled and she freed up another $500 off her commission. Haggling works.

Jonno gets a job offer. We get the first offer on the house the same week. We eventually accepted it after we got him to the price range we wanted. Our goal was to sell, and not to make profit. The market was still not good last year. We managed to get something like $2k, so not bad.

The house was officially sold after a few days of my husband flying to Portland. I stayed behind to tidy up life. Sell more, give away more. Strip down to the essentials, i.e. clothes that I and my son need. My husband brought with him everything he needed. Friends and I did a garage sale. Good decision but requires preparation, so spend at least 1 or 2 hours a day putting stuff you want to sell in one area of your house.

Christmas time came and I relaxed. I wasn’t sad. We are moving forward. This was the downside of the plan, but it’s temporary. We are all in good shape, albeit being on different parts of the world.

Jonno stayed with a friend, initially for 3 weeks but they told him that it didn’t make sense for him to move to a temporary rental and move to a more permanent one for our family. He stayed with them for free! I had a co-worker who was in-between tenants and offered to me his studio apartment in town, within minutes to my work, for $200/week including utilities. My timing, apparently, worked for him because Christmas time is a downtime for renting out a place.

I submitted my resignation after New Year’s. Oops, the car isn’t sold yet. I started to worry! But my husband tried other channels to sell the car, and we got a buyer from one of those channels. He’s so brilliant! Our arrangement was that I tidy up NZ life, he preps Portland life. We each focused on our local priorities.

A close friend of his offered their house that would not sell. It has been a tough property market, eh? We told them our budget was $1,300/month. They took it. Their house could’ve rented for almost $2k/month but they didn’t want to go through the process of finding the right tenants. Being friends with your best friend’s sister makes all the difference. 🙂

A month later I flew to Portland with 4 luggages. Believe it or not, I brought our beautiful set of pots and pans. I knew that I wouldn’t get them for the same price that I got them for. If I sold them, I wouldn’t be able to do it quick enough and at a price I would be okay with. So what if I paid a few hundred dollars on over baggage fees? I would’ve paid the same to get new pots and pants, and a few new clothes. It’s better than spending thousands shipping stuff to a new country. It was my choice, I knew that would happen, I got over it as soon as I checked in.

I started job hunting the next day. When I don’t have a job, I make it a job to get one. My son’s ticket to Portland was purchased and he was arriving a month later. Everything was going as planned, but it still felt as though a night under the stars imagining a life in Portland was actually happening!

I get a job offer for a contract role for only 3 months in less than a month. It pays well. You know, almost $50/hour. I didn’t need benefits, my husband’s job got us covered. Five weeks later, I got offered an extension of 6 more months from the end of my contract. Nine months guaranteed work and income! The work doesn’t need too much from me, but maybe because I know how to use my strengths effectively that I don’t go around a new workplace like a headless chicken.

We buy the essentials. We cook, we eat properly and healthily. This also meant eating less. We don’t plan to have a car yet. For one, Trimet is great! For another, we don’t want to take out a loan. We want to pay for it in cash and we want a hybrid, just like our previous one.

Now in Portland, we are complete and enjoying life together again. We could’ve chosen another city or state, but the point is: WE DID IT.

Yes, we did. My fear of the unknown held me for awhile. I was afraid of the discomfort it would bring, but I managed. I didn’t go hungry, nor was I homeless in the process. Anything better than that is good. I realized so many things about myself and what my true priorities are.

And now we are happy and have more confidence in what we can achieve as a family. I’m less of a worry wart now. I’ve been through what I thought was difficult, but we are all naturally agile. We had the determination, had minimal funds, and had the gift of knowing what we wanted. Friends said to us: “Mission accomplished!!!” when a date was set for the kiddo’s arrival. It still makes me smile.

What’s your story?

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