Orchestrating a Transatlantic Move

Moving is always stressful, no matter where you’re moving from and where you’re going, and an international move is like a domestic move on steroids. You’d think with four transatlantic moves in five years under our collective belt, we’d be pros at it by now, but not so! And for several reasons, planning and organizing this move home has been very different from, and much more challenging than, planning and organizing our first move home three years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, our move home three years ago was challenging enough. But we sold our things, packed up our stuff, took care of what we needed to with our school and with the property managers of the house we lived in, and moved. The biggest challenge we had was figuring out how to get our things to the airport, and the school hooked us up with a member of its custodial staff who had a pickup truck. Everything was organized and straightforward.

This time, things feel much more complicated. Not only have we been required to plan for our everyday life here, but we’ve also had to plan for the two weeks after school ends, when we leave our apartment for good to meet up with a friend who’s visiting, and for after that, when we go back to the U.S. The organization alone–of belongings into categories of what we still need, what we will need for the next few weeks, and what to ship home–has been overwhelming.

To make things more complicated, we decided to fly out of Taipei instead because flights from there are much cheaper (by at least US$900-1000), so we’ve had to figure out how to get all our bags up there on the day we fly out without lugging them around with us for a week while we travel with our friend. Unsurprisingly, no one at the school could come up with any ideas or suggestions. Through a friend, we learned about a company that does this sort of thing for a very reasonable price, but they don’t take reservations ahead of time–we will have to call them and get them to pick up our things three days prior to our flights. So that’s one loose end that we won’t be able to wrap up for another couple of weeks, which weighs on us.

Selling some of our household items also has taken coordinating. Most of our things were bought by incoming teachers who haven’t moved to Taiwan yet. It has taken quite a bit of work figuring out how each person is able to pay us (depending on their location) and where and how to deliver the things everyone purchased.

We’ve also had to figure out the different stages of our finances for the next three weeks–for the next week or so, when we will be here and continuing with our everyday routine, but also figuring out upcoming expenses, like boxing up our bikes, taxi rides, train rides, day trips, etc.; for after we’ve sold and delivered everything, when we will no longer be able to cook and eat at home; for while we’re traveling, when we will need to book train tickets, eat out, book tours, and pay for lodging. This process alone took us at least two hours to figure out!

One of the biggest frustrations of this move has been the lack of organized and clear communication from the school. One would expect an established international school to have a well-oiled system or process (at least a checklist) for its departing teachers. Nope! Any information that we have needed for this process has trickled out a little bit at a time, in an unorganized fashion. Even then, the information has always been incomplete. We’ve had to ask many, many questions–and the RIGHT questions–just to figure out what we’re supposed to do and when and how to get things done. Otherwise, the school would literally sit on this information! It’s been like pulling teeth. The procedures for everything–from closing out our bank accounts, to getting our son’s transcript, to the process of ending our apartment lease–has been confusing because of this lack of communication. It has been an unnecessarily frustrating and time-consuming process.

Thankfully, by talking to a lot (and I mean, a lot!) of people–administrators, long-term teachers, departing teachers, secretaries–we’ve managed to piece together the details of all that we need to do to leave Taiwan. We have about one-and-a-half weeks before we vacate our apartment, and we are looking forward to breathing a sigh of relief once everything is completed!

[Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash]

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