Packing for Your Life Abroad
Jun 10, 2013
All the hard work is done… property purchased, home designed, built and landscaping done; not to mention all the contracts, payments and legal paperwork that goes along with it.
Moving abroad brings with it a huge sense of excitement and adventure, but there are always the inevitable anxieties that come with purchasing a new home, no matter where you buy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ‘hard work’ is done by having all the paperwork out of the way… but is it really?
Choosing what to bring with you as you begin this new chapter, is overlooked by many people… it can actually turn into a very serious conversation between people – almost as important as choosing your actual piece of property!
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re making a permanent move abroad, perhaps none more important than why are you moving…
- Are you looking to start over, leave the past behind and reinvent yourself?
- Are you downsizing, simplifying and looking for a cheaper, healthier lifestyle?
- Or are you simply looking to escape the cold, damp winters, but otherwise maintain a somewhat similar lifestyle?
These are all very common reasons for moving abroad, and can play a huge part in deciding what to do with your worldly possessions.
At first, it may be easy to say that you’ll just get rid of everything and just head out with what you can fit in your luggage. But that’s a lot easier said then done… we tend to get very attached to material items, and once you start going through your belongings, your ‘take’ pile will likely overtake your ‘donate/sell’ pile very quickly. So, what do you do?
Shipping Container – Yes or No?
If packing a shipping container full of your belongings sounds like an option, consider this: depending on where you live (in-land versus near a coast, northern North America versus southern North America), it will cost you anywhere between $1200 and $10,000 to ship your belongings from North America to Latin America. Not only is there a financial commitment to renting a shipping container (and truck or train if you are in-land), there is paperwork and immigration to deal with in your destination country. You are required to provide a full inventory of everything inside the container – including values – and are then charged on weight. Think you’d like to bring your vehicle with you? You may want to think again… vehicles are charged duty on the original vehicle value; with the value being decided by the customs officials in your destination country.
All this being said, remember again why you’re moving. If you’re looking to start over, why surrounded yourself with all of your old belongings? Perhaps starting from scratch isn’t a bad way to get the fresh start… started! And, as a matter of fact, the same applies to those of you looking to downsize and simplify… filling your new home with all of your old belongings may not create that ‘simplified’ feel you were hoping for.
It’s important to remember that a move to Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador and other popular expat destinations in Latin America isn’t putting you in the middle of nowhere. Sure, you may have purchased your home ‘off the beaten path’, but it’s certainly a lot easier to head to a city centre, purchase the furniture and household goods you require and simply have them delivered. Not only will the bill be considerably cheaper, but you won’t have to deal with immigration!
Another factor to consider when faced with the packing conundrum is whether or not your furniture will even withstand the climates in your new home. Ocean air, humidity and overall climates are considerably different in Latin America then they are in North America (especially if you’re in the northern US or Canada), and may eventually ruin the items you painstakingly relocated. Keep in mind as well the overall décor of your new home… does your existing furniture mesh well with your new, tropical home?
Naturally, there will be items that you will have difficulty finding in your new home country, or that are excessively over-priced. If you find that you absolutely cannot live without something, and can’t justify the extra expense, why not simply keep a list on your fridge? Then, the next time you head to your native country, simply pick the item(s) up and bring them back with you. Interestingly enough… the more time that passes without those items, may show you how ‘important’ they really were.
Here at Where International, we love to remind you to keep everything in perspective. We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but we know how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement and hubbub of moving abroad. Taking a step back, remembering why you’re doing this and for whom you’re doing it, are easy tactics to deal with the sometimes overwhelming feelings… and this may be no truer then when you’re deciding what to do with your belongings…
If you haven’t made the leap into living internationally, but have been seriously thinking about it, perhaps a Discovery Weekend is what you need to round that first bend…
You’ll have an opportunity to explore some of Latin America’s best locations for living abroad – retirement or otherwise – and because of the relationships we have with our developer partners, you’ll see property that possibly hasn’t even been introduced to the general public!