I Like to Move It

09 March 2006

Coming from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Barcelona, Spain: The Cheat's anecdotal guide to moving to Spain for do-it-yourselfers.

Moving is quite possibly the worst thing about changing country.  You have made the decision to pick up the stakes and head into pastures unknown, you’ve got some money, you have a plan, maybe you are really sorted and have a job, working papers and a home complete with a cat waiting for you… but you still have to get your stuff over here.  Packing is one thing, but actually organizing the move and shipping can be daunting enough to convince many to give up and just start over buying everything as you need it.

This need not be the case, as I will demonstrate.  Now let me lay down a quick condition before I launch into this bit: if your move includes a corporate compensation package with relocation, then stop reading this now, you lucky bastard.  I’m talking to the rest of the great unwashed (us) that have to do this without of the benefit of staff or budget.  It can be done by the usual means of a reputable shipping company and then coughing up the funds, but I am talking to the do-it-yourselfer in all of us.  Yup, I’m talking about loading up a van, grabbing your passport, stocking up on foreign snacks at a gas station and heading into the sunset on the open highway.  Its not just moving, it’s a kind of forced road trip allowing you to feel the distance and see where it is you are actually moving to (in this case, Spain).

Of course this applies only to those within ground transport range of Spain, which is surprisingly a lot of countries on three different continents.  I shuffled down from Holland, but if you are in Lagos, have the time and patience for overlanding across Africa then go for it.  Just watch out for the landmines in Sudan.  I wholeheartedly endorse this type of move because climbing out of a Ryanair 737 in your new country of residence, and having several burly men magically drop off your old life the next day isn’t the right way to start your new life.  It lacks romance and drama.  Being lost on a National Road in middle of France at 3 am with a rental van that’s due back in 12 hours has all the drama you need to make a grand entrance into the Spanish experience.  Clearly, and again, I am speaking from personal experience here. 

I rented a white Ford Transit from the friendly folks at Totcar in Barcelona, and having made sure I got unlimited miles, took off for Amsterdam in a cloud of diesel fumes.  Two days of hellish driving later I arrived in time for a wild night out on the town (to help take the edge off of two days in a Transit) and then plopped into bed.  Five or six hours later I picked my brother up from the airport, loaded up the remains of my life there from the storage unit where it was in hibernation, and headed back for Barcelona.  We talked animatedly through most of Belgium and then more seriously into Paris, but by about 2 or 3 in the morning conversation was pretty weak.  We took turns at the wheel and played some old tapes my brother brought for the occasion with the idea that we’d make it to Spain in one shot.

We did, and I’ll never forget watching the brilliant sunrise over the Med, the gradual warming of the air, or the feeling of triumph as we parked in front of my new apartment at 7am.  I felt moved.  I was ready to start fresh.  Unpacking was not a chore after that kind of trip, it had become part of the moving ritual.  I knew where I was now because I had dragged my life along with me like a pilgrim, had a laugh, saved some money and gained a treasured memory.  So how do you say U-Haul in Spanish?

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