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!
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  1. How exciting! I hope you and your family have an amazing adventure, I can't wait to read all about it!

  2. Thanks, Erin! We are very excited about it. We love comments and feedback and advice.

  3. I can't imagine all the STUFF I've accumulated fitting in such a small storage facility. Good for you guys. This is going to be such and adventure....

  4. Mika, you should have seen us in Los Angeles, trying to trim our stuff to fit into our luggage, both of us being packrats by nature. It was an epic battle, with scars to show.

  5. Only three carry-on size backpacks???

    Girl, I need your packing list. I'm impressed. :-)

  6. Julie, I will share the packing list once it's finalized! If it becomes too hard to travel so light, we'll switch gears and buy more luggage along the way. But if it works with carry on, it will be a lot easier to get around.

  7. Are you guys carrying any first aid with you (e.g., antibiotics), or any water purification chemicals (e.g., chlorine or iodine)?

    (I haven't the faintest idea about comparative levels of water purity in different countries. I've heard rumors which tend to portray tap water in the U.S. as super-clean, but I'm skeptical.)

    Oh, is Bryan going to transport any hashish in his shoe? (I've heard Greek police are especially tolerant of such fun-loving behavior.)

  8. Que barbaros Anita!! Los felicito por haber decidido emprender esa aventura y por la idea de escribir y compartir experiencias! Tengo que reconocer que no practico el ingles, como sugirio Bryan, es mucho!!!!
    Lo traduzco previamente al español, por lo cual termino adivinando practicamente la mitad de lo que escribis!! ja,ja
    Besos a los tres!!

  9. We are planning on carrying a somewhat dizzying array of medications and preparations for illness. We shall be taking Dukoral, which is a cholera vaccine which is also supposed to help avoid general travelers' belly kind of things. We have an assortment of cold remedies, painkillers, antibiotic creams, Malarone to prevent malaria, Ultrathon mosquito repellent, the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, and azithromycin. We have iodine tablets to clean water, plus an ultraviolet water purifying pen.

    From what we have been able to gather, tap water is always safe, except when it isn't. Ricky is thrilled by the prospect of unlimited soda. We shall be careful when we can, reckless when we must.

    We shall not be transporting hashish, or any other illegal drugs with us. We will be take yerba mate (more about that later) which could be just as interesting during border crossings.

  10. Gracias, Ani! Es lindo poder compartir aventuras de este calibre. Estuve re-leyendo viejas cartas tuyas este fin de semana, escribiamos un monton, no? Te extraño! Besos a los 5!