Whenever I move, there are a number of things that keep (barely) sane. Actually, it’s unfair of me to use the term things, when they have names.. Sarah, Suzanne, Ayesha, Talia, Helen, Jan, Johnathan, Kate, Nell.. You see where I’m going with this?
Things inevitably go wrong with even the most well-managed transition; whether it be two dogs and three cats stuck in Schipol, a house that won’t sell while the housing market plummets, your entire worldly possessions being lost at sea off the coast of India, turning up at the airport and discovering your husband shares the same name as a suspected terrorist on the no-fly list, losing your passport (with newly minted US visa) in the airport…etc, etc. And yes, these have all happened to me, or one of the people above, so please don’t think I’m just being a drama queen. However, at times like this, being able to spill, share and scream to people who know and understand makes the difference between riding the waves or sinking like a stone.. Bottom line: wherever you are in the world, it’s good to talk.
There are three things that will exponentially improve your ability to keep in contact at the times when you most need it – usually when you are out of power, out of the country, or just out of luck. I refer to these as:
The Communication Holy Trinity (cue dramatic music…)
Internet access. Email will become your lifeline, one that triumphs over time differences, civil unrest, and wardrobe malfunctions. Get an online email address, (e.g. Gmail or Yahoo) so that you can use it anywhere you go and take it with you when you move. Send out a mass email to all your contacts to tell them, and then send it again a week later, and again a month later. And still people will forget, but at least you will get the masses. Copy your contact list to your new email directory, as well as their regular mail addresses.
Laptop. I don’t care what you currently use, a laptop protects you from power outages, outrageous cyber cafe bills, and a great deal of security problems. You will almost certainly be doing a lot of legal stuff online – from visa applications to banking, and a laptop is a darn sight easier to lock away (or hide) than a desktop. Along with the laptop, you need a surge protector (you’d be surprised just how many locations have an unstable electricity supply) and a portable hard drive which you promise faithfully to use weekly. Yes, implicit in the word portable is drop-able, spill-able and lose-able. So back up. WEEKLY!
Skype (or another VOIP – voice over internet protocol, for those who are in techno fog) Not only will it slash your phone bill, it provides a number where people can call you and leave messages, that you pick up wherever there is internet connection. And insist that everyone who loves (or even likes) you signs up for it too. Then, not only can you speak to people without limits, but you can also (internet bandwidth willing) see what their new haircut looks like, take them on a tour of your new mud hut, show them how your teenager is now taller than you. All of which I have done.
And I know I sound like you are being relocated to the back-end of beyond, but I can assure you from repeated experience, wherever you are moving to, you need the relocation Holy Trinity. The laptop was a lifesaver in Kenya, where every time the rain came (about 4pm every night, for four months of the year) the power automatically shut off. It meant that I could still communicate, children could do homework, and if really desperate, we could use the screen for light. I kid you not. On arrival to the US, it was Skype that saved my bacon. Having no US credit history meant that the only cellphone I could buy without leaving an $800 deposit was a pay as you go type, with a correspondingly exorbitant tariff. And I didn’t know anyone in the US, so apart from calls to local services, all the calls that I wanted to make were international. Cue an iTouch with microphone headphone combo, the Skype app and a Starbucks free wi-fi spot, and I was good to go. Or call. Wherever.