It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago we were planning a move overseas. Yup – a whole year. And what a year! Although we still have three months left here, we’re starting to get into wind-down mode. For me that means having a little stress about everything we haven’t seen and done yet and trying to cram it in!
So it is really hard to believe that a year ago, the excitement for this sojourn was just starting to build. People were looking at us in amazement, disbelief, envy and excitement. There were those who thought we were plain crazy — maybe there’s some truth in that.
So, everyone knows moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. Moving country is just totally daunting. The thing is, when you’re planning to move overseas there is a lot to consider. Things to work out, paperwork to get sorted, vaccinations and all that jazz. What you have to do depends on where you’re at in life and where you are going. We don’t have children, so we didn’t have to think about schooling and things but we do have a house. We had jobs and we had stuff. So. Much. Stuff. So if you’re planning a move overseas here’s our top 10 things to do before you move overseas.
- The house
We chose to rent out our house. We tossed up with selling or renting and after much consideration decided renting would work for us. It’s in an ideal location so we didn’t think there would be too many problems. Once that decision was made we had to get the house ready for rent so we suddenly had what seemed to be an endless stream of electricians, plumbers and handymen to make sure the house was compliant. New curtains, fence repairs, that last bit of painting I had never got around to, a spruce up in the garden and finally insurance to cover us.
we’d been in the house nearly 14 years. And crap accumulates. I don’t know how, it just does. Well, mine does. All those things that might come in handy one day were stashed in cupboards — and they all needed to be sorted. It was the first time I’d considered that lots of storage space can be a downside in a house. The sorting and packing was a NIGHTMARE. We were there until about 10pm the night before we had to catch our plane to Perth (first port of call before the ultimate move). Start early with the sorting and packing is my advice. Really early. And be very strict about it. I wasn’t and I kept putting it off with so many other things that had to be done.
So we got rid of a whole heap of stuff, which felt really great. We sold it and gave it away and shared some things out among friends. Most of our furniture went. But there are some things we felt necessary to keep. Filing cabinets and the nearly new office furniture. The washing machine and what amounted to much more than we anticipated. We looked at a number of storage options and we chose to buy a shipping container, which my cousin and her husband have very kindly offered to store for us on their property. It sounds like an easy enough process, buying a shipping container but apparently all shipping containers are not created equal. We wanted a new (only done one trip), 20 foot container in good condition with good ventilation. It took quite a bit of shopping around and one or two fell through at short notice before we finally secured one.
- Enduring power of attorney and will.
I admit we were pretty slack and while we kept talking about doing a will, it’s one of those things we had never got around to. So, we booked an appointment with the Public Trustee and got that sorted out. This is something you don’t want to leave until the last minute as you often need to wait a week or two to make an appointment. It was suggested we also organise an enduring power of attorney so there is someone back home who can handle things on our behalf if it needs to be done from Australia. It’s something I hadn’t even thought about, although it is incredibly logical. Especially if you need access to funds in an emergency.
You go on holiday for a few weeks and you know if anything pressing happens you can sort it out when you are back home. But there were a few things we needed to organise before heading off. Things like setting up e-statements and making sure we can access our bank accounts while overseas. As it turns out, our bank won’t send e-statements on loan/mortgage accounts. And sure, I can organise electronic payments to different accounts if I need to but they actually need to be set up in Australia first. It seems I can’t add a new payee once I have left the country because the security code to confirm is sent to a mobile phone within Australia. I did think the whole internet banking thing would be a bit more global-friendly but I guess it’s good it is not that easy. We also sat down with our banking staff and let them know where we would be travelling to so our accounts would not be blocked for unexpected use in a foreign country.
I also highly recommend finding a bank with no foreign exchange fees. We didn’t. Well, we did, but we never set up an account. Totally kicking ourselves now. The foreign exchange fee can be quite savage. You might want to look at value-for-money credit card options while you’re at it. We are in a country where the majority of transactions are small money and done in cash so the credit card is rarely used here.
Yep. Going to south-east Asia. For 12 months. So there’s more of them. The Joker was just thrilled. He doesn’t tell a lot of people but he’s a bit of a wuss when it comes to needles. Rabies requires three shots over four weeks. Yay! Then there was Japanese Encephalitis and a whole heap of others. I recommend visiting an actual travel doctor when you move overseas. They have often travelled widely themselves and are set up for people going to strange places, so they have most vaccines on hand. Again, I recommend going to find out about this sooner rather than later because there are some, like rabies that need multiple shots over a number of weeks.
- A Visa
It is actually very easy to get a visa on arrival when you get to Cambodia. But for whatever reason we decided to get one in advance and avoid any potential hassle when we landed. I don’t think there would have been any problems, it was just one less thing to worry about. However, we did do our research in advance to find out what was required for long-term stays and what we would have to do. We recommend you research this for whatever country you are going to because some can be quite costly. Knowing the process in advance is a good idea.
- Travel insurance
I can’t stress enough how important travel insurance is. Yes, if you are going for a long time it is expensive, but not having it can be so much more expensive. The cost of being air-lifted out of a country can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. It is all well and good to say you will be careful but you just never know what could happen. If you are going to live as an expat, there is a thing called expat insurance.
- Redirect mail
Yeah, the snail mail. It keeps coming, even when you’ve taken off and are happily embracing new cultures, meeting new people and your old life is almost forgotten. Some of it’s important, some of it isn’t. But it’s a good idea to have somewhere to direct your mail to. Somewhere it can be kept for your return or to someone who can check it and notify you of anything urgent that might arise.
- Buy stuff you need
I know we were largely getting rid of stuff but there were things we needed for the trip. On the technical side, I needed a laptop to work on. Then there were things like medical scripts, medications and basic first aid items. Clothes, luggage (the Joker needed a new suitcase), camera gear etc. Make a list. Think about how badly you really need it and whether you can get it where you are going. Even in Cambodia you can buy most things (except tampons – very hard to find. And girls I recommend bringing plenty of bras and undies and swim wear – it’s really hard to get good quality stuff here).
It feels like there was so much more we had to do and organise to prepare for our move overseas and the few months before we left was a whirlwind of appointments and sorting, packing, buying, selling and researching to ready us for the trip. I know it makes us sound like old nana’s stressing about all the details. I can hear the free spirits saying “to hell with it, just go”. But I do think it makes sense to be a bit organised and a bit sensible about a long-term overseas move.
Have you moved to another country? Share your tips with us, we’d love to hear them.