Cardboard Approximations of the Furniture I Used to Have

Allow me to dial events back a little. I’m going to transport us to the past … to a time before Em and I stepped on to European soil, before our previous lives were safely stored, before we were even certain that we’d be able to pull this endeavour off.

Welcome to early 2014.

How exactly does a couple decide to pick up and move thousands of miles away to start anew? For Em and I, it came down to a perfect confluence of events.

Firstly, Em had just wrapped up a career of schooling that had begun shortly after we’d started dating. A change of direction here and a revaluation there and Em had herself on a path to becoming a teacher.

Even with stellar credentials, finding a teaching job in Ontario is an uphill battle. It’s an ordeal that ends with teachers locked in school boards with little opportunity to move around.

Around this time, I’d revealed that, prior to our first meeting, I’d been in the process of selling my worldly possessions and setting out on an adventure. I’ve never regretted my decision to put that on hold, but I think the idea struck a chord in both of us.

The final push, although we didn’t realize it at the time, came when I switched from salaried work back to a freelance career.

Shortly following this, a couple of our close friends (lets call them J&C) – one of whom was also entering the ring as a teacher – revealed that they’d been exploring opportunities overseas … something clicked in us.

That was pretty much it. Phone calls were made, documents were signed, and the whole gargantuan fracas was set into motion.

What followed? …

Excitement, anticipation, planning, planning, planning … lists upon lists … spawning new lists … inspiring yet more lists … all tied together with enough anxiety, frustration, and stress to break even the most stoic micro-managers.

On top of it all, the entire endeavor hinged on the acquisition of work Visas. I won’t get into the details of the process. I’ve tried to sum them up concisely yet, after 7 drafts of the following paragraphs, I haven’t been able to avoid breaking into a rant.

It was not fun. I think it gave me a few grey hairs. I never want to have to do it again.*
*If you would like more information or any advice, please message me directly.

That said, if you’re under 30 and thinking about relocating to the UK, do it! You qualify for a Youth Mobility Visa. It has its limits, but it is the least expensive and easiest Visa you will ever qualify for.

The Move

Set aside the stress and anxiety that goes along with moving. The idea of simplifying our lives was incredibly appealing to me. Em and I aren’t pack rats or hoarders. Still, that hadn’t stopped us from amassing a shocking stockpile of ‘things’. Give yourself enough space + time, and you’ll find the corners of your abode start to attract ‘stuff’. After nearly 7 years in the same apartment we’d done a good job of proving this rule. I won’t even comment on the gravitational pull of nooks and crannies.

*cue Russian folk song

We held on to appliances that we no longer used, as well as a great deal of things that we thought might prove useful down the road. We’re also big DiYers: a hobby that results in many random trappings. Among these included a 40 lb block of soap, canning tools, fabrics, felts, stuffing, and various projects in various states of completion, to name a few. Add to this the things people end up holding on to for family and friends, keepsakes, and general bits and pieces … it amounts to a lot.

The thought of minimizing our footprint and starting over with little more than the essentials … it was almost intoxicating.

Thankfully, few events are more sobering than the act of moving. I’m not ashamed to admit that I completely underestimated pretty much every stage of our move. I knew we had a lot to deal with, but the reality far overshadowed my estimates.

It all started off great. I’d get a few items sorted, sell off others, even throw out a big stockpile of junk. Areas of floor would clear up allowing more space for packed items. I’d even created a detailed plan for labelling and itemizing all of our boxes and belongings (in my defence, that plan held together surprisingly well, only succumbing to anarchy for the final 8 or so ‘fuck this’ boxes).

Then two things happened: 1 – we were denied Visas. 2 – I lost my mind a little bit.

Since the deadline for needing our visas was tight, we wouldn’t have time to contest the decision. Our only option would be to reapply and pay again. So long motivation! The move went from two months of careful planning and “ah, we have enough time” to 3 weeks of “sweet jesus how is this humanly possible?!”

The plan: A clean and precise process that would end with a neatly packed storage unit. The final week would comprise cleaning up and spending time with all of our friends and family.

The reality: “What have I done?!” After hitting the visa speedbump, our packing slowed. It did pick up again, and we continued carefully and with purpose … unfortunately we should have continued with urgency and abandon. When we realized this, the plan went out the window.

We really can’t thank our friends and family enough. If it wasn’t for them we’d still be sitting in a partially packed apartment, surrounded by cardboard approximations of our furniture, crying into lukewarm cups of Top Ramen.

New issues and hurdles seemed to hit from all sides. Nothing went to plan. At first this would prove to be alarming and lead to hair pulling … eventually adversity would be met with numb acceptance.

What happened?

Honestly I can’t remember most of it. I know that we slept on a mattress on the floor for a few days. I can recall hauling countless items up and down 3 flights of narrow stairs, the most awkward of which lead into the storage unit. At some point a wall required “altering” in order to accommodate furniture. If you lived on our street, you probably walked away with some free curbside treasures. By the end, we just couldn’t be bothered.

We also worked pretty much until we passed out for days on end (sorry Mom and Dad). We worked through being sick, pulled muscles, and absolute exhaustion … it’s really the hardest I’ve worked in my life for a singular goal.

It wasn’t without its bonuses, though. I honestly and truly feel like we have the best friends and family that a couple can ask for. Forget about the sheer amount of physical work they all did (nope, scratch that. Don’t forget about it!), they also managed to put up with us at our worst. I can’t speak for Em, but I know that I was an insufferable asshole at several points during that time. I kept it together … until I didn’t, and I’m not proud of that guy. Thank you all again so very much for not only being there for us then, but also still being friends with us now. I owe each and every one of you at least one move TBD at a later date.

And that about covers it. At the end of the day we still managed to have Christmas with our families. It was very different, but I think that perhaps we appreciated it more than we would have otherwise.
By the time we arrived in the airport, luggage tagged and ready to check, we felt more relief than anything else. The shock and homesickness for family would hit us later but, for the moment, it felt like we were floating on a wave of elation. It’s hard to describe. Everything was out of our control. Our lists were done. Now other people would have to take care of our things for the next 10 hours while we sat back and enjoyed the ride.