Saturday, June 9, 2012

Moving Abroad: What To Bring With You

The hardest thing I've come across in preparation for this move has been deciding what to take and what to leave behind. When personal effects are the only link to your treasured past, how do you let go of the objects that define you?

Action figures, books, family photos, my childhood teeth that my mom preserved in a Tic-Tac box, mementos of road trips taken across the east coast, computer programs, DVD movies. Oh, and did I mention a mountain full of clothes?
We started with over forty boxes of different shapes and sizes. We went through every item to determine what we thought we really needed. Junk, junk, junk, junk... gross! What is that nasty green goo coming out of that box? After several weeks, we were able to condense the boxes down to twenty two. Now we needed to figure out how to send all this stuff from New York to Argentina.

We found a couple of potential places on the internet. Everyone had a different price. If you send your boxes by freight, the shipping charges are outrageous. Twenty two boxes on their own cost over two thousand dollars. Some quotes even suggested seven thousand dollars. We would have certainly understood the high costs if we were shipping tables, couches, big screen TVs, or a car, but that wasn't the case.

Some of the shipping companies warned us that the actual weight of the boxes wasn't as important as the volumetric weight. What is the volumetric weight? It's basically a calculated weight based on how much space your box will take on the freight ship, or cargo hold of a plane. So even if you have a bunch of plush toys in a huge box weighing no more than twenty pounds, the actual volumetric weight of the box may be 117 pounds.

Make no mistake about it! They will charge you according to the volumetric weight even if you stuff your boxes with feathers. My advice is that you fill every space in your box with as much of your things as possible. Any empty space is just a waste of your own money.
We finally found a reputable and affordable shipping company called XS Baggage. You can find them at Their rates were the cheapest. Not $2,500 dollars or $5,000 dollars or $7,000 dollars. The shipping rate went down to about $1,500. It's still over our budget, but a lot closer to our target of $1,000 dollars. So now came the tough part.
We had no choice but to go through our things and pick out the most important pieces of our past and throw away the rest. I was able to condense my things from two and a half boxes down to one. I think the hardest thing for me was having to scan my family pictures (which weighed too much) and then shred the original photographs. A part of me felt like I had betrayed my past by doing this, but what else could I do?
I had to leave a lot of my things behind and that was rough, but not as rough as having to watch my partner (who still had eight boxes) go through his things and decide what he had to leave behind. In many ways I felt as if my life really began when I met him, so most of my personal effects are just that, reflections of the past ten and a half years. My partner had a lifetime in those boxes. Some of those items represented deceased family members, or memories of a happier time. Watching him choose what not to bring was physically painful to me.

I'm not sure if any of you can understand this, but I've jumped through hoops for him. I taught him how to drive. I showed him how to be independent. I helped him get his first job and open up a bank account. I went to bat for him when our boss at Valencia Community College unjustly terminated him, and almost got myself fired in the process. I fought for his name and honor when some members of his own blood turned their backs on him because he made a choice to better his future. I gladly took the hit for anything that anyone threw at him. I moved to New York to ensure that he could pursue his dream of attending college at The New School (an opportunity that had been denied to him years before I met him). I was there for him when he went through his Cancer scare. I'd die for him and I wouldn't even hesitate. But this was something I was powerless to protect him from.

I couldn't choose what to take and what to keep for him. It tore me apart, but I silently chose to step back and let him make his own choices. He got through it despite a couple of rough moments. He condensed his boxes down to two, and he managed to come out of this with a smile.
Now we have a total of three boxes, which totaled a weight of 170 lbs. Did we reach our goal of not spending more than a thousand to ship these boxes? I have no freaking clue. The online quote calculator at XS Baggage suggests that we've gone over by twenty nine dollars. I just hope there are no hidden fees, but you know there will be. There always are.

We are exactly one week away from the big move to Argentina. We can only hope that everything goes smoothly.

To Be Continued in…

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