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Moving Abroad During a Pandemic 101

Actually, I'm not sure I'm the expert, but I'm surviving it, so ... maybe?

At the top of the "Impractical Things What I Have Done" list, this proudly sits. My husband and I began throwing the idea of a move to the USA a few years ago, just "what if"-type conversations, sometimes listing pros and cons, things we'd miss, things we'd love. But it wasn't until my Mom's health began to slip that we got serious.

After she was hospitalised for a short while in 2019, we started the visa process for my husband. In the end, it took over a year. We told my Mom when we came to visit in July 2019 that it was underway, and she was thrilled. She'd loved that we lived in the UK, and coming to our wedding in Scotland — traveling abroad with her sister and seeing some of the sights — was one of her grandest, most treasured life adventures. But still, she always wished we were closer.

I also know she was pained by the thought that we were coming just for her, as any parent would be. She didn't want us to have to see her during her struggles.

The last time I spoke to my Mom was on the phone in November 2019. She was unwell again, and knew she had to go into the hospital, probably that day or the next, due to some severe abdominal pains she'd had for months. But she tried to put on a brave voice. I could hear her smiling as she talked, not wanting us to worry, telling us she had to pack an overnight bag because my step-dad "wouldn't be able to find anything." I told her how our new baby was doing, and she smiled some more. Then I said how our plans were progressing to move to the USA ASAP, and she said, "Oh, I'm so relieved," and I could hear it in her voice, like she'd set down a massive weight.

That was what she wanted, for us to be closer to family, with our baby, for help and just to be together, and I am as certain as I can be that she suspected she wouldn't be around to see it.

So when people ask, "What made you move to the US? Why now, in the middle of a global crisis?" Well, that's the long answer.

We had lots of reasons, but for lots of reasons too we will miss the UK. I already miss much of it. I'm experiencing reverse culture shock (more on that later I suspect!). There are pluses and minuses to both, but our daughter and I are dual nationals, and my husband has a work visa and hopes to become a US citizen in 3 years' time, so we will all be dual. When our daughter reaches school age and if the UK is free from Tory shenanigans, maybe we'll consider moving back. (Believe me, now is also the worst possible time to be coming back to the US but that's a whooooole other topic).

Who knows. Who can say what will happen beyond this minute? Never before this year has long-term planning seemed so implausible. Having goals, dreams, and contingencies, yes, but blocking out specifics as though you can hang your hat on anything anymore seems unwise.

Since late 2019, one day at a time has been my mantra. I don't have the energy or the desire to worry beyond that, and that's what Jesus tells us to do anyhow, right? Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So despite all my best attempts, I'm finally starting to live out at least one of his teachings, simply because I've run out of mental capacity for anything more.

So... circling back to this post's title. My tips? If you choose to move abroad (during or post-pandemic), my suggestions are:

a) It's been a shit-show of a year, so why not get all the painful stuff out of the way at once? Changing addresses on every account, changing your Apple account region (the horror!!), changing your phone number (I've loved my UK number since the day my friend who worked at Orange picked it out for me), trading your beloved A4 paper for crappy US letter-size, trying to remember how to spell things the American way, and having to conform to that god-awful MONTH/DATE/YEAR format (which makes *zero* sense... please, please, USA, stop doing this)...

I guess what I'm saying is, nothing much can top the terror of a pandemic, so simultaneously getting such a logistical nightmare as moving abroad over with makes it seem a little less troublesome. I can't give any cutesy little tips as though a move abroad isn't the massive, tedious, ongoing ball-ache that it is. Just know that eventually, you'll get settled in a new home, and for however long that's your home, treat it as if it's forever, and you'll enjoy it way more. I've learned that one the hard way.

b) Keep in touch with friends in both countries, throughout the ordeal. Hearing about their normal everyday stuff has helped me stay sane. There needs to be some consistency in all the madness.

c) Accept that people will look at you like you're mad and ask why. Your friends will get it.

d) Honestly, this is the most important one, though I've already said it: make your mantra One Day At A Time. If you're an anxious worrier like me, someone who catastrophises, who tries to plan for all the worst outcomes, or someone who simply likes to have all their ducks in a row from here to the grave, you will do yourself a massive disservice.

Learn to focus on what needs to be done today. At the end of today, make a list for tomorrow, then put it down, get in bed, and read a book. Forget it for that brief period of time before sleep. I wish I'd learned this lesson early on in life, but some part of me always felt I was *doing* more if I was thinking of next week, and next month, and next year.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not saying don't take responsible actions, or don't buy birthday gifts in advance. I'm not advocating become a last-minute Larry. I'm saying write down what needs to be done in the future, and leave it. You have 24 hours in a day — spend some of those eating, sleeping, reading something for pleasure NOT related to your move, play a game, pick nits off a dog, whatever it is that helps you unwind. You can't spend all 24 on sorting out your life. That's not living.

In closing, you may never be faced with the idea of moving abroad during a pandemic, but you may feel the need to do something drastic when you feel stuck in limbo, stalled, and too deep in a routine that's not giving you the quality of life you know you have a shot at elsewhere. It will come with some tedious ball-aching as described above, but take it one day at a time and keep in mind why you're doing it in the first place, and eventually, you'll be somewhere else, and limbo will be a memory.

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