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In my last post, I mentioned that sometimes blogging can be a great way to share ideas and experiences with others. One of the people who contacted me through my blog was Adam, who was considering attending graduate school in Valencia. He agreed to write a post to share with my audience, which I will publish in two parts. I asked him to describe some of the thought process related to preparing for a move across the world. Here’s part one:

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Yesterday, a Saturday, I made a minor trek to Carrefour, which is a French-based department and grocery store here in Valencia, Spain. If you’ve been anywhere outside of North America you may have seen one, but if you haven’t, think Target. The purpose of my mission was simple: To buy an electric beard trimmer.

Before I relocated to Valencia three weeks ago from the New York City area, beard trimmer was tops on my list of purchases to make. If you have a beard, and you’ve been in the middle of a trim when the battery finally goes kaput, you know how important it is to have a backup.

Thus, the week before my flight, I ordered a second Remington from Amazon. Thirty-five dollars but tonsorial peace of mind, I thought. Of course, I only realized after I got to Spain that it couldn’t be recharged, even with a European adaptor, due to its voltage capacity of 110. So now I have two Remington beard trimmers that I can’t use, and that’s why I went to Carrefour yesterday. I’m going into this minutiae because it’s an illustration of the kind of decision you’ll make before you move abroad, and how that decision seems practical, and how it can backfire on you. And there’s no way around it. I had to go to the store, endure sticker shock with the American brands I knew, then try to decide between two more affordable European brands. I even flagged down two bearded men and asked their opinions. I suddenly felt like I was choosing a stock to invest in. But in the end, it all worked out, although for some reason the blade on my new trimmer gets very hot to the touch when in use.

Of course, that’s just a minor decision, and it’s not going to make or break you. Moving abroad is fraught with all kinds of decisions, and they can be intimidating and bewildering at times. But that’s part of the challenge.

There are the major ones, like accepting that you may not see family and friends so often. If you have a job that you don’t despise, quitting it is another notion you’ll have to accept. Even if you hate your job, giving up a paycheck is a big deal. Those are momentous realities to accept, and probably deserve their own blog post.

I had to decide what I was going to keep, and the answer became evident early: Not much. Luckily, I’ve never been much of a packrat, so I don’t get too attached to things and I love decluttering. Rather than hauling everything to Goodwill, I decided to monetize anything and everything I could. That meant selling items in online marketplaces and “garage sales,” sometimes for as little as $5 for an item. Five dollars could be a lunch in Valencia. Comic books I’d had since I was a kid were sold on eBay. Dishes I’d purchased because they matched my sense of style went to a new home. Appliances, books, even t-shirts, everything suddenly had a price tag on it. What was left over I gave to Goodwill in my last days before leaving.

And even then, I fooled myself into thinking I could fit a full complement of sheets and towels, and even a tablecloth, in my suitcases. Those were among the first rounds of cuts and went back in the closet. Other items that I didn’t want to buy, like notebooks (I was moving for grad school), could not justify their weight. It’s not that I didn’t prepare…I’d been doing a dry run of packing all week. But the airline’s weight limit on luggage was prohibitive, and I’d have paid for another bag except that I don’t think I could have physically handled three, plus a carry-on.

End of part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!