Leaving without (too many) tears: how to get it right?

When I wrote my book the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide I put a lot of thought into how to make an overseas move with the least amount of stress possible. I talked about sending your partner ahead without you, not moving at the start of the summer holidays and other ways to smooth your passage at a difficult time. I had learned the hard way and as we were preparing at the time for our move here to South Africa, it was all clear in my head how to do it.

Well now we are doing it in reverse and I am wondering if we are leaving in a way that I would recommend to others.

First of all, let me tell you how we planned it this time: Instead of moving soon after the school year ended in June, we decided to stick around for most of the summer. This way we could stay together as a family for as long as possible as well as make the most of our last days in the southern hemisphere sun. We have had to say a lot of separate goodbyes over the last few weeks as one-by-one friends have left for the summer or gone off on their holidays. I call this the death by one thousand cuts.

The alternative, which friends of ours chose as their preferred leaving method, was to get out of town as soon as school ended. One big emotional hurrah and poof! Gone. I call this the ripping off the band aid method.

So has our way worked? Well so far I would say on the whole yes. Although we have had a lot of goodbyes, it has meant we have been able to focus on each and every friend separately. We have had dinners and lunches and evening drinks and get-togethers for coffee – but spread out over the past few weeks so every occasion has been fun and personal.

With less going on I have also been able to sort the house out slowly, one room at a time, so when the packers arrived yesterday we were ready for them. It felt relatively calm compared to other moves.

pickfords

The down side to hanging around in Pretoria for so long is that with (almost) all our friends gone it has got a bit, well, boring. But even with this, there is a silver lining: as each slightly tedious day passes, we all look forward more and more to leaving and getting back to our UK home. It is definitely still going to be emotional but leaving a bare city as well as a bare house is a lot easier than leaving somewhere still full of your friends all having a good time without you.

On a practical side we have also managed to organise ourselves well this time. My husband will return to Pretoria later in the summer for a few months which means we don’t have to worry about things like selling the car or closing our bank account. That is an awful lot of additional stress taken away right there. I wouldn’t recommend splitting your family¬† up for this reason alone but if you are in this situation look at the positives!

And finally one last thing that we are trying this time: with my husband still being here until probably January, we are returning for a short holiday later in the year. This means that many of our goodbyes haven’t been final ones, that the girls know they will see their friends again and that we will all get to come back to South Africa one last time.

It will still be hard but hopefully by the time we come out here in October our lives back home will be a bit more sorted than they will be when we get home in a couple of weeks time, so returning after our holiday will be both physically and emotionally easier.

That’s the theory anyway. Let’s see how it goes.

Moving day sucks!

Just keep swimming….just keep swimming…

Those of you who know the excellent film Finding Nemo will recognise this quote, but I was reminded of it by fellow expat Eline from the blog Pasta and Patchwork who is also mid-move at the moment. Exchanging tweets about what stage we were at and how stressful it all becomes, this was her excellent advice. Indeed, when you feel like you will drown if you don’t keep kicking forwards, this really does sum up how I am feeling at the moment.

The moving company turned up on Friday morning quarter of an hour earlier than the earliest time they said they would arrive. Our youngest was still at home, waiting for me to take her up to school. I was at least dressed – my husband was still running around in his pj’s doing all those last minute things that you always do leave until the very very last minute because there always seems something more important to do.

So we were all a-fluster from the start and anyone who has been through the nightmare of packing up a home and moving to the other side of the world will know how the rest of the day went.

There was

moving day2

and then there was

moving day 1

and finally there was

IMG_20150717_101837449

And along the way we found out that we couldn’t take ANY food with us at all so goodbye all our herbs and spices, as well as my baking beans which aren’t beans at all but ceramic balls – yet still didn’t make the cut because they are called beans. And that enormous box of Yourkshire tea bags I bought to keep me going? Not allowed. And the pillows that we were going to throw away got packed but the bedside cabinet that we wanted to take didn’t. We found strange bits and pieces all over the house that somehow got left out like two coasters and the dustpan and brush. And in the end there just wasn’t room for our Dyson cleaner (probably thanks to the pillows) so that’s another thing we’ll have to buy when we arrive at the other end.

Still. Basically we are there now and we’ve left our house and started saying goodbye to friends. We’ve moved into a holiday rental just around the corner from our house for a week, while our place is decorated. Gradually we are all letting go and by the end of the week, when we move on to my parents’ house, I think we will feel ready to leave.

It’s a relief to be past the worst of it. The last few weeks, and last week in particular, has been stressful. But by doing it in small chunks, dividing tasks up and not becoming overwhelmed, and, of course, by just keeping swimming, we’re nearly there.

To all you others out there going through the same thing – good luck!