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Expat, Prep, Qatar

Packing is Tedious!

June 5, 2017

Packing is tedious

Packing to go on a trip is stressful, at least for me. I make lists and usually pack a few days before just in case I have forgotten anything. So imagine packing your entire life up to move back to your home country! The packing is not only stressful, but it is tedious.

Every item that is in your house has to have a decision made about it. Every pen, every piece of paper, every book and magazine has to be touched and a decision made. Do I keep it, toss it, donate it or sell it? Obviously, storing anything is not an option.

Then you realize whatever you decide to keep has to fit into your suitcases since I am not using a shipping company to send my stuff back. This means you really have to get brutal with the keep, toss or donate decision. I am only taking my favorite clothes, shoes, books and the few souvenirs I have collected. I am hoping to go in four or five checked suitcases.

Why so little? Well, I technically don’t have a place to live in the US. All my things will go into storage at my parent’s house along with all the stuff that is in storage there already. I am very lucky they have enough space to keep my stuff, and I don’t have to pay for storage while I am on my long trip.

I know some people would have a hard time purging so much of their stuff because we all become so attached to the things we own. However, I did this when I moved to Qatar, and except for some furniture and one pair of shoes, I don’t remember a single thing I got rid of. Honestly, individual items of clothes and knickknacks, I have no idea what I owned now. So, I don’t miss those things at all.

After this move, I will write a whole post on how I have done this. Have you ever given away or sold most of your things when moving? Do you find packing tedious?

Expat, Prep, Qatar, Travel

Pre-Repatriation Blues?

April 24, 2017

Pre-repatriation

Many expats talk about the repatriation blues after they return to their home country. It can be hard to adjust to life back in your own country since it is now not the normal or having the excitement of moving to a new country. I have what I am calling the pre-repatriation blues.

The What?

Since I am not technically repatriating, I am not even sure this is the right term! I am only returning to my home country to store my stuff and see my family. I am sad to be leaving Qatar. A few times right after I gave notice, I had the feeling I had made a mistake and that I shouldn’t go. It is hard to describe what I was feeling. It was a mix of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. What was I thinking quitting this well-paid exotic local job? Then reality set in that, for me, living to work isn’t how I want to live my life.

Then came the reaction to my post about quitting my job. I expected some sad reactions and a few supportive ones. I expected the people who disagreed with what I was doing would not say anything. Most of that happened, but I was overwhelmed by the statements of support not only from friends and family but total strangers. Then the sadness really set in as the more people you tell, the more disappointed friends, coworkers and students I encountered. They aren’t disappointed that I am traveling, but that I can’t stay and travel from Qatar. I have been on the verge of tears many times. One student insists on giving me a hug every time I see her. Who wouldn’t be sad to leave after all the outpouring of love!

Just like with everything else, time helps. Every week gets easier, and I get a few more things checked off the long list of to-dos before I go. That last day, though, I am trying not to think about it.

It Would Be Easier to Stay

Part of these “blues” are because it would be easier to just stay in Qatar. So many things have to be done to be able to leave Qatar. The biggest thing for me is selling my car, which I managed to do yesterday. Because people leave Qatar in cycles around the school year, selling your car in the Spring can be difficult, and you are most likely not going to get as much money for it as you wanted. The other part of this is fielding the calls from people who know that you have to sell the car and making ridiculous offers for the car. I had some people be very rude as well. Like somehow, I owed them the car since they were willing to make an offer! (We won’t talk about the fact that I was also emotionally attached to my car!)

The next hurdle to jump is closing your bank account. That sounds so simple in theory. Go in and close it, right? Not so fast. First, you have to cancel your credit card. Credit cards here are attached to your bank account, so I can’t close my account till the credit card has been cleared for 45 days. Since I never picked up the credit card or activated it should be reasonable that I shouldn’t have to wait the 45 days, but no! So now I won’t be able to close my bank account until some time in late May. It isn’t the end of the world, but something I could take care of now.

Qatar uses a sponsorship system for expats working in the country. Basically, my company sponsors me to be in the country. Part of that includes getting a residence permit. This also has to be canceled before I go. My company needs ten business days to do that. Then once it is canceled, I have seven days to leave Qatar. Not stressful at all! This means I will leave four days after my last day of work. Again, it isn’t bad as I have started to pack, but it adds some pressure.

And I wouldn’t have to say goodbye!

Packing and Purging

The other part of all this is that I am determined to return to the US in my suitcases and not have to ship anything home. I am ruthless when it comes to getting rid of my possessions. Five bags of clothes and shoes have gone out the door and countless bags of paper trash. The rest of it will be sold or given away before I leave.

Packing has already begun, so that is the least stressful part about this whole situation. It also means I should know if I will need to ship some stuff. The only hard part will be getting it all to the airport.

Have you moved back home after being an expat? Did you have pre-repatriation blues?

Blog, Prep, Travel

I Have a Secret to Tell You

March 27, 2017

Travel SecretI have been keeping a secret from you all! It is something I mentioned to my Mom the other day, and she says she tells her friends all the time about it, so it is about time I share it with you.

For the first three and a half years of my life, I was an only child, and for most of my childhood, my Mother worked from home. It meant I could depend on Mom to be there whenever I needed her. If I got ill at school, she would come. If I forgot my homework, she would come. I knew that many kids didn’t have this great mom benefit as both their parents worked! Dad played a part in this dependency too! One time I had to have minor surgery on an ingrown toenail and I wouldn’t let the doctor do it until my Dad arrived. Although this was mainly because my Mom can’t stand the sight of blood and I didn’t want her to pass out on me!

The Impact

At this point, I am sure you are thinking, what does this have to do with travel? Well, all the dependency led to me having anxiety about sleeping away from home and homesickness. It probably wasn’t the only cause, but it certainly contributed. I remember being at a sleepover in elementary school and making my parents get me in the middle of the night. I don’t remember sleeping over at friend’s houses much after that. The event that really made it an issue though was I was at church camp one summer a few hours away from my house, and I had so much anxiety I made myself sick. This also resulted in my parents driving several hours in the middle of the night to come get me (after much begging on my part!)

Fast forward a few years and I decide to go to college that was a six-hour drive away from my parents. Now that I am older, I can handle being away from my parents, but the phone bills in college were epic. This is pre-cell phone days, so I easily had a $100 or more phone bill a month. While I remember it differently, my parents said the first semester was really hard on me. I think I am blocking it out of my mind.

A few years later, I moved to New York City. The phone calls continued, but now I had a cell phone and nights and weekends were free! But by then I only saw my parents twice a year at most, and I seemed to be fine.

More years pass, and I moved to a small Caribbean island for three months. I didn’t have a cell phone, and the internet was spotty. I didn’t talk to my parents every day, and occasionally I would get emails asking me to check in with them.

Do you see a pattern here?

And Now

Obviously now this doesn’t bother me much at all as I live over 8000 miles away from my parents. The phone calls continue and thank goodness for the internet! I talk to one parent or both almost every day, though.

I travel all over the world without any issues, and I am rarely homesick. I have no plans to move back to the United States anytime soon, and I love living abroad. Of course, I still have the moments of wishing I could be home, but that is mainly because I feel like I am missing out on things back home.

Some would say my parents did me a disservice by coming and getting me when I want to come home. However, I would disagree. My parents and I are extremely close as a result. The phone calls home are not quick 5-minute talks but can be an hour or more. It also means my parents never have to worry about where I am and if I am okay. I call when I get to an airport or when I arrive at my hotel. Even while sailing Greece last year, I managed to call them every other day or so. It also gives me peace of mind as my parents, like all of us, are only getting older. It is reassuring to me to hear their voices and know they are doing okay.

Why

Why am I telling you this story, it’s embarrassing, right? I am telling you to encourage you to travel. Fears can be overcome even if they take time. I now manage to live far away from family and travel everywhere I want to go. It has been a lifelong process, but here I sit in my apartment in Qatar telling you this story and planning my next vacation. My advice is always to start with a small trip and gain your confidence, then go on a bigger trip. Not only will you feel better about travel, but you will also learn your limits. There is nothing wrong with having personal limits, but you never know what you can overcome till you try!

Prep, Travel

How to Prep Your House for Your Trip

June 3, 2016

How to Prep Your House for Your TripMaking sure your house is ready for you to travel is just as important as preparing yourself for your trip. Nothing is worse than coming home to a house that is messy or finding all your plants dead! Here are some of my tips for making sure your house is safe and will be ready for your return.

1. Have Your Mail Collected or Stopped – A pile of mail is a signal that you are not home and may not be home for a while. Have a trusted neighbor or friend collect your mail. If you are going to be away longer than a few days, usually the post office will hold your mail till you return.

2. Make Arrangements for Pets and Plants/Yard – If you have pets, have someone come over or take them to a pet hotel. Depending on your pet, they may do better in their home, or they may need more attention. Leave specific instructions on feeding schedules and if they need medicine. I recently took my plants to my office so that my coworkers could care for them as getting into my apartment is hard, and my plants need to be watered about once a week. It is less stressful for the plant if you can have someone come over to water them than taking it somewhere. This is true for your outdoor plants as well. Make sure you have someone mow your lawn if applicable.

3. Get Someone to Start Your Car – If you are gone longer than two weeks, have some start your car a few times. This will help ensure that your car starts when you return. If you really trust the person, have them drive the car around the block a few times.

4. Unplug Small Appliances – To help with electric bills and for safely, unplug your toaster, coffee maker, television and other non-essential appliances. This way if you have a power surge, then your small appliances will not get fried, especially true for your computers.

5. Throw Away Perishable Food – If you can’t eat it or give the food away, throw away perishable food. Not only will your fridge not smell, but you also won’t come home to a science experiment in the fridge!

6. Do Laundry – You are going to have laundry to do when you return, so do as much as you can before you go. This will make unpacking less stressful when you return.

7. Turn Up or Down Your Thermostat – Depending on the season, you can turn the AC up or the heat down. Don’t turn the system off unless you are living in a temperate climate that doesn’t change much. This will help you save on bills, but also keep the house somewhat comfortable for your return or your pets. It also helps to leave it on so that your books and art are protected from the environment.

8. Make the House Secure – Have inside and outside lights on a timer, have someone check on the house, don’t post on the internet that you are going away if your address is public, leave a radio on, ensure doors and windows are locked, hide valuables, and tell trusted neighbors you are going away so they can report any suspicious activity.

Now you can go away and enjoy your trip knowing that your house is being taken care of and will be ready for your return!

What do you do to your house when you leave? Tell us in the comments!

 

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