A note to myself about what it's like to move countries

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When word comes of the move you’ll be all raw edges and live wires. Your mind will go first to adventure, roads un-walked foods yet untasted, and all will seem possible. And then, to melancholy and aching remembrance of this place where you are, the small things you will miss, the light, the smiles, the food, the chaos; and sadness at the small things that your children won’t remember to miss. Then you’ll pitch and tumble to worry: logistics, budget, money (money money money), packing, unpacking, schools, kids, work, and how to manage it all. You won’t sleep well. And you will start living there before you actually arrive.

The kids will smell your anxiety. They will know, before you even tell them, that their life is about to be upended. They will cry and rage and seem like wild animals. And you will be sure that everything is terrible and it will be like this for always. (It won’t).

You’ll tell the children, and maybe they’ll be excited. Maybe sad. You’ll help them to sit with their feelings, and you’ll feel good about that. 

You’ll start worrying about the move and what to pack to take with you, and what should go on the boat. You’ll obsess about this, like it is the secret to life (it is not. But take more toys than what you think you’ll need. Also remember sweaters. Even if you think it’s going to be summer.) You’ll work your way though your to do list, feeling like you should be in constant motion as if momentum will quell worry. It will feel oddly like the time before a first baby is born.

The moving day will come. It won’t be as bad as you imagined. Your apartment will empty. You’ll look around the bare rooms and it will feel small and lonely.

The last days will be packed and you’ll wish that you’d done more and worried less.


When it’s time to go you’ll be ready. And then you’ll say good bye with mostly excitement and just a little sadness.

You’ll hit the ground in your new city and immediately collapse as the pre-move anxiety finally crushes you. Might I suggest making sure to pack some adult flu medication? You’ll need it.

The first week or two in your new home, you won’t get out much.. The newness is overwhelming, and the comfort of the hotel will hold you. The days will pass too slowly, the kids will be too cranky, but you’ll be so thankful for room service dinners. Days will be lost to meetings at school, appointments for passport photos, endless paperwork, trips to immigration, and visits to the police. You’ll find a doctor, you’ll get the kids settled into school

You’ll think that the children are doing so well. You’ll be amazed at how easily they are handling everything. And then, they won’t be doing well. They will cry over nothing. They won’t sleep properly. They won’t go to bed. They will rage and hit and bite and spit, they won’t stop, and you’ll think you’re failing. You’ll wonder what’s wrong with them, what’s wrong with you. One day you’ll crack and really shout at them. You’ll feel terrible about that. You think you can’t handle it any more, but like most things hard, you can. You have to. You handle it but just handling it. One minute after the next. 

You’ll be so tired in the evenings that you fall asleep with the kids. You will wonder if you’ll ever be productive again. Will you ever get back to your blog? Will you find motivation? You’ll watch nonsense TV and eat chocolate. You won’t get to the gym much. 

After three weeks in the hotel, you’ll start to get cabin fever. You’ll be ready for a kitchen, for a bed that’s yours, a cat curled around your feet, and a candle burning in the evening. You’ll hear about a delay in the shipment, and that will feel like the end of the world. You’ll try to stave off house longing by buying everything you can in Ikea.


And then, finally, the moving truck will come, and your house will feel like chaos of the worst sort, and you’ll really miss room service dinner.


It will take you much longer than you’d imaged to get the place back into order. Give it at least a month. And even still, you probably won’t hang your pictures. You’ll still feel tired in the evenings and you’ll be sure that productivity is gone.

But one day, things will start to feel normal again. You’ll escape to your office and get work done. You’ll sit down at the computer after the kids go to bed, and realise its 10 PM and you’re still working. 

You’re days will start to run smoothly. You’ll develop a new rhythm. You’ll take the subway at the same time each day, you’ll pass the same guy with the undercut and top knot, the same scallion pancake seller, and you will feel like you start to being to a place. 


You’ll find a favourite place to buy veggies. You’ll learn how to ask “how much is this?” and you’ll eventually understand the reply. You’ll find the best ice cream in town and make any excuse to pass through that neighbourhood with the kids.

Your children will one day stop screaming and hitting. They will be mostly good most of the days, and there will be an evenness that comes. They will make friends, and rediscover favourite toys, find new favourite foods, andgo to the playground and run themselves exhausted and they will start sleeping again. And so will you.

And things will begin to feel like a lake just after dawn.