Tag Archives: Packing

Home is not forever

It used to be easier.  The moving crew would come, box up everything we owned, and a few days later we would be gone.  Gone on our way to a new adventure, a new place to explore, a new home to build.  Sure we’d be sad but the excitement of things to come would overshadow the sadness in the same way a new infatuation makes people forget their past heartaches.

This time, however, I am finding it very difficult to let go.  Second day of the pack out and I am still fighting the urge to cry.  This isn’t like me especially considering that our next destination is on my top-ten-places-to-live-in list.

After careful examination of all the reasons that can be making me sad, I finally figure it out. I realize that I am in love.  In complete, total, and, alas, unrequited love with … my view.

And my apartment.

And my building.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve lived in some amazing places over the years.  I’ve lived in historical downtowns of some great cities, I’ve lived among fascinating civilizations, I’ve lived in centers of great culture, and I even once lived across from the zoo where we would wake up to the sound of monkeys playing catch. Yet this was the first time I can say that I lived in a dream.

  • I woke up every day to the sight and sound of the ocean from every window of my apartment.
  •  I never had to wear anything more than a light cotton sweater.
  • My skin, which isn’t prone to tan, became and remained the color of golden bronze.
  • My office faced the water.
  • My terrace was perfect for coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening – not to mention reading and writing during any time of day.
  • Looking out through our windows always made me feel complete, no matter the weather.

And so as I leave our now empty apartment and as I say good-bye to every room and every angle of my view, I feel extremely grateful and inexplicably sad at the same time.  Grateful because I was fortunate to live with this beauty and sad because this dream home wasn’t forever.

But I also know dreams are never forever. Dreams come, go, and evolve. They grow and change – and we grow and change with them. My years in this dream home were not only full of breathtaking views but they were also filled with an intention to see, smell, feel, and taste the life around me every waking moment of my day. This intention was only a shadow when we moved in and, thanks to my home, it became the way of life.

So I guess in some ways a home can be forever.

Five tips for expat women to use during a move

Summer is upon us (well, at least in the northern hemisphere) and summer is the time when most expats move countries.  We pack our entire households, say good-byes, organize our arrival the best we can, and spend hours, if not days, wondering if we are forgetting something.  And since the vast majority of accompanying spouses are still women, it is the expat women that weather the brunt of each move.

And, boy, do we step up to the plate.  If a superwoman cape were given out to each expat woman at every move, all of us would have by now accumulated a closet-full of those capes.  Yet how useful are they, those capes? And how much do we actually lose by choosing to become super-women during each and every move?

Judging by my own experiences, we lose a lot of sleep. And a lot of smiles.  And quite a few laughs. We lose connections – connection with ourselves and connection with those at whom we snap.  We lose patience… a lot more often then usually. And we lose both a peace of mind – and piece of our mind.

So in service to ourselves and to those around us, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

Quit thinking yourself a superwoman.  Yes, it is nice to know that you are smart enough and strong enough and resourceful enough to move your family across the world without a glitch. But you don’t have to do it alone. Delegate. Get others to pitch in and do their fair share.

Remember you are a mother/spouse/partner – not a saint. Don’t make it a habit to take upon other people’s responsibilities during the move. Don’t feel bad that they are working/studying/traveling/etc. You have to give yourself just as much credit as you give the others. Your time, energy and effort are very valuable.

Send your saboteur packing. Stop listening to that nonsense in your ear that you are not doing enough. Even if you are organizing a move, running a small business, taking care of homework, running a household, etc, your saboteur will tell you that it’s not enough.  According to your saboteur, everyone under the sun will always do more than you.  Ignore that voice and fully recognize your contribution.

Make time and space for being lazy.  Yes, you heard me right – be lazy.  There will certainly be times during your pack out period, when you’ll feel like you don’t want to do a thing. You’ll feel like your cup is overflowing – and has been for sometime – and there is not enough space in there to add anything else. So give yourself permission, perhaps for a couple of hours, for a day, for a few days, to do nothing at all.  Read a book. Watch a movie.  Re-charge.  And remember, if you give your body and mind the time to re-charge, you’ll feel the energy come back soon enough.

Stop blaming yourself and others. Be easy on yourself and those around you.  Relocating is a difficult undertaking. You can be assured that your move won’t happen with the precision of a Swiss train, so let go of the expectation that everything and everyone will be perfect. Allow for some screw-ups along the way and laugh at them.  That’s a lot more fun than assigning blame.

What other thinking would you suggest we do away with when we move?

Need some extra support during the difficult transition time?  Remember that the FREE Expat Support Day is on the last Friday of each month!  Get some inspiration through a free 15 minute laser coaching session — reserve your 15 minutes here.

Move countries… adapt, move again… adapt again – one tip to ease the process of constant adaptation for serial expats

It’s often easier for us to name things that we don’t want in our lives than the things that we do want.  During the move and the adaptation process so much change is happening around us that it’s quite natural to reject most of it (because face it – homeostasis or the tendency to maintain the system the way it’s been is a very strong universal force).  And so, believe it or not, but this is when we want to become clear not about what we reject – but about what we are looking for.

The way to get clear about what we want, surprisingly, is to list the things we don’t want and look at the alternative.  So here is an exercise*:

Step A: List things you are not looking forward to – things you don’t want (perhaps dealing with a moving company, struggling with the language you don’t speak, finding household help, etc)

Step B: Once you’ve listed them all, take each one and turn it around.  If you don’t want that, what is it that you do want?  For example: I don’t want to not understand a word when I arrive.  What do I want? I want to know some basics.

Step C: Once you have all the “wants” listed, choose the one that seems most attractive to you at this time and list a few things you can do to get to that want.  In our example above – I want to know the basics of the language – maybe you would look for language lessons to take before you leave.

So whenever you find yourself going over and over things that you find annoying/frustrating/unpleasant/etc in changing countries, pull yourself away from concentrating on the “not wants” and reframe them into wants.  Not only does it empower you to change those things but it also lets the Universe know what you are looking for.

*This exercise is an excerpt from a larger guide to adapting in a new country — Adjusting Guide E-course, available now for self study on the Global Coach Center Academy.

How to manage overwhelm during the expat transfer season?

Summer has traditionally been the transfer season for expats and there are probably quite a few expatriates out there that are preparing to move to another post (or return home) this summer.  And even though most know about the impending move in advance and some even begin to prepare months ahead of time, for many feelings of overwhelm show up and continue to increase as they get closer and closer to the actual date.

So what to do?  How do we manage the overwhelm, get everything done, and find enough time to say proper good-byes to the place that has been our home for the last few years?

The following exercise will help you tackle the feeling of overwhelm and will also help organize your to-do list into a group of very doable tasks – all in their due time.

  • Imagine that your day is a bucket.  The same kind of bucket a child would use to play on the beach.
  •  Now imagine that all of the things on your to-do list were either: big boulders, small gravel, sand, or waterBig boulders represent the big, important things; gravel represents things that are smaller but still somewhat important; sand represents even less important things, and water represents things that are the least important.
  • In order to fill in your bucket in the most effective way, you need to put in the boulders first. What are your boulders?  List them on a piece of paper.
  •  Now think of what your gravel would be.  List those tasks.
  •  Follow the gravel up with sand.  And then with water.
  •  Then schedule the boulders, followed by gravel, then sand, and then water.

Remember, you can create your bucket using the boulder-gravel-sand-water metaphor every single day.  This way you’ll know that you are tending to things that are most important in your life and still will have space for the lesser important tasks.

NEW at the Global Coach Center: an online course on Culture Mastery offering how to be effective in any culture through the 4C’s ™ process of culture-emotion intelligence.

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Expat lifestyle or how to de-clutter in a most effective way

At a recent coaching summit one of the keynote speakers – Lynne Twist (whose book, The Soul of Money, I recommend highly) spoke about one of the most destructive and yet most spread myths of the modern world: more is better.  We are encouraged to consume more to “help” the economy, we are constantly sold things we don’t need through very clever advertising campaigns, and we are doped into believing that the more we have of anything the happier we will be.  Meanwhile, the constant race for more creates stress, frustration, and feelings of never being able to catch up – while depleting precious natural resources.

In the course of her talk, Lynne Twist mentioned that the storage industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and the fact that we are building houses for our stuff makes absolutely no sense when there are so many homeless people.  This got me thinking that as expatriates, we are actually lucky because we get to go through our stuff every few years when we move and we get to de-clutter on a regular basis.

Of course one of the hardest things about organizing a move (apart from saying good-byes…) is deciding what to take and what to discard.  Those decisions not only take time, but also force us to say yes to some memories and no to others.

So how do you decide which memento of the past still deserves a place in your life and which doesn’t?  How do you decide which one of your possessions to donate?  And what is the ultimate test that helps you determine what will stay?

I have a system.  It may or may not work for you, but I found that it works wonders for me.  When I begin the moving process I ask myself the following questions about those things that I consider keeping:

•    What is the energy behind this thing?  What feeling do I get from it?
•    What does it represent to me now?
•    How important is it to me now?
•    How important is it to my future path?

Many objects that we hold on to may represent who we were long ago and not who we are now. Some may come from times that have been difficult and resonate with memories of sadness; others may have been symbolic to us in the past, but no longer carry the same meaning. Why hold on to them then? Why drain yourself and your house of energy with clutter that is not useful for who you are becoming?

When people, who have not experienced expatriate lifestyles, say to me how difficult it must be to move every few years, I usually respond that it’s a blessing and an opportunity.  It allows me to part with the old and invite the new into my life.  And I find that very inspirational.

The things that don’t make it on the moving list find their next owner in 99% of the cases.  Internet has allowed us to connect with people who may want and need the stuff you have – so before you add to the ever-growing trash pile out there, consider tapping into those resources!

Speaking of resources… Global Coach Center has recently started a resource of its own — an International Directory of Expat Coacheslisted by country. We started it because we get a lot of requests from people looking for a coach in a country where they are living.  So if you are in need of a coach, please visit it.  And if you are an expat coach, list yourself!

People who read this post also enjoyed:

How green is your move?

Expat Coach — where art thou?

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: D is for DISCOVERY

Traveling always brings about discovery and for many of us one of the reasons we become expats is to discover something new.  We discover new cultures; new foods; new ways of dressing; new friendships; and new fun things to do.  The whole expatriate experience is about discovering – and while there are tons of things to discover around us, I want to focus on discoveries that we make within us.

Moving to another place creates change in our lives and, as that change challenges us, we get to discover how we are around that change.  We get to discover and learn things about ourselves we may have never known.  And with it we may even discover new callings in life – a new career, a new line of education, a new business opportunity.

So the D in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ isn’t only about discovering the world outside of ourselves – but it’s also about discovering and exploring our internal world.  Seeing for the first time qualities we’ve had all along, but never paid attention to is also a discovery.  Kind of like the discovery of things you’ve forgotten you had… those of you, who move frequently and take most of your household with you, will relate as you remember the giddy feeling of unpacking and seeing things you’ve forgotten about because they spent a few months in transit.

What have been your discoveries – external and internal?  And what other D’s are out there?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

How green is your move?

I packed out this week and once again, just as it happened during several other pack outs, I watched the movers use a lot of paper, carton, plastic, bubble wrap and tape. Now, of course, I want all for my things to make their way safely and in one piece across the ocean. But sometimes the amount of packing materials that’s being used for any one move is just staggering.

I give you an example. Everything — really everything — gets wrapped in paper. Be it glass, ceramics, plastic, tapper ware, silverware… anything. And most often it gets wrapped in several sheets of paper. I completely understand this necessity when you are sending glass or other easily breakable things, but plastic? Or metal? Really – how necessary is it to wrap it in several sheets of paper?

We’ve all witnessed the amazing proliferation of packing materials on a store shelf. Sometimes things are packed so well that it takes a muscle and well-sharpened knife to open them (toys are especially known for their hard-plastic packaging). Why do we need so much packing? Do we really think a doll won’t survive its voyage from China to the US without being wrapped up so well that an adult, let alone a child, cannot open it?

I protest the packing craze in the stores by not buying the products with excessive packaging, but what do you do when your own things are being packed? Well, ever since our first move I go around my rooms and specifically request each mover to use less paper or, if possible, not use it at all. And while I know that moving half-way across the globe is definitely not green, I at least feel better that I saved some of the resources they were going to use.

What about you? What would you do to make your move greener?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!