Moving To South America: One Day Before Departure

Tressa Sanders @ Travel Star Magazine

It's the day before I board a cargo ship to South America and it's been ages since my last post. ... I feel like I'm about to make a confession. Ha!

Some people can just throw a few items into a bag and bounce to a new country but not everyone's life is so simple. I planned to knock out my to-do list at least 2 months before my departure date. Did I accomplish that? Not really but I was close. I admit I've thrown away more than my fair share of useful evenings and nights languishing on the couch watching awesome Korean movies. 

So... This is a confession of sorts. A "super update" if you will; so dig in. 

VISA PREP: 
If I want to start a funky fresh new life in South America, I'm going to need a permanent resident visa of some kind. I had to check early on if I would even qualify for one. I don't work for a local company, plan on exporting local goods and I'm not rich or elderly. But, I am educated so I did qualify for a permanent resident visa after all. Yay!

Then reality set in. I understand some Spanish but I'm not fluent and I sure as well don't read it well (yet)... Applying for the visa myself didn't seem impossible but when you only have 90 days to get it all done, there isn't much room for issues. So, I opted to hire a visa facilitator who came highly recommended by the expat community in the country. She will translate all of my documents into Spanish, submit all of the paperwork and attend all of the appointments with me. 

We can start the process as soon as I arrive. Months earlier she'd given me a list of the documents I would need to bring with me and which ones would need an additional Apostille certification. This is a certification from the Department of State that certifies that the document is authentic. 

Pretty much all of the documents I needed to bring needed this extra certification. This includes: my college degree, transcripts from both universities I attended, FBI background check and State criminal check. The background checks were tricky because they can be no older than 90 days old when I submit them so the timing had to be right. 

No major life change would be complete without a "sweating bullets" moment now would it? The transcripts from the first university I attended (USF) were not notarized when I sent them for the Apostille certification and my request was rejected. I had to order the transcripts again and resend them. It took 3 weeks to get the rejection and I had a little less time than that when I had to resend the documents. Luckily I was able to get the Apostille certification back about a week before it was time for me to leave. Whew!

MORE PAINFUL PACKING:
Packing has been and continues to be a painful process for me. I'm sitting here in Ft. Lauderdale right now, the day before the ship will arrive, and I know I'm going to spend tonight repacking these bags. 

The hardest part has been leaving more things behind in storage. I just couldn't imagine struggling with a bunch of heavy bags my first time in a foreign country. It makes more sense to come back for things once I'm settled and have a better idea of what I can or can't get locally. So I had to make some hard decisions to leave things. I'm only bringing things like clothes, good towels, blankets, toiletries, a few books and my sewing machine. I'm still wondering if I'll regret bringing my sewing machine on the first trip. You'd think I knew how to sew or something!

BUYING & SELLING:
If you travel or move a lot this should all be very familiar to you. You decide to travel or move and for some reason you suddenly need "stuff". I've been buying this "stuff" since I made the decision to move and spending money gradually until now. I was also still working at the time and running a profitable Etsy shop so the spending wasn't eating into my savings. Most of the expats I've met sold everything or almost everything when they moved overseas; some for the money, others to travel light. I sold and gave away 90% of my belongings for both reasons. The money generated from selling stuff also helped offset some pre-trip spending and increased my savings. 

What was the most stressful thing I had to sell? My SUV... It felt like I was giving up my freedom and I didn't like the safety risk of selling a car. Selling to a dealer would have to be my last option. So I listed it in various places online and waded through the foolishness. You know, like the dealers selling the same car with more miles for more money flagging your listing for removal, etc.; petty indeed. In the end, it didn't keep me from selling the car to a private buyer for close to my asking price. Luckily as far as safety, I learned from the Tampa Police Department that I could meet and conduct test drives at any local police station and it worked out well for that.

FAREWELL TO FRIENDS:
In the mix of all this planning and packing, buying and selling, I had a birthday. It was an opportunity to take a break and celebrate with friends I most likely won't see again for some time ... It did feel like it was the last time I'd see them but it's not like I'm going to the moon! I might as well be as far as some of my friends are concerned. Ha!

I'm a traveler by nature and leaving a place never feels like leaving my family and friends but like I said before, others don't usually see it that way. My leaving took a long time to sink in for some. I can dig it. I can imagine it's tough when someone you care about is no longer a reasonable drive away. I guess I always see a friend moving away as being yet another place I can go visit. 

HEMORRHAGING MONEY:
I stopped working about 6 week before my departure date which gave me enough time to do all of the above. After selling my car, the real spending began. It started with outrageous car rental prices (one-way drop fees suck) with no end in sight. I have budgeted well for this move but it's always painful to see your savings go down no matter what the reason. 

FLEXIBLE TRAVEL: 
At least I won't need any money on the ship. The booking agency contacted me the last week in April (as promised) to provide a contact for the port agency who will supply up-to-date information about the ship. The port agent told me the ship was arriving a day early and they have arranged an escort to pick me up from my hotel at 8am tomorrow and take me directly to the ship. Fancy huh?

Today the port agent informed me the ship has been delayed and pickup will be at 1pm tomorrow instead. This was the first and hopefully only delay. I'll just do a late checkout and all will be well... unless there is another delay and even then it just means another night at the hotel. No worries. 

Now the adventure really begins!

Cheers!

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