It’s hard to overstate how much I’ve moved in my years and how few belongings I kept with me but suffice it to say in Seattle we lived in a 620 sq ft apartment with only one closet and we don’t own any other belongings beyond those walls and yet moving across the country and moving abroad are two entirely different beasts.
The beauty of moving across the country is that you can just hire the biggest truck and throw all your things in it and not worry about. Moving abroad is much more complex because every item is measured by weight and volume and each costs a price unless you hire a company who gives you a box to put all your things in which is probably the reason I see most people on ex-pat forums talk about just hiring a company. I’ve never been much of a “just hire a company” person but since I’ve used real movers for my last two moves I thought I’d give these international movers a quick call. It turned out even if it we weren’t taking our furniture (and we weren’t) it would cost $4,000 at the cheapest and it would take up to 60 days for anything to arrive at all – just for the record you would have to add our car in to our things including our furniture to equal over 4k of stuff. So we didn’t do that. Unfortunately there wasn’t a ton of middle ground in moving around SOME things. Every person you ask seems to have gone abroad with one of these movers or just throws all their things at their parents house and takes a single suitcase out in to the world. I think that works if you’re 18-25 and you’re idealistic and you want to have an adventure and you’re not going somewhere to work as a professional who needs to show up 4,800 miles from your house in two weeks looking like you live in a real house.
Maybe as a 30-something you can pull it off if you’re not traveling with your spouse, or your pet, or you live near your parents. None of which is the case for us. Our parents live halfway across the world already, leaving our things and our furniture and our cat with them was not possible. Sometimes I do feel like there is an advantage in living close to your parents but it’s mostly that if shit hits the fan, maybe you can salvage some small percentage more of your life. And that’s a hard maybe.
Anyway it turns out that I mostly did a good job of taking care of things like closing out our life in the US. We visited our families, we did everything on the checklist, and we found a place to ship our stuff out of that we could do ourselves that only cost $350 instead of $4,000 and still takes 60 days. We packed up 4 checked bags under 50lb each, 1 carry on, 1 laptop, and 1 cat and made it to the airport. By the time we had the junkers come and take our furniture out of the apartment on the morning we were leaving, I was pretty ready to leave the US.
Not because I hate the US or anything but because I was so done with dealing with problem after problem of trying to take care of finishing things, closing out accounts, explaining to sales people that no we couldn’t put our [water-cable-car-bank] on hold and then resume it because we would not be there to resume anything. There’s all sorts of personal problems too, like suddenly everyone wants to hang out with you but there is just a dwindling amount of time left. At some point I had to do boring things like driving out 2 hours each way to Tumwater, Washington twice to get my cat a USDA certified EU passport instead of seeing friends for a finale lunch. And it sucked to make those kind of choices, but in the end we didn’t have any problem with the cat and customs, so it was worth it.
The problems we encountered along the way were ones I wasn’t expecting and some of them could not have really been avoided unless we knew what we knew on the other side. In total, these problems ended up costing us almost $2,000 more than I had been planning and abstractly I’m happy that the problems were helped along by money (not fixed by money, mind you). I might write more about those in the future but they’re a bit raw right now so I’d rather skip them. Also to put it mildly, that was not money I was ready to part with and not a small amount of money to us and will probably/definitely affect what we end up doing for the rest of the year because of it. I should be more grateful we had it, but honestly I wouldn’t have left without a frankly ridiculous sum of money. If anyone ever tells you to move if you don’t like your country, I feel like I could have a few words with them now.
I also wasn’t prepared for how bad my anxiety would get during this whole move. Or how long it would take for Andrew’s company to get his work permit even though they didn’t need him in the country to file for it (meaning he could have been working the past two weeks if they were on it) so right now all I think about is money basically we don’t have any coming in. Which is a big ol’ anxiety button for me. Because we had a snafu in our travels and it ended up taking an extra 13 hours to get to Tallinn (originally it would have been 30 hours in total, but it ended up being almost 2 full days), it made that first week here extremely nerve wracking for me. It seems a bit silly now with everything kind of going on its way. Even though I’m nervous because our papers aren’t approved yet, I want to believe it will all work out, mostly because it’s too expensive to think about the alternatives.
Anyway, here is what you really wanted, it’s the travel story for those who may have missed it:
The long and short of our trip was went to Frankfurt from Seattle with no problem but we were not allowed to board our flight from Frankfurt to Riga (which was our connection for Tallinn) and instead had to get last minute tickets from Frankfurt to Istanbul to Tallinn. By the time we got to Frankfurt, I had been awake for just shy of 20 hours, our flight was supposed to be 6 hours later but ended up being 11 hours after that (so I was awake 31 hours when we boarded). We were held in Germany for 2 hours to re-book our tickets and once we did that we tried to collect our cat and luggage which we were both downstairs, while we were upstairs. It took almost a full hour to locate the cat, the entire time I was having a meltdown because they couldn’t find my cat, and once that was solved we spent 4 more hours trying and locate our luggage – which had Andrew’s desktop computer and basically our entire lives in it. We actually did not locate our luggage and were told it went on to Riga despite that we were told to collect it because 1) we were switching carriers and 2) we were not going on to Riga and 3) the plane for Riga didn’t leave for 6 whole hours – so high marks for Germany efficiency that our luggage got on a plane we never boarded, to a place we weren’t going, hours before we were supposed to leave. We waited downstairs, we waited upstairs, we took three different skytrams, we talked to several windows of airline carriers. All of this after being awake for hours on end, carrying our cat back and forth through Frankfurt Airport, having eaten nothing but a small meal on the plane all day. We were also told we “might” be allowed on the plane to Istanbul that we had paid for just hours earlier because of the cat but thankfully when that time came, no one actually seemed to care.
I’m an insomniac anyway so I’m used to being awake long periods of time but on top of the stress and walking through all of Frankfurt Airport aimlessly with 35lb of cat and luggage looking for the other 200lbs of our luggage (which we didn’t find and should have given up on right away), my whole body shook and I kept having to sit down on the floor due to a lack of seats and an inability to use my legs and see straight at the same time. The worst was actually that there was no place in all of Frankfurt Airport to charge your phone, except for the nice restaurants which would not let us in because of the cat. I had free wifi in the airport but kept having to turn my phone off in order to make sure I had battery in case something else went wrong which was just more stress on top of everything. We sat basically for 8 hours without contact to the outside world in some of the most stressful situations I’ve ever had the luxury to put myself in. Anyway we did manage to board through to Istanbul and once we sat down on the flight to Istanbul, I never even knew we took off. I passed out about 2 minutes after sitting down. I woke up assuming we were about to take off only to find out we were 20 minutes from landing on a 3 hour flight.
I was so concerned that we would get to Turkey and be stuck in a similar situation or the cat wouldn’t be allowed on or any of the other things that had gone on before us but we lined up for our flight to Tallinn. We sat in the airport for 5 hours, my heart racing the whole time, looking around to make sure no one else had a pet (which was the only reason they’d deny us, said the counter agent). We actually saw another person with a cat but no other pets came through the whole time. We lined up to pre-check and the lady stamped everyone’s passport but ours and then checked our tickets and let us on the plane. I’m not 100% sure, despite us telling them we had to cat, that she even realized or noticed Henna actually. When we touched down in Tallinn I waited for the other shoe to drop but the lady at the passport counter smiled, stamped our passport books, and sent us on to luggage. Where our luggage was not waiting. We went through customs for the cat and caught a taxi to the hotel. It was 11 euros, which I literally couldn’t tell if that was too much or too little, we dragged our stuff upstairs and I slept in a fully horizontal bed for about 16 hours until it was 4am local time.
So that’s how we got here. That was 14 days ago and I’m not sure what to write about next because it’s been an interesting two weeks but also it’s kind of been a very boring two weeks in a lot of ways as well. Next time I’ll write about apartment hunting or Andrew’s office or something but I’m trying to keep these under 2000 words for ease of reading sake.