Sail On

It seems that when you read people’s accounts of emigrating, it is commonly a consequence of fortuitous decision by their company or government, or someone headhunted them with a generous relocation package. The most common gig I’ve seen is families swanning off to Hong Kong, Beijing or Shanghai. Visas are taken care of, belongings are shipped, a driver with sign aloft waits at the airport, and plush, furnished and spacious living accommodation waiting at the end of the ride in an equally plush and spacious company car.

Me? Jealous? Not really, except when it comes to moving. I’ve lived in five different countries so far, and am in the process of relocating to a fifth. In each case, aside from visas, we’ve had to handle the logistics ourselves. And even with the visa, the people who were supposed to be helping out generally got it wrong. I even managed to work illegally in the US for about three months, but that was many years ago when immigration officials were generally more laid back and even more confused and they still asked whether you intended to overthrow the government of the United States of America. Later, when I applied for a Green Card, my immigration lawyer tried to pay (on my behalf) a $1500 fine during my final interview,. The official brushed away their generous attempt to hand over a significant portion of my monthly salary on the grounds I hadn’t done it deliberately – I had answered the questions posed by an equally relaxed and confused immigration official at JFK in New York honestly and accurately and he had still waved me through.

When you are paying relocation costs yourself, it makes you sit back and evaluate which belongings are really important. When I moved from the UK to the US I filled a backpack and shipped a bike. When I moved on to China 17 years later, I took two suitcases and two bikes. The move to Denmark another 10 years on necessitated shifting 8 boxes and two bikes, and I picked up a third bike on a return trip. But this time we are moving just up the road to Norway, which means are driving and suddenly, rather than abandoning everything, we have the option of moving furniture (plus an obligatory number of bikes, I’m now up to 4 and a half – one doesn’t have any wheels – and a workstand)

Now, rather than figuring out what we can sell or more conveniently dump on friends, we found ourselves considering what size van we needed. Common sense did kick in when we realized how expensive petrol is in Scandinavia, and the significantly better fuel efficiency of a Citroen Jumper somewhat curbed our excesses. And moving to a third floor flat accessed via a decorative winding staircase also encouraged restraint, but we still appear to have significantly more supplies to move internationally locations compared to previous relocations.

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One Response to “Sail On”

  1. janh1 Says:

    I suppose you can get more into a knitted van. It’ll just get a big bulgy.

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