You’ve weighed every pro and every con, and you’ve finally come to a decision. You’re moving overseas! No matter where you’re heading, it’s definitely both exciting and daunting at the same time. Stepping away from one era of your life to settle into a new one is even tougher if you’re going overseas, though any major move qualifies. What are you going to need? What can’t you give up?
When my husband and I chose Costa Rica as our first retirement destination in 2007, we opted to begin completely anew, which meant divesting ourselves of just about everything we owned. After painfully weeding out only our most essential necessities, we ended up stuffing our entire existence into only ten suitcases. By the time we did it a second time on our way to Cuenca, we “pros” had worked our most vital priorities down to four. Yikes. Our entire lives in four suitcases!
Reducing your life to almost nothing may seem sheer craziness, yet we’ve come to find that purging can be a beautiful thing. You sell, you give away, and ultimately you’re left with only those things that really matter most. Household goods and clothes can be replaced no matter what. But the biggest AHA! moment is finding out exactly what you absolutely cannot live without. And interestingly enough, it may not be that much.
Mind you, if you’re going to do this at all, expect some pretty heated tug-of-war-like tiffs between you and your partner that go something like this: “WHAT? Are you kidding me? Of all the things, you’re going to bring THAT? We’ve only got 50 pounds allowance per bag. And THIS is what you’re taking?” Word of advice: expect lots of cursing, tears, and very possibly great chasms of silence.
So what were the do-or-die things for us? The most crucial for me were a few wall-art pieces I’d collected along the way. Not necessarily expensive, they represent where I’ve been and who I am. I knew I’d need them to make my future home my home. Fortunately we managed to fit them into the luggage by removing the frames. Woohoo! they were good to go.
For Jeff, it was all about the technology and music. I, of course, didn’t quite get why we had to lug a speaker amp (or base module, he clarifies for me — whatever that is), stuffed into my carry-on. But now I do. High quality items like these are pretty pricey in Latin America. So here we are in our new home, frames replaced and walls properly adorned, surfing the net with great tunes filling the air. Life is good.
Of course, some people choose the option of sending all their goods down to their new home in a container. That especially makes sense in terms of not having to start from scratch, which really can be overwhelming. It’s wild when you have to buy all the big and little things all over again like utensils, dishes, appliances, furniture, rugs, wastebaskets. cleaning products … I could go on. For some that might sound like pure hell, and I get it. For us it was a chance to redefine ourselves in a new country, keeping our new home and culture in mind. It’s neither easy nor inexpensive, though, so that’s a choice you have to make.
Funny thing is, there are only a few things I miss not being able to buy in my new country, like maple syrup, horseradish, Italian seasoning and our favorite dental floss picks (believe it or not). And practically speaking, weight-wise, I can still get my books on Kindle, and my cherished photos on my computer. What more does one need? Okay, so frothy towels and sateen sheets are tougher to find (and definitely way more expensive) here. But special orders like that are yet another reason we love visitors from back home who help “mule” things in for us!
The aspiring expat you
So, take a look around you. If you had to purge and leave almost everything behind, what would you take? What objects do you treasure most in life and wouldn’t want to be without? Or if you couldn’t do that, what would you put in your container and why?
And of course, if you have taken the plunge, which way did you go — purge or take it with you? What was your experience like? Would you do it again?
Trish LaPlaca is owner / editor of Aspire To Retire Abroad, a coaching servics for new and aspiring expats. Her website is aspiretoretireabroad.com