Moving house is considered one of the most stressful things you can do in life, along with illness (tick), death (tick), divorce (tick), marriage (tick), pregnancy (tick), changing jobs (tick) and debt (tick).
Yes, over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to experience them all. Some several times over in fact. Actually, when I come to think of it, most of them several times. How depressing. There are however a few situations I’ve managed to avoid thus far (including retirement and jail time) but there’s still 6 months left of this year, so best I not count my chickens before they’re blessed.
Strangely enough ‘moving country’ has never featured in any Top 10 stress list that I’ve seen. A major oversight on someone’s part surely. Anyone who’s ever tried it knows that there’s nothing quite like packing up your family, baggage (emotional and household) and pets, and then relocating them all around the world. It really does get those grey hairs a growin’.
So why, when I’m fully aware that the combination of packing boxes, shipping companies and small children make for newly formed wrinkles, do I keep on getting itchy feet and moving?
I blame my parents. Naturally. Most things in life come back to our parent’s decisions, choices and wrongdoings. It’s not the fault of the parent necessarily, just the way it is. As a parent myself now, I fully expect to screw up my own two children along the way and be held to account at a later date.
So why do I blame my parents? By the way, if either of them happen to read this, which is unlikely I know, I use the word ‘blame’ lightly. Because when I grew up I never called anywhere home for more than a few years at a time.
When I was born, a good 35 years ago, I emerged from the womb with a suitcase clutched in one newborn paw and a boarding card in the other. I had a monogrammed luggage label securely tied around my neck. Well actually I had an umbilical cord around my neck, but you get the gist.
Having been plopped straight onto the luggage conveyor belt at Heathrow I’ve spent the majority of my life since bouncing from one country and continent to the next. I’ve lost count of the homes I’ve had and even the number of countries I’ve visited over the years.
We started off in Africa, as all self-respecting, jet-setting babies do. First were those early years in Nigeria, with its crowded marketplaces and beautiful beaches – except for the one where they executed criminals every week. Not that the beach wasn’t lovely mind you, it’s just that there’s nothing like the sound of gunfire to really ruin the atmosphere when you’re having a picnic on the sand.
This was later followed by time amongst the animals and spectacular waterfalls of Zimbabwe – in the years before Mugabe decided to exorcise his ‘rights’ to be an arrogant, murdering dictator.
Those years, combined with the many visits to neighbouring countries installed in me a great love of the sounds and smells of this continent from a very young age.
Next on the list came the Middle East, with 3 fun-packed years in Bahrain and a short stint in Oman. Then came Asia and the hot, humid shopping mecca of the Far East – Singapore. Twice I moved there to be precise. The second time with a husband, child and two cats in tow.
3 years after that I returned home (minus the husband and the feline friends). Turn the clock forward another 3 years – having added a long-lost love/second husband and extra child to the brood – and I set off for Australia. Perth to be precise.
And that’s where I’ve been until now. Or should I say up until 2 weeks ago.
Not wanting to buck a trend, 3 years after touching down on Perth’s dry and incredibly sandy soil, my boredom threshold was crossed with military precision. So the movers were called in, boxes were packed and I left – one husband, two kids and a dog in tow. Yes, we’ve now gone canine.
That probably all makes moving sound like a breeze I know, but it really it isn’t. This last upheaval has involved sifting and sorting our belongings with great brutality, huge garage sales and months of living in, on and around packing boxes. It has also involved a flying dog and coming up with a great pile of money to pay for it all.
The process came to an end three weeks ago, when an empty container turned up early in the morning with 3 packers – who, no word of a lie, closely resembled Beavis, Butthead and that gangly, useless looking one from Scooby Doo. They drifted around the house, wrapping furniture like they were stoned (strong possibility). They then told me, with at least 30 items in the garage still to go, it wasn’t all going to fit in the container.
Now if I hadn’t heard this from packers 1000 times before I might have been more concerned than I already was. Though I have to admit that ‘concerned’ at this point meant pacing up and down the road, flapping my hands as I watched them roughly shove in our precious cargo and calling my husband at work every 4 minutes to shriek “It’s not going to fit, what the hell are we going to do?”.
Of course his response went along the lines of “I’m not there I can’t really tell you what to do – tell them they’ll have to re-pack it”. My response to that was… well it was a response of a sorts.
Recounting all of this makes me realise two things. Firstly that I must have spent an exorbitant amount of money shipping ‘stuff’ around the world. The sort of rubbish that usually goes into the kitchen bits drawer and never comes out. Only on a much larger scale, like a kitchen drawer the size of a 20 foot container.
Secondly, this latest moving experience has made me realise that I only seem to last anywhere for 3 years at a time. And 3 years, let me tell you, is barely long enough to get in, unpack, decorate and start living. And that brings us nicely back to why I blame my parents.
They brought forth a child with wanderlust in it’s veins and the complete inability to put down anything resembling a root. It may not sound like a bad thing, but life as a serial expat can be tiring, and rather unsettling to boot. It can also prove a very hard life to give up. I know, I’ve tried. A good many times.
Not that I’d ever want to change the life that I’ve had I hasten to add. It’s been amazing so far and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen, done, experienced and enjoyed all the things that I have. But really, enough is enough.
So, in two weeks time I’ll be re-packing (for the 8th time in 6 weeks) and waving this particular continent goodbye. Then, after a brief pit stop in KL to recharge in the sun, it’s back home we all go.
This time when I say I fully indeed to stay put, I really mean it. So if you’re driving through Norfolk in 3-years time and see a strange-looking woman shackled to a fence and eating something that looks suspiciously like a passport, then that will be me.
Please don’t stop to help.