Saturday, December 18, 2010
On Moving On and Shipping Out
We've lived in Madrid, Spain for almost sixteen months. We moved here from Los Angeles with seven suitcases, three laptops and one enormous Britax Marathon carseat. (We were allowed six suitcases on Continental, and we paid extra for the seventh). Before this move, we spent months researching whether it made sense for us to ship items to Europe by boat. We sent e-mails to shipping companies, most of which were not returned. We made some calls. At the end, we decided it would only made sense if we got a full container of cargo, which would cost about $5,000, which seemed like a lot to pay to move our old couch from IKEA and table from a thrift shop. Plus, taxes and other fees were not clear ahead of time. We would have to pay duties upon arrival, and then more to transport our things from the port to our destination. The port of arrival was going to be in Germany, and it was not clear how our things would then come to Spain. It was also not clear when the items would arrive. Given the uncertainties about cost and some horror stories we read on the internet about long delays and shocking tariffs, we decided shipping by boat did not make sense for us.
People suggested we send some boxes by surface mail to Spain. The idea was that even if it took a few weeks to arrive, it would be fine to wait for a few books and toys. We learned the US Mail no longer offers international surface mail. The only option is to ship boxes via Air Mail or International Priority Mail, both very expensive propositions. For example, to ship a 20-pound box from the United States to Spain costs $80. And, it turns out, this is the cheapest way to ship it, because UPS and DHL and other private carriers charge even more. So we decided to get rid of all our stuff and bring to Spain only those things that would fit into a few pieces of luggage.
We did not bring any furniture from Los Angeles, and only left two suitcases over there. We went to visit Los Angeles last March and brought back these two suitcases that Tracy and Mark were storing for us (thank you, guys!). A few weeks before our move to Madrid, we had visited family in Maryland and left six suitcases over there, filled with cookbooks, CD boxes, old baseball cards, papers, lots of photos, and other items we couldn't bear to discard, but had no need to bring with us.
Which brings us to now. After over a year in our rented apartment in Madrid, we've accumulated some more stuff: a table and chairs, a sofa bed, Ricky's bunk bed, our bed, some shelves, some books and Ricky's toys (biggest of all is Ricky's little kitchen from IKEA, which we got him for his birthday this year). All the furniture we own was bought at IKEA for less than 2,000 euros. We spent some more on the toys, bedding and kitchen things.
We are leaving our apartment in early January. We intend to get rid of most things we've acquired, although we will still have to rent a small storage unit. I wish we did not have to, because storage rarely makes sense. However, we are traveling the world only with carry-on luggage (three medium backpacks), so the rest of our clothing, books and other items need to be kept somewhere. My parents live in a house with very little storage, and the most we could leave there are a couple of suitcases. We will have six or seven suitcases, large ones. Last week, I went to see a storage area about thirty minutes out of the city. The unit is a little under three square meters and it costs 30 euros a month to rent. We can easily store our bags here, and a few boxes of things (kitchen things, for example), which would be useful to have if we end up moving back to Spain next year.
It is strange to think about the odd things one becomes attached to. A frying pan, a wok, a microplaner.
Can't wait to be on the plane to Marrakesh in less than a month!