Reflecting on the “Final” Move

After living in Lucca, Italy for three years, my husband and I will be moving back to the United States. My husband was offered a job in Houston, Texas. We are both excited and nervous about this next stage in our lives.

For the first time in my life, this may not be a temporary settlement. This is a somewhat scary thought for me personally. Previously, I lived in multiple states (Iowa – when I was a baby but I still count it, Wisconsin, Washington DC – technically a district not a state, Missouri, Maryland & Massachusetts); attended academic courses in England, the Balkans – mainly Serbia, & Switzerland; and lived overseas in Italy.

Actually the address I had in Lucca for three years was the longest standing address I resided at since I was seventeen years old. I’ve gotten quite use to this mobile lifestyle. You learn quickly not to collect “things,” as you will have more to eventually pack if you do. I’ve also never had much chance to be bored with my surroundings either.

However, the idea of a long-term settlement means that my husband and I can purchase a house. I am about ten years behind all my friends from school who own homes or have been working toward that for years. Having a home to us isn’t just a next step though but an opportunity to finally have all our belongings in one place. I have boxes I haven’t looked inside of for at least ten years. It’ll be like Christmas morning when my husband and I actually open every box and piece of luggage. It will also be nice to travel some place (yes…traveling will most definitely continue) and have a home to come back to when the trip concludes.

Plus, living a nomadic life has at times been very lonely. I’ve met amazing people everywhere I’ve been, and when it comes time for me to move to my next destination, we always say that we will keep in touch (along with maybe a plan to visit), but most of the time that does not happen. With social media being what it is today, I always expect that it will be so easy to stay in touch and am disappointed when it still does not happen.

I am currently at that stage, right before the move, where I get a bit weepy, as I reminisce on all the memories and moments I’ve experienced in that particular location, but this time it is different. I find myself worried about how I will adjust to normal everyday living in the States. I’ve only been living outside of the USA for three years, but I feel as though I’ve missed so much. Things have changed. American politics has taken an interesting turn, Game of Thrones is the television show of choice for many, and everyone seems to be addicted to Pokemon GO – all this while I’ve been wandering ancient streets and sipping cappuccini. I have faith that I can catch up on all the things I’ve missed, but how do I handle the knowledge that most people will not care about what I have been doing and what they have missed.

I’ve enjoyed a certain motto over the last few years: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” Does that mean that when you stop wandering, that is when you are lost? That is how I am feeling.

I know how lucky I have been. I’ve lived an amazing, adventurous life, and I’m only in my thirties. I was recently in a small-ish town in the Ukraine, where I spoke with another American woman who has lived around the world. She told me, “like all places you move to, there is an adjustment period.” She went on to saying that it may take longer this time to adjust, but that I will do just fine. However, she warned me not to lose who I am, being a  “a citizen of the world” as we call it. She stressed to me that I must take what I have learned from my time abroad and use it to strengthen myself both emotionally and intellectually. I hope to do just that. There is no fear. Only hope…

Arrivederci Italia!

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Moving – Lessons Learned

Being that this move was so different than any other move, I actually learned a lot in the process.

1. Shipping things oversees

At first, my husband and I were going to try to take our belongings with us instead of having to get a furnished place in Lucca. Through research, we quickly learned that that was not a feasible option. We have been told in the past that if you are okay with things arriving months later that slow boating items are very affordable. This would have been perfect except that slow boating belongings does not exist anymore. I looked at freight companies that will move your stuff for you overseas and that would cost thousands of dollars.

I learned that M-bags exist at the post office. This is a cheaper way to send papers and books and not have to pay customs.

If you are going to send a package with items that are not books and papers via the post office, fed ex, etc. be prepared to have to pay a customs charge to ship it and an additional customs charge to receive it.

2. Portable Storage Units

Moving trucks use to be the only option to move your belongings from one location to another. You could rent and drive the truck yourself or higher a moving company. Now there are things as portable storage units, which turned out to be the perfect option for my husband and I to send the items that we wanted to store with family that lived in another state without us having to do it ourselves. This is how it works: a company drops off a moving container (multiple sizes available depending on your moving needs); when you have the container ready to go, the company picks the container up and drives it to your final destination; there it is dropped off; you or others unload the container (since our family was storing our belongings they were the ones that unloaded it); and once it is unloaded, the container is picked up again.

a) I contacted PODS (www.pods.com). They are the cheapest option right now that I found. When I called the first time with my dates and what I needed, they set me up with a reservation number and I told them I would call later to actually pay for the moving container. When I did call later, I was extremely disappointed to hear that the original service rep that I spoke to didn’t even try to look to see if there were available containers for the weekend I needed. It turns out that there were not any available, so that was time wasted and I was back to square one.

b) I then contacted the next affordable option. U-Pack (www.upack.com) was $30 more expensive but they had availability for when I needed the container and their customer service was fantastic. They called with the timings of everything and gave help instructions. When they give you a time frame for drop off, I was pleasantly surprised that they showed up earlier in that time frame.

3. Selling or Donating Items

My husband and I opted to only keep our most valuable and memorable belongings. Everything else that wasn’t going to Italy needed to be sold or donated. Here are the options for selling and donated items.

a) To make things easier on myself, I donated most of our clothes to Goodwill. Remember that your donations are tax-deductible.

b) However, if you feel that your clothes are really valuable and would like to get some cash for them, some places do pay for clothing. Boston has The Garment District. I advise that you get there early in the day, because they only pay for so many goods in one day.

c) The quickest way to sell lots of your household items at once is to host a Rummage Sale. You can advertise these sales in the local paper or on Craigslist.

d) Unfortunately, I was unable to have a rummage sale, because I lived in an apartment building, so I came up with a different plan. It was much more time-consuming than just having a rummage sale, but it was effective. (i) I created a Picasa photo album (picasaweb.google.com) with all the items I was selling and at what price (all prices have to be negotiable). I made this album open to the public. I first shared it with friends, family, and coworkers. (ii) I created flyers of the furniture and big-ticket electronics to circulate just in our community (which contained over twenty apartment buildings and townhouses) with the permission of the community security. (iii) I then created an advertisement on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). Best to title advertisements like this as a Moving Sale. This way, individuals know right away that you are selling more than just a few items and that most likely you are selling big items like furniture, which I was. I also attached a link in this advertisement to the Picasa photo album. If you are looking for the best time to post advertisement, I was advised to post on Thursday or Friday morning. People like to do their shopping on the weekend, and it definitely worked. I was contacted by many people who had specific items that they wanted to come and pick up. We would arrange a time and people would stop by. Special Note: I would advise not to do what I did. With my husband already gone to Italy, I had many strangers coming into my apartment with me there alone. It is not a safe thing to do. I had one gentleman show up for a piece of furniture at 10:30pm (3 hours after our agreed time). He had come from a Boston Red Sox game and was intoxicated enough that he took a cab to pick up a television stand. It was humorous to watch him try to cram this stand into a cab car, but I also realize that I should never have allowed someone into my apartment at that time. (iv) Some friends, who were moving at the same time, told me of a website I should look into for selling books called Blue Rectangle (www.bluerectangle.com). This site lets you compare buyback offers from five different companies: Bookbyte, Cash4Books, SellBackYourBook, Powells, and Better World. Most of these companies pay for shipping. You just need to box the books up. It was super easy to do this all through PayPal. The companies just dumped the money into my PayPal account, which I easily transferred to my bank account. I received every dollar that was quoted to me in two weeks or less. (v) For any books that I wasn’t able to sell that I wanted to dispose of, I found yellow donate containers on many street corners around the city.

Special thanks to all the people who helped me through this process with their valuable insights and knowledge. 

The Biggest Move of My Life

In 15 years, I have moved 16 times. These moves include 8 cities and 4 states plus the District of Columbia. In this time frame, I also participated in classes in both Geneva, Switzerland and Belgrade, Serbia. However, none of those moves come remotely close to when my husband and I decided to move to Lucca, Italy.

Who doesn’t dream of living in the heart of Tuscany?

The dreaming part is amazing. The reality is something very different.

My husband had to start his job in Italy earlier than we were expecting, so we made a deal that I would settle our affairs in the U.S. while he found us a place to live in Italy. I thought it was a grand deal. I could handle the move, and my husband would find us a wonderful place. The month before he left, our apartment turned into multiple piles. One room had things we were selling, one room had things that were going into storage, and then there was a small area of things that we would be able to fit in our suitcases to take to Italy with us. Shipping our things was just not a financially reasonable option. He stayed long enough to help pack a pod that was going into storage with some family. I cannot express my gratitude at being able to store some of our precious belongings, that I just couldn’t part with, with family for the period of time that we are in Italy.

After my husband left, it was an emotional and stressful time for me. Moving has become like second nature to me but this was very very different. Instead of just updating our addresses on all accounts, I had to close some accounts. Instead of selling a few items, I was selling many items that included large furniture (see future post Moving – Lessons Learned). I was not coping well with the idea of having to sell furniture that I had had since I was a kid. Sometimes it really is hard to part with things. I had four weeks to sell everything, pack the remaining items up, and clean the entire place before our apartment lease was up. Many tears of anxiety were shed during those four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, I had accomplished a lot but not everything. I had hoped to only have one car load of my belongings left at that point. I had two.

Once I left the apartment, I spent two weeks with family in the area while I finished up at my job in Boston. In that two-week period, I was able to minimize my belongings to one car load and owe this to family and a best friend, whose assistance was desperately needed and appreciated.

My car load and I left Boston and eventually made it to my parents’ house, where the car would remain indefinitely. At this point, my car load would have to be diminished to 4 pieces of luggage (2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons). Meanwhile, I had issues booking my plane ticket to Italy and was concerned about steps that I would need to do to claim residency in Italy.

The two months that my husband and I were apart were some of the hardest days of my life. Yes, I missed him, but I also realized that while I did manage all this on my own, I never want to do this again. I barely had time to enjoy myself and truly say goodbye to the life I had made in Boston. In the future, because there will be more moves, I will not hesitate to be 100% honest with myself and others about how much I can handle. I will not do a move like this by myself EVER again.

It all worked out though. The move was successful (though I wish I had brought more than three pairs of shoes), and my husband did find us a wonderful home. Now we can start living the dream.