Cross-country checklist

Things to consider when preparing to relocate to faraway lands

By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor

Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Seoul—these are just some of the places I’ve had to relocate to in my three-decade-long existence. These experiences were character-building episodes in my life. All my travels represent different chapters, and in all of those trips, stuff began to accumulate: treasured photographs and mementos of times and trials now gone; clothing and gear suitable to a wide range of climates; and gifts and trinkets from friends and loved ones that just brighten my day. So as I prepare to pack my belongings once more, this time from British Columbia to Ontario in advance of my new role as president of the Canadian University Press, I thought it nice to share some things to consider when moving far from home.

As college and university students, or even just people at a ripe age to be leaving the safety of your parents’ nest, whether you’re shacking up in a different province or just across the road, some of these things may be of use to your particular situation.

Make sure everyone knows how to correspond with you

Mail isn’t something we think about too much in the digital age, but Canadian bureaucracy hasn’t caught up with the times, opting instead to conduct business the old-fashioned way. Student loan documents, insurance claims, bank and credit card statements, and even your employer will need to know where to send important documents.

Most of the time, you will not have enough advance notice to change your mailing address for absolutely everyone you have business dealings with, which may result in some undelivered mail. Canada Post can assist you in forwarding all of your mail for a fee—if you move within the province, for example, it’s roughly $51 for four months of the mail forwarding service. Use those four months to gradually change your home address at all of those government agencies and businesses that send you mail.

Dispose of unwanted items

The disposal of possessions can be a very anxiety-inducing process for anyone—especially if you’re attached to the ass-groove in your couch, which took months of lazing around to develop. A cross-country relocation is often a time where one can begin life anew; a fresh start includes leaving behind some of your bigger household items.

It’s always good to start looking to social media, or even Craigslist and Kijiji, to sell some of the items you’re unable to take with you. The cost of transportation for a move hundreds of kilometres away is often a barrier for people, necessitating the selling of one’s goods.

For the bigger items—like the bed, kitchen table, dresser, and sofa—it may be difficult for you to get a vehicle (or friends) to help you move them all to your local furniture recycling facility. If a friend or a truck of your own is not an option, give a call to a company like Canadian Mattress Recycling, which will haul all of your unwanted furniture for a pretty decent price per item. Some municipalities will even offer such a service free of charge as long as you give enough notice.

Find time to decompress

When I first sat down and seriously began considering the monumental task of moving, the first struggle was trying to nail down when I was actually going to vacate my apartment. I had lived in the place for almost three years, and now I had to find an opportune time to leave which balanced both my need for a place to stay and my desire to save money by not paying rent needlessly. It was the beginning of the first of many moving-related mental breakdowns.

Even the simplest of moves can be a daunting task; travelling vast distances away from everything and everyone you know is that much more difficult. You can expect to be busy for weeks before you actually go anywhere, so it is important to find time in between to take care of yourself. Take in a movie or go see the sights of your city one more time before leaving—it may be the last time you see those sites.

Plan your packing

The stress of packing is evident to anyone, and its importance often overlooked. You can get away with a shoddy packing job if you’re going on vacation for a few days but in a relocation to a new and distant city, it is critical to have things neatly arranged for your journey. A subpar packing job could cost you money you could otherwise use when you get to your final destination, and could even hold up your trip itself.

This is especially true if you are flying to your new home. All items, be they checked baggage or those you carry on the plane with you, are screened and could be subject to confiscation at the airport. This could lead to delays, keeping you on the ground longer than expected.

You’ll also have to consider the amount and weight of your baggage. Airlines will typically only allow a maximum of two checked bags, and they will charge a fee for each additional bag. On top of that, there is a weight limit to the bags themselves which, if you exceed it, will cost you more money. If you’re planning on packing your entire home library into one bag, you may want to rethink and redistribute the weight.

Bus and rail companies may also have similar baggage restrictions. When booking your travel plans, be sure to understand the terms and conditions for baggage in the mode of transportation you have selected for your trip.

Throw a party

Moving away can be scary, especially if you’ve never done it before and you are preparing to leave everything and everyone you know.

Whether you are leaving home for school, work, or just to try something new, it is important for anyone to know that they are cared for and will always be welcomed back. Throwing a party is a way of showing your friends and loved ones that, although you will be separated by great distances, they will be central to your life—even in a new city.

Draw up a realistic budget for the relocation

Make no mistake: moving away from home will not be free, and many overlook the importance of proper financial management and budgeting when planning a relocation.

Budgeting in any situation is not a bad idea, but in planning a new life in a new city, some people overlook the hidden costs of moving. This is why it’s best to plan a loose budget, which will give you enough room to include costs you may not have anticipated.

One example people tend to forget about is accounting for a damage deposit at a new apartment. A damage deposit will set you back a few hundred dollars, and if you neglect to account for this in your budget, you could be in for some difficulty. Some financial planners suggest that, when planning a move far from home, you set aside the equivalent of three months of rent as your budget line item for housing, keeping in mind that some building owners will require first and last months’ rent—the last month being your damage deposit.

If you are moving out of province, consider the costs of changing your driver’s licence, getting a new medical card, and changing your phone number.

Even as you are equipped with the advice I’ve provided, frankly speaking, moving sucks. It is, however, a reality for many people, whether it be because of a competitive job market, family considerations, or for school. No matter where life may take you, always remember that old adage: “Home is where your stuff is”—or something like that.