In previous blogs I’ve written about the non-negotiables list and how it’s useful to do some mental sorting in order to know what you need (yes, need – not want) to make your relocation work. Below you can read my tale of two relocations as an example of how this worked for me. As you will see, I stuck mostly to fairly broad categories of ‘needs’, as they are easier to fulfil than very particular ones and also because, well, sometimes you just don’t need to know all the details…
As I wrote before, the aspects of my life I found useful to examine to find my non-negotiables were Location, Work/Purpose, Finances, and Social. So before packing up our life, quitting our jobs and taking off, both my SO and I had a look at these, then merged our lists and basically came up with a joint bottom line.
Relocation Number One: The Kiwi Experience
Who went: Him and me
The considerations were roughly as follows:
- Location: Anywhere English-speaking because of work (or Dutch, but that did not add many options). Not too cold (exit Canada), not too many scary animals (exit Australia). Housing: We wanted to travel, so a campervan made sense. House and wheels in one. Efficient.
- Work/Purpose: Interesting work in my field, so arranging professional registration (me)/any old job is fine (him)
- Finances: Money for travelling around for a few months. After that we need to find work. If we don’t manage to find work in my field right away, I’ll do something else in the meantime (man, you get really strong and fit from picking apples)
- Social: Not many demands, we’re bound to meet nice people. Also, I was pretty confident in our relationship, so we were going to have fun together even if it was just the two of us. Language: English – no problem.
Any other worries: Not really. The world was our oyster, that sort of thing. Getting the right visas was important though.
Relocation Number Two: Projet Famille
Who went: Him, me and our two primary school aged kids
- Location: In Europe, within half an hour of the centre of a sizable, friendly city (me)/ lots of space (him). Accommodation: Camping? Not an option – we had more than two backpacks with us this time. Renting first is fine so we can take our time looking for a renovation project that suits us (read: that I can live with. He’s much lower maintenance than I am when it comes to housing. And I don’t think I’m that difficult at all. Just saying).
- Work/Purpose: Keep doing what I was doing (= in practice: easy travel to + from the Netherlands to deliver training, so an easy train connection would be ideal. Also, online work, so fast internet, thank you) /any old job is fine (him).
- Finances: ‘Hey, you know I’m not doing this on an emergency credit card and small change with 2 kids, right? (me) / ‘Oh, OK’ (him).
- Social: A place where other children live (= select schools with 100+ pupils and settle in that area. Near a place with music/sports lessons for the kids. Without requiring us being full-time taxi drivers). For ourselves, we’ve gotten used to having contact with our best friends and family on visits and through phone/text/videolink, so that won’t change much. Some new local friends are welcome of course. Language: For now it is not essential for work, so it doesn’t matter that we’re not yet completely fluent. I can manage and we will learn the rest in the course of time. Need to take lessons though.
And that was about it.
Notice how small our lists were? That’s because these really were absolutely the only things we wouldn’t compromise on. So if you’re now comparing your own non-negotiables list to mine and wondering why yours is so long, go back and check to see if you’ve sneakily included some wants in there, rather than only what you actually need. FTR: of course it is very much OK to include wants in your actual life – this is just the basics you need to make a good decision. Once your minimum criteria are met, it is obviously a really good idea to add as many other things that you like to your situation.
Anyhow, what did I learn from these experiences? Well, with Relocation Number One, we just got on the plane. Easy-peasy. It was still a big move, but mostly it was an exciting adventure and in hindsight we had everything sorted in no time. We just went and successfully made it up as we went along. Great fun. Since it’s been a while (and, importantly, it was B.C. – before Children), it’s possible that my memory is a little rosy-coloured, but at least from where I stand now, it was all quite simple. The main takeaway was that the world is an awesome place and I feel I’m a more resilient and open person because of the experience of -literally- moving out of my comfort zone.
This undoubtedly helped with Relocation Number Two, which was clearly a more complicated process on several levels. To some extent we still ‘just packed up and moved’, but as there were four of us, there were more arrangements to be made (or rather, our (erm, my?) non-negotiables had changed). Also, although him and I were confident in our decision, it was a Big Deal for the girls, and they definitely needed our support to come to terms with having to leave without a clear idea of what their new life was going to be like. And the sadness of all the goodbyes with friends and family they had to live through.
What really helped was that we were pretty confident about the decision as our non-negotiables were clear and we didn’t compromise on the big stuff. We just kept looking until we found somewhere we thought would work. Also, we talked a lot with each other about why, when and how, and any worries, fears, hopes and ideas were openly discussed (not all of this was shared with the kids, of course, as some of this wasn’t theirs to worry or think about. We had many conversations with the girls though, and certainly made sure there was space for their worries, fears, hopes and ideas too). And in the end, we said yes, we’re really doing this, had a big goodbye party weekend, got help with packing and off we went.
And like most people, we had a bit of a honeymoon, when everything was new and exciting. But when that wore off it was clear that not everything was falling into place immediately, because yes, it takes a while before you are settled in your new place. I write about what to do when this happens in some of my other blogs (why not subscribe?).
So you now know what’s important to me to have in place before I throw myself into an adventure, but what about you? Let me know in the comments below! And if you don’t know where to start, why don’t you get in touch? I’ll help you get clear on what you need before you say yes to relocation!