Tips to Moving Abroad

The Art of Moving: A History

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This post was written in collaboration with Air Charter Service, though all opinions and the tragic loss of belongings are courtesy of yours truly.

The first time I moved overseas, it was 2003. I was only going for a little less than half a year, and besides, what does a college student really need other than clothing and perhaps a laptop (this was before the days of iPhones and tablets, mind you)? I managed with just two overstuffed checked bags and my allotted pair of carry-ons.

Tips to Moving Abroad

When I moved back abroad in 2005, the situation was different. I’d graduated college, I’d be splitting time between two countries with varying climates, and I was going to be gone for a full year (maybe longer).

Tips to Moving Abroad
Tips to Moving Abroad

That first semester in Holland, I amassed quite a lot of stuff, and by the time December rolled around and we were moving to Denmark, I wasn’t sure what to do. SVV and I were spending our first Christmas together—a nearly month-long jaunt that would take us from Amsterdam to Budapest, through Romania and back up to Vienna before we parted ways (him to Salzburg; me to my beloved Edinburgh)—and wouldn’t be arriving at our new shared flat in Aarhus until the new year.

Tips to Moving Abroad
Tips to Moving Abroad
Tips to Moving Abroad
Meg’s and my flat in Utrecht. Charmingly spacious, right?

So we did what we thought sensible people do and we tightly packed up everything we owned in cardboard boxes and shipped them to Denmark.

That particular move, though from one small nation to another due north, was the most traumatizing to date. When we arrived in Denmark a month later, we found that our belongings had, indeed, not. The Dutch post somehow messed things up and because we had no return address to claim and, as a result, had listed my mom’s in Tennessee, instead of returning to sender, they threw it all in some unclaimed baggage warehouse in God-knows-where.

A decade later, I’ll remember those favorite pieces of clothing that no longer hang in my wardrobe and think of all the Gap and J. Crew sweaters of mine that some girl in Holland is wearing, likely purchased at a consignment shop for a handful of euros.
Tips to Moving Abroad

We grappled with the post office for months, trying to reclaim all we’d lost, but have you ever tried to argue with Dutch authorities? It’s senseless; they’re always “right.”

In 2008, my belongings and I decided to heed my granddad’s advice to “go west, young (wo)man,” something he told me often before he died. I had quit my job at a magazine in Manhattan and decided to have a tryst with California in the name of love. (In retrospect, I’m glad that worked out as SVV and I were still in uncharted territory for both of us at the time, and I had no back-up plan.) I packed up my portion of my tiny one-bedroom-converted-to-three Hell’s Kitchen apartment into nine boxes that UPS sent ahead of me. They arrived crushed, their contents in fragments; luckily, I had insured at least half of them and a kind-hearted UPS employee took pity upon me.

“You should definitely file a claim for that Hermes scarf, don’t you think? I would say that’s worth at least $500,” he said, with a hint of mischief in his voice. “How about that Cartier heirloom that was all banged up (*wink, wink, nudge, nudge*)?”
Tips to Moving Abroad

The end result was a fat $1,000 check to me that at the very least covered my moving expenses. (I later found out that, like me, his wife had worked at a Conde Nast fashion publication, and he was well-versed in his designers. Obviously a journalist like myself—and dare I say, his wife—could never afford such luxuries.)

We lived in three different houses in my four years in the Bay Area. Those times, we consulted friends and family to help us migrate between zip codes, not trusting any “professionals” to do it for us, given our past experiences.

Our last (and hopefully) final move occurred in the summer of 2011. We were essentially nomadic that year, having sublet our San Francisco apartment for the first half while we camped our way around the Western U.S. in a pop-out trailer, then relocated our life to Middle Tennessee so we could sail around the world for four months.

Tips to Moving Abroad
Tips to Moving Abroad

We used a pod service that time, cramming all the worldly possessions from our 1,000-square-foot apartment into the confines of an 8x8x16 steel rectangular unit and sending it on its way across country ahead of us. Oh the headache it was, obtaining a permit from San Francisco to park the pod in front of our busy street in the middle of the city as we carefully lugged each heavy box from our fourth floor walk-up down to street level, then Jenga’d it all into place only to realize we needed about 125 percent of the unit’s capacity to fit everything. Back to the dumpster we went to purge even more.

All that to say? Moving sucks. I get it. And I feel for you. BIG time.

Looking back on 13 moves in 13 years, I now know that it could have been easier—particularly those moves abroad. We’ve partnered with an aircraft charter service for this blog post to illuminate things that can go wrong with a major move—all of which is something to seriously consider if you feel the need to become an expat or migrate any great distance at any point in your life.

We could have done better at paring down what we owned—did we really need those 10 crates of books we’ll likely never open because we do all our reading on a Kindle?—but who wants to throw out 25 years of Sci-Fi collections? Not SVV, that I can assure you.

Tips to Moving Abroad
Tips to Moving Abroad

One such option is to use an Air Charter Service, which operates across the globe; they’ll handle the logistics from A to Z, and you will more than likely avoid all the pitfalls we encountered. Having specialized in air cargo charter and a range of other aircraft charter services for almost 26 years, you’re in safe hands with them, if you’re planning a big move.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even opt for one of the more luxurious items of life, private jet services—empty leg flight anyone?

What’s been your key to a seamless move in the past?


  • June 24, 2016

    So many moves! There is literally nothing worse than having to pack up your entire life and lug it somewhere, no matter how excited you are about the destination.

    I basically purged all of my boyfriend and I’s belongings before our 7 month stint in Asia and somehow managed to get our 1 bedroom apartment to fit into a minivan!

    Now we are moving again so I will have to look into some of the options you suggested!

    • August 11, 2016

      What did you guys decide on, Kassie? I can’t imagine moving everything all the way to Asia! What a headache.

  • June 26, 2016

    This is definitely an informative read, i am yet to leave my hometown but i have been thinking about it and this helps truly 🙂 thanks for sharing

    • August 11, 2016

      Where are you thinking of moving, Xplorato?

  • June 26, 2016

    OMG, what a timely article! I am in the midst of an inter-state move that has brought me to tears at least 3 times so far. To anyone/everyone moving the best advice I can give is to read reviews of whatever company/method you decide to go with. And if possible, get more than 2 weeks to purge, pack up, and move everything you own.

  • June 26, 2016

    Organization! I have done a million moves as well. Even when I was steady in the Bay Area fr years, I moved every year-to-18-months. I almost always did it myself with the help of the current boyfriend. With my hubby, we went back in forth from France to California, we packed our own stuff as we didn’t trust anyone to do it (we still don’t!). For the latest move we purged a ton (I think we could have done more) to go into a storage space in Phoenix and the RV. The most important factor for me is organization, stickers and spreadsheets – but I’m Type A! (P.S. you are going to get comment bombed! I’ve got a strong wifi signal and I am not letting go until I get through your latest posts! I’ve been able to read them in email, but commenting, not so much!

    • August 11, 2016

      I cannot imagine what your downsizing process must have been like for the RV trip! Dang, girl!

  • June 26, 2016

    I’m impressed! I gave up on moving after less moves than you! I moved twice in my university town Leiden – from there I moved to Edinburgh with just a backpack. I moved three times in Edinburgh; the last time I bought all furniture which I left behind after I moved again half a year later to Abu Dhabi with only two bags. From Abu Dhabi I moved back to the Netherlands with again only two bags. So many of my things were purged, and I’m quite sad about some. The air cargo charter would’ve come in handy… However, now I bought my own apartment and I can’t wait to start hoarding 🙂

    I’m sorry to hear about the Dutch postal service – their service as unfortunately not improved over the years.

    • August 11, 2016

      When I went to Edi, it was also just with a (22KG) backpack, ha! Oh, early 20s. When I moved to Holland, it was with two 70-pound suitcases…that the Dutch postal service then lost, lol.

  • June 28, 2016

    Thanks for sharing the travel adventure photoshooting pictures

  • June 30, 2016

    Appreciated blog post.

  • July 1, 2016

    Wow, everything on this article was so great to follow, you made impressive information.

  • July 3, 2016

    Anyone who knows me can easily tell you that I tend to get stressed out fairly easily. In my opinion, the stress relieving aspect of a moving company alone definitely makes them worth the price. Your belongings can cost quite a bit of money, and it just isn’t worth it to not have insurance on them with a moving company. After all, it is better to be safe rather than sorry!

    • August 11, 2016

      Definitely, Sheila. The older I get, the more I value hiring professionals to do the work if it means taking some stress off of me!

  • September 2, 2016

    Congrats Kristin… You move successfully, moving is really difficult that why it’s better to plan ahead of time, moreover, I like the way you organize your stuff I will follow that one If we need to move. By the way thank you for sharing this powerful words.

  • October 16, 2016

    It is advantage to search and see the successful moving experience and maybe it can help you to organize packing your things and decide as well of what is to be good when relocate. Moreover, your story, Kristine, is a inspiration for the everyone who scared on leaving their hometown.

  • November 21, 2016

    I am also planning to move abroad for a good, but there is something holding me back. GOSH! I cannot decided it well.

    Nevertheless, this moving article, make me realize everything If I move that there’s a cons every steps of our life without considering and planning.

    Thank you, Kristin!

  • February 26, 2017

    Hey Josien,Thanks for the additional information! I agree with you that the greening measures would only mean a (very) marginal improvement. However, their acceptance might show that there is support and room for further improvement in the future; for example, looking at how to make the entire CAP reliant on sustainable measures instead of just giving a little extra to farmers that do something ‘more’ . But, for now it indeed appears that this is hope is in vain.

  • February 28, 2017

    Discovering sand in your feather braid? Don't you wish you could go back? I'm still picking cacti out of my fingers from Mexico! Lovely blog and your hair is gorgeous. p.s. breakfast SHOULD be every meal

  • May 16, 2017

    That’s so unfortunate to hear that not just one of your moves had been botched, but multiple! It’s nerve-wracking enough to move across the world without losing your possessions or having them show up broken! Purging unwanted items is definitely a good way to prevent massive loss, a great note to end on! Thanks for sharing.

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