The movers arrived yesterday.
Out came flat brown boxes and packing tape and bubble wrap. Black t-shirted men moved though the house like locusts (credit to Mr Wanderlust for the word choice), completed boxes appeared almost out of thin air, and discussions were had about everything from plants and broken picture frames to who was going to move the fish.
I’ll probably live to regret these words, most of which were typed on my phone late last night as we went to bed, quietly smug at how smoothly it was all going: As expat moves go, this is far and away the easiest one I’ve ever done and here’s why.
There are no visas to arrange for the new country or bank accounts to close for the old one. No one cares if the Original Thing (Doggy Wanderlust) has up to date rabies vaccinations (he does – you just never know!) and there are no medicals or quarantine requirements for humans or animals.
We’re not selling cars or house hunting in a new location. There’s no new doctor or dentist to find, no hours to be spent navigating new supermarkets and which groceries the Things will tolerate or turn their noses up at. We’re not organising leaving parties or wondering how we will operate in a world without our amazing friends.
I’m not worried about accidentally packing something we might need 3 months from now in a climate completely different to the one we live in, or strategically planning how to maximise our luggage allowance to the nth degree while simultaneously panicking about excess baggage charges. Mr Wanderlust isn’t starting a new job, we don’t need to find new schools for the Things, and I don’t need to build an entirely new friendship group from scratch.
We aren’t leaving with things not done or words unsaid.
Because while we might be moving, we aren’t leaving. And for the first time, maybe ever, I’m learning that those are two completely separate things.
Easier doesn’t mean easy
There are other transitions for us, of course. It’s the expat summer after all. Once again there have been too many goodbyes and we still have some left to go. Changing house means changing expectations for good and for bad. New opportunities sometimes come at the expense of letting other ones go. And that’s ok, it’s just a case of finding the grace to do both at the same time.
Already the walls in this house have stopped being ours. There are outlines on them where our pictures once were and the cling-wrapped furniture propped up on them just doesn’t have quite the same vibe.
All the while there are boxes in my house
Boxes of new uniforms and boxes of a few baby cloths that I can’t quite let go. Boxes filled with laughing faces in photos frames and boxes with messages in old birthday cards. There’s a box with a wedding dress, boxes of pictures from our childhoods alongside my latest journals (woefully underused), boxes holding my new favourite anti-aging face creams and charging cables to keep us connected.
Some boxes are filled with books – kid books, adult books, old baby books all holding stories that once captured our imaginations and one day will again. Some boxes have more packing paper than things, such is the fragility of the contents. Others have paintings from our travels poking out of the top because they don’t quite fit but they’ll be easier to carry that way.
What’s in a word?
People saw boxes on my stories and assumed (as did our Doggy Wanderlust who is triggered by the sight of removal men) that we were leaving and rightly so. In our world, leaving and moving are, more often than not, the same thing. When I’ve said we’re just changing house, they’ve told me it doesn’t matter because it’s a pain whether you’re going to the next street or to the other side of the world.
Notwithstanding all the mental overwhelm benefits of a domestic move, it’s not just that that has made it easier this time. This doesn’t feel like it felt leaving our houses in London, or Houston, or Doha. It’s not the end of an era in quite the same way.
All because we’re moving without leaving.
It’s not really new because there’s so much we don’t need to do (although that doesn’t stop me from thinking I’ll be a better version of myself in the new house – someone who exercises every day, makes my own kombucha, and never forgets anyone’s birthday). We were ready to leave this home but I doubt we would have done it had the house not been sold. Once again, expat life reminds me that I’ll be made to do the things I couldn’t have chosen to do on my own.
And it reminds me that it’s not the walls that make our home or our life. It’s the stuff in those boxes.