Hi, my name is Chelsea! I’m a producer for a global non-profit, which basically means I work with various countries to produce content about the work we do, in order to drive fundraising and marketing initiatives. One amazing perk to my job is that I can be based (almost) anywhere. So, after six years of working in Toronto and never quite getting used to the weather, my partner and I decided to move back home to Cape Town with our two-year-old son.
I know that moving during the pandemic is hardly a new idea. I lost count of the number of friends moving out to BC this summer, and if the global shipping delays are anything to go by (my container still hasn’t arrived!) then it’s safe to say I’m not alone. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt alone or burnt out with this process. Burnout doesn’t just exist in the working world and sometimes the “jobs” of our personal lives can feel just as overwhelming and stressful. I wish I knew these “musts” before I embarked on a transatlantic immigration, but I know them now and I’m hoping sharing them will help someone else in similar shoes.
Don’t be afraid to outsource
There are endless lists when it comes to moving. Lists of what to take with you; lists of what to sell; lists of what to throw away; a homes-you-like list (and a list for the ones you don’t); daycare and school lists… the list goes on. But the most important list should be the list that shows what you can outsource and what you have to take on yourself. I wish I’d done this upfront to avoid feeling burnt out and overwhelmed two weeks before departure. Outsourcing doesn’t have to always be financial either; it can also mean simply working out who you can rely on of your friends to take on certain tasks. I thought I could do everything (I couldn’t), which left zero time or space to process the emotional journey I was going through.
Work out what’s important to you (and let go of the rest)
I realized late in the game that it was more important for me to have a decent place to stay while we found our feet in Cape Town than other priorities. I can live without all my things, but I need my space to work for me. So, much as it was tempting to skimp on Airbnbs and make it work in crappy accommodation to save money, we didn’t. Knowing that this was a priority of mine made it easier to compromise back in other areas. Like I didn’t need to purchase the biggest shipping container for my belongings; once I knew that it wasn’t a priority it was easy to sell or give away my belongings.
Draw up a relocation budget
If you’ve always dreamt of moving somewhere, the quickest way to see if it could even be possible is to draw up a relocation budget. It’s safe to assume your regular monthly budgeting probably won’t cut it. Expecting a move to fit within your standard monthly expenditures is a fast track to becoming burnt out and stressed and sets the table for arguments between you and your partner. But simply knowing that there will be added expenditures is enough to ease that burden and get you both on the same page. It’s hard to map out every hidden cost and the things that will go wrong (there will be unexpected surprises) but anticipating them will protect you and your sanity. For me, the unexpected cost of relocating our dog sent me into a tailspin (it was more than our entire family’s airfare), but now that he’s here with me it doesn’t really matter.
Know your mental state (and that of your partner’s!)
During the early stages of packing up our house I discovered I was pregnant. The first trimester was not kind to me and combatting nausea and fatigue while chasing after a toddler whose toys were being packed up in front of him was a feat I don’t want to repeat. Then when my partner had to go to Cape Town ahead of me to start a new job, I was quick to reassure him that I could totally manage the remainder of the house packing and travelling alone with our toddler across the world. But that was my pre-pregnant-self talking. The truth is I was so tired and sick that I had to enlist parental support from the other side of the country to come and help me with the house. I didn’t give myself or my pregnancy the recognition of where it was mentally and as a result my sanity suffered.
The grass isn’t greener, it’s just different
Rose-tinted lenses are a real thing. A grass is greener mentality is when you can never quite be happy where you are because you’re always dreaming about somewhere better. And if you’re someone who moves around the world, this can be an easy trap to fall into, and it’s dangerous for your mental health. When I lived in Toronto I craved the beaches and hiking of South Africa, but now that I’m here it’s easy to dismiss those things and look to recreate my life in Toronto. Going out in search of excellent city parks, a culturally diverse restaurant scene and walkable neighborhoods is a one-way ticket to disappointment. Rather, I’m slowly learning to lean into what my new city has to offer and trying to not make comparisons.