The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad

While I write this post about packing for a move abroad, I really should be packing for my move abroad. I’ll write up lists all day, pin packing guides like a madwoman and lay out my clothes beautifully, but when it comes to the actual act of packing – I’ll put that off as long as I can. It’s currently Tuesday, however, and I move on Thursday, so unfortunately it’s time to face the music.

The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad; perfect for moving abroad or study abroadpassport case // vegan leather tote bag

Since I’ve moved to Arizona for college, LA for work, then back to St. Louis, you’d think I’d be a pro at preparing for a major move, but you would be thinking too highly of me. There is also just something much more decisive about an international transition that makes it that much more intimidating. I can’t just ship a couple pairs of jeans and that hairbrush I forgot to pack – that’ll set you pack several hundred dollars. My parents can’t just bring my forgotten photo frames when they visit me over a long weekend – I won’t be home until Christmas.

No, this move just feels bigger all around (I’m probably also being over-dramatic and procrastinating), so I thought I’d share the many emotional stages you’ll go through when stowing away your life for a move abroad, in case you’re ever faced with such a traumatic packing event.

Stage 1: This Will Be A Leisurely Affair
A week ago was such a happier, idyllic time. I was young, naive, and a whole expanse of packing days seemed to lay out before me. Instead of packing ahead of time, I’d take leisurely lunches, order a few more things to pack (because why not just add two five more things?) spend whole afternoons planning my future wedding on Pinterest and waste away the evenings out with friends (although I definitely think you should do this before you move anywhere). My packing contributions included making lists of what to pack and buying more things to pack.

Stage 2: Pack All the Things!
After a few days, the reality of moving abroad set in and I decided to make up for lost time and pack ALL THE THINGS. I laid out literally every piece of clothing I thought I could or would wear in London. Since I’m packing for the autumnal and winter months, and London is no LA, a lot of these items are bulkier sweaters, coats and vests – because who doesn’t go to London without a little faux fur – so while I made some progress, I knew not everything would fit in my two checked bags and one carry-on bag budget. I also didn’t really pack anything, but instead laid it out in our guest bedroom – so this stage doesn’t really count as “packing.”

How I Packed for a Move Abroad without Going InsaneThe carnage in my parents’ guest room.

Stage 3: Surely I’ll Wear/Fit Into This Jacket I Haven’t Worn in Two Years!
To help thin out my massive piles of clothing, I decided to set some ground rules. If I hadn’t worn it in one year, it’s not coming. If it doesn’t fit me right now, it’s not coming. These rules sound sane, but packing for a move abroad does strange things to a person. I envisioned myself losing a ton of weight from walking and becoming a model-esque European, and while losing weight may happen, I can force myself to wait until it actually does and grab my thin clothes when I’m home from Christmas. Pack what you actually wear and what will make you comfortable – not for a body or fashion sense you predict may develop.

Stage 4: Purge All the Things!
While I started culling through my stacks and eliminating items, I was tempted to go a bit overboard. Envisioning a minimalist wardrobe, I wanted suddenly to sell all my clothes and rid myself of the dreaded packing problem all together. I’ve given into this temptation during past moves and always regret under-packing. A little bit of a diva, I like options when it comes to clothing and being prepared for unexpected situations. While I did sell things I haven’t worn in over a year and am not packing all my summer clothing, I still am going to throw in one swimsuit for any spontaneous holidays that pop up. It’s all about balance.
I’ll be sharing more specifics in future posts about what I end up bringing for this move, but check out my favorite packing tools below:

Stage 5: Denial
This stage is the worst for progress, but seems to be my favorite to dwell in, even if not on purpose. My moving date encroaches quicker and quicker, but it just doesn’t feel real. I suppose I haven’t had enough time off yet, but sometimes I feel as if I’m on a little work holiday and could be heading back into the office any day now. I know it will feel VERY real when I’m getting ready to head to the airport, but for now I’m in this odd purgatory  where I know I’m making the move, but my mind hasn’t fully accepted the reality – and the packing work that comes along with it.

Stage 6: Acceptance
Currently I’m hovering somewhere between denial and acceptance. I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends today, and that realization felt like a bucket of cold water waking me from a dream. Suddenly, I feel the pressure of the move and being ready in two days. I’m still not in total freak-out mode, but I think I’m finally disciplined enough to buckle down and get shit done. One of my larger suitcases is packed after some hustling, and while the task is nowhere near finished, at least there is some progress.

Have you guys ever packed for a big move before? Any tips? Luckily, I don’t have to bring furniture or anything, but I always accumulate more clothes than necessary. You can follow my packing and prep adventures more on Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

The 6 Emotional Stages of Packing for a Move Abroad; definitely save if you're moving or studying abroad

On Taking Risks, Following Dreams, & Moving to London

Gates to Buckingham Palace

Today is Tuesday, and for the first time in two years I didn’t wake up and go to work. I didn’t hit snooze five times, scroll through Twitter until the last minute possible, run three minutes late out the door and smoothly make a buzzer beater into my office. I didn’t fret over my outfit being conservative enough for corporate America (the cape blazer didn’t go over well), miraculously avoid the Chik fil A breakfast in the break room, and I didn’t settle into my comfortable routine with my work friends that have become my salvation from the day to day office minutiae.

You see, Friday was my last day at my job in my little cubicle home that sometimes too much resembled Office Space, and to the surprise of many (sometimes even myself) I’m moving to London for grad school next week. Well, actually, not everyone was surprised because this gypsy attitude (ugh I hate that oh I’m such free-spirited millennial, yay wanderlust cliche), this somewhat impulsive and very BIG move for life experience over stability is not entirely out of character.

The day after graduating from Arizona State, I packed my life into a UHaul and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment PR. After achieving that goal and assisting an A-list publicist for Oscar winning actors, I decided that even the love of my job couldn’t overcome depression, my own self-doubt, and the soul sucking effect of the Hollywood scene. Almost as quickly as I chose to move to LA, I again decided to cram my life into boxes and return home to the Midwest. I had no idea what I wanted to do for my career, but at that point I knew if I couldn’t achieve a rock-star job, I could at least achieve some personal happiness while surrounded by family and friends.

That cozy feeling of home restored me, and soon I regained my sense of self-worth, positive outlook and that Midwestern belief that you truly can make your own happiness. Once that space was filled, however, a different hole appeared, or perhaps just became more noticeable. While I enjoyed many things about the sales job I fell into here at home, little by little cracks started to appear in the edifice. I started to question my motivations and what truly made me happy in my work. Could I help people? Well, some days yes, but my career relied on lots of money motivation, as most sales jobs fairly do.  I realized that, while I’d like a certain lifestyle, I also have artistic, cultural and intellectual needs that need to be nurtured and grown. Simply, money isn’t all that motivates me, and I’ve been longing for the fulfillment I get out of something creative like blogging, except beyond just a hobby for nights and weekends. (Sidenote: I realized that I’m very lucky to be able to take this world-view and not everyone can afford to be motivated by things other than money. I’m just speaking from my own situation and place of privilege).

So, this is where London came in. During my first visit in 2003, I immediately was entranced by the city. Long after my family had fallen asleep, I’d sit up in our hotel room, staring out at Big Ben and the city lights, sure I was missing out on something exciting happening.  That energy stayed with me, and when I visited again in 2014, I again fantasized about moving there.  It seemed the perfect mix of the historical, multicultural, and cosmopolitan. Still possessed by the negativity of LA, though, I was beyond considering silly childhood dreams and tossed that idea quickly aside.

Brother and I in front of Big Ben in 2003My brother and I in London in 2003. Notice I’m wearing the pinnacle of middle school fashion: A North Face jacket and Paul Frank t-shirt.

Finally, after taking care of my attitude and returning home, I revisited the dream and researched it more seriously. I’ll probably go more into the logistics of my move on another day when I’m not feeling so philosophical, but after looking at applying to jobs, I decided to apply to one year master’s programs, as attaining a student visa is not nearly as impossible as getting a company to sponsor your work visa. More importantly, the program I was accepted to is relevant to my career aspirations, and I think will allow me to pivot toward a creative life again that will fulfill me not just monetarily, but in my heart and soul.

Also, I think a one year program affords me the opportunity to “test” the city and see if it’s somewhere I’d thrive beyond a vacation or middle-schooler’s daydream. LA taught me that visiting somewhere or seeing it on an episode of The Hills or Entourage is very different than living there on an entry-level budget, so for London I’ve put my British Lauren Conrad fantasies away and truly want to size up the city before a more long-term commitment.

Even if I end up hating living there, I’ve arrived at a mindset where I can accept this outcome and have no regrets. Trust me, it took a while, and I’ve had several nights tossing in bed with anxiety over student loans and “not making it” in a new city again. Like so many of my friends I’ve feared that I’m somehow “behind” in life because I haven’t stayed at the same company since graduation or gotten engaged, or whatever those invented societal expectations of life milestones are. It sounds so simple, but if it doesn’t work, then so what? I’ll move somewhere else. I’ll have a relevant graduate degree from a top university and a much richer life experience. Experience that will force me to grow as a person, get outside of my suburban, privileged American bubble and expand my world view.

My mantra has become “There are no failures, just lessons,” and I’ve realized at the ripe old age of 26 that my life doesn’t have to follow a grand pre-destined path that I mapped out as an overachieving high schooler in between National Honor Society meetings and AP classes.

So, I’m moving to London in almost a week. I’m going to savor every minute of it and hopefully share the highs, lows and day to day life as an American in the UK with you. Maybe I’ll love every minute of it, find a job and marry my own Prince Harry. Maybe I’ll love it, but not be able to find a job to sponsor my visa. Or maybe I’ll decide I loved  the experience, but living there is just not for me, so I’ll find a job back in the States. No matter what the outcome, I’ll share it with you here, and I won’t have failed. I’ll have learned.

There are no failures, just lessons; inspirational quote

 

If you gotten this far, thank you for taking the time to read this. It’s tough to feel vulnerable, but I’m hoping to get better about sharing more personal topics. Please leave any feedback in the comments, especially if you have any experience moving abroad or places I must visit in London and the UK. Thank you again!

Linking Up With:

Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Click on the button below to check out more great travel content!

Wanderful Wednesday

What to Know Before You Visit London

London is one of my favorite cities in the world, and should be added to the top of your travel list. I’ve been there twice now and still feel like I’ve barely cracked the surface of all there is to experience, do, and see in the cultural and historic epicenter. Through my visits, I’ve made mistakes including getting lost on the tube when I was 12 and packing the wrong currency. Because of these rookie mishaps, I’ve gathered some top tips to know before you visit the beautiful English capital. Learn from my mistakes and be sure to check out my top tidbits to know before you visit Londontown below.

1. Pack an Umbrella
Unless you are visiting during the few gloriously sunny days of the year, you are going to see rain while you’re in London. Luckily, rain showers tend to be light and sporadic, so don’t worry about a steady downpour. Pack an umbrella (a brolly, if you will) small enough to fit in your purse, so you can continue sightseeing uninterrupted in the event of a surprise shower.

2. Don’t pack rain boots
While you should definitely pack an umbrella, rain boots are unnecessary. Rain isn’t usually going to be heavy enough to cause large puddles or mud, so boots will be cumbersome and waste much needed suitcase space. To protect your shoes, try a water repellent spray like this one.


3. Download City Maps 2 Go
London is sprawling and, frankly, has quite a nonsensical layout. You’ll think your headed in the right direction on a grid, just to find yourself stumbling down a dead end street designed in the Middle Ages. I didn’t purchase a short term phone plan while visiting, so I felt lost without access to data and Google Maps. City Maps 2 Go came to the rescue! Download this app before you go, save locations, and you’ll be able to access and search a map of London even without cell phone service.

London from above. Gorgeous, but easy to get lost in.

4. Drive (and walk) on the right (correct) side the road!
Cars drive on the other side of the road than America  (so the left hand side), and most people walk on the other side as well. Luckily, when crossing the street, there are handy signs telling you which way to look, so you aren’t hit square on by a double decker bus. Similarly, if you’re taking the Tube, walk on the left hand side of the escalator and stand on the right. Don’t be that annoying tourist and stand in the way of rushed commuters


5. Get out of London
You could easily spend a whole week or two exploring London and still not see all the highlights, but I also recommend getting out of the city one day during your stay. There are many classic British towns within an hour or two’s train ride, so why not explore the English countryside when it’s within reach? I visited Bath (read more about my visit here), and the enchanting storybook town stole my heart and was one of my favorite days in England. Either book a train ticket on your own, rent a car, or join a guided tour through a company like London Walks. Bath, the Cotswolds, York, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton are all perfect for a day trip.


6. Take an open bus tour the first day
In some cities like Rome (read about that negative experience here), these open bus tours can be a waste of time and money. In London, however, we found the tour to be great for getting out bearings and the lay of the land. We used London Sightseeing and had a clean bus, great choice of seating and informative in-person guide. Do it on your first day when you’re jet lagged and would prefer relaxing in a breezy open bus to walking everywhere. You’ll also be able to get around much easier during the rest of your trip and know the basics of the top sights.



7. Museums, parks and markets are FREE
London is an amazing city, but boy is it expensive. Lodging, flights and food can set you back massive amounts of cash, so save some money by visiting its FREE attractions. Most of its famous museums (the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, etc), are free as are its picturesque parks. Check out a list of the best parks here and its free museums here. You should also explore its many markets including Borough Market on the south bank, Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill and Camden Market in Camden Town. They’re free to browse and have many inexpensive wares and food for sale.

Lazing about in one of London’s many public outdoor spaces. The chairs were free, and I could have spent the whole afternoon relaxing in the sun and people watching.



8. Get used to sparkling water
You may not care, but I’m a diva and love my still water. The Europeans, including the English, on the other hand are fans of sparkling water. If you have a preference, just check the labels before buying bottled water – I made this mistake a few times and my peasant taste buds couldn’t get accustomed to the elegant carbonated option. Alas, I prefer my simple American beverages.

9. They use pounds, not Euros
This seems like another no-brainer, but my mom and I managed to make this mistake during our last trip. We assumed because England is in the EU that they accepted Euros, but we found out the hard way when trying to pay for snacks outside of Westminster Abbey and being promptly corrected. Oops! If you’re doing a multi-city tour of Europe, be sure to trade your Euros for pounds before making it to the UK and avoid being left cash-less.

10. Must-know pronunciations
To avoid looking too much like a tourist, learn the correct pronunciation of major landmarks and locations.

Thames River = The Tems
Leicester Square = Lester Square
Warwick = War-ick
Greenwich = Gren – itch
Buckingham Palace = Bucking-em Palace (not like ham as in pig!)

See you’re already on your way to being a proper Brit!


11. Emergency dial is 999!
Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but always good to know how to call for help, should you need it.

Happy travels, my friends! Let me know if you have any other great insider info for London. I love collecting useful tips and tidbits for my next trips there. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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This is not a sponsored post and all products were purchased with my money. Affiliate links are occasionally used when linking products. This gives me a small percentage of a purchase total through these links. This does not affect the price you pay for items through these links. All ShopStyle & AirBnB links are affiliate links.

 

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