I’ve spent the better part of the past year on the road in some form or another. Almost a year ago, I relocated to the Philippines, and upon returning to the States, I spent most of the next few months shuttling between New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, upstate New York and a few other places. As of right now, I’m living in Chicago, spending my free time shoving furniture up the four flights of stairs to my shiny new apartment.
This move has been by far the most stressful, since I’m relocating here semi-permanently (unlike with the Philippines) and I don’t have a car or know anyone within the city who has a car. While I have a few good friends in Chicago, I don’t have a well-developed network, unlike the places I’ve moved to before. I’m also too old for the hipster ruin lifestyle. I like being able to shower every day and sleep indoors.
While traveling is romanticized by both idiot college dilettantes and cubicle drones in this part of the Internet, the reality is that moving around a lot takes a toll in just about every fashion: mentally, emotionally, financially, socially. I’m not against traveling, but I also don’t want men reading my articles and thinking that the life of a “digital nomad” is all sunshine and blowjobs. Here are some tips that will help you weather the storm of moving.
1. Pack light
What do you need to bring when you move to a third-world country? I assume half of you are thinking I brought an entire house worth of crap with me to the Philippines. In fact, I only brought one little suitcase that was small enough to stash in the plane’s overhead compartment and a computer bag. That’s it. If I couldn’t fit it in either bag, I left it home.
As trite as it sounds, the things you own will end up owning you. The more stuff you have, the bigger a pain it’ll be to move from place to place. From having to keep track of it when you hit the road to having to pay to transport it (either in gas for your car, moving vans, or checked baggage on planes) to freaking out over forgetting something, all having a lot of stuff does is create headaches.
Take my advice and just dump most of your crap. You don’t need appliances, towels, wine glasses or any of that junk; you can buy new necessities when you get to where you’re going. For example, when I moved to Davao last July, I ended up having to furnish my apartment with towels, silverware and other necessities that I had to throw out when I left for Manila. With this Chicago move, I only added one bag to the two above: a checked suitcase that contained my book collection. And even that was probably too much to bring.
Travel light, take only what you need, and watch your worries fade away.
2. Have a good friend (or two)
While lacking a strong network is definitely a problem when you move, sometimes you don’t need a network so much as you need one or two solid guys who have your back. For example, when I relocated to Chicago, I was almost immediately able to rent a room from one of my friends, saving me from the ignominy of sublets and Airbnb rentals. From there, I was able to find my own place unburdened by having to talk to realtors from a whole time zone away.
While you don’t need to have a million friends in a city in order to make it there, you need to have somebody. When I lived in Davao and Manila, I had a few readers living in both cities who were able to help me adjust to the local culture. Even if you can handle basic living issues (finding an apartment, moving furniture etc.) on your own, you need friends in order to fulfill your basic need for social interaction.
3. It’s better to go without than to overpay (in some cases)
As I write this, I’ve just moved into my new apartment and the only furniture I have is a bed, a nightstand and a dresser… and the only reason I have the dresser is because someone else in the building threw it out. I’m picking up a desk and a couch tomorrow, and I’m currently in the market for a coffee table and dining table, but I haven’t found any good Craigslist deals yet.
I could go to the store, buy a bunch of furniture and have it delivered, but I’d also be spending three times as much as I would if I just waited. Additionally, if I have to move out, I won’t even come close to recouping my investment when I sell my old stuff on Craigslist. Ultimately, I can go without a coffee table for a few days or whenever I find a good deal.
While you obviously don’t want to cut corners on necessities, blowing money on new furniture is completely unnecessary and a waste of your funds. If you pay attention to Craigslist and keep on the lookout for deals, you can get the necessities of life at a fraction of the cost. For example, I paid just $10 for my couch.
4. Don’t rush it
The very act of moving is stressful for obvious reasons. Human beings were not meant to spend their entire lives going from point A to point B in a short period of time; indeed, keeping that lifestyle up requires a degree of psychological isolation that most people can’t manage. If you’re going abroad, you also have to deal with culture shock, which will take an additional toll on your psyche.
My advice is to just slow down and don’t try to overwork yourself. Don’t rush anything, whether it’s buying furniture or signing a lease, and throttle back on other stressful activities to keep yourself from going insane. For example, my writing output both here and at my blog has gone down in the past month, because if I tried to keep writing while juggling all these balls, I’d probably have a nervous breakdown.
Ultimately, moving or traveling abroad is going to tax you mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s not a decision you should make lightly, but if you approach traveling with the right mindset, you can minimize the negative effects and maximize the positive ones.
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