Canada is our third international move as a family but between us both, hubby and I have done about 50 moves…before we met, together, within countries and to new countries. That’s a lot of packing and unpacking!  

We made our first big move as a family in 2008 to the USA. Our daughter, Lauren, was a toddler. I was in a job that I loved and I was genuinely enjoying my life. I was also five months pregnant. At the best of times, moving is an emotional upheaval. Being pregnant only made it harder. 

I still remember feeling despondent as we emptied the townhouse close to Devon House in Kingston, Jamaica. We had moved there as newlyweds, purchased ‘good good furniture’ as we say in Jamaica, not self-assembly or bagasse board…and it was Lauren’s first home. We custom built this beautiful child gate for the stairs that we left behind along with some of her toys for the new tenants who also had a small toddler. What we couldn’t sell we gave away. I donated at least half my wardrobe. Tears rolled down my cheeks as we drove to the airport along the thin strip of land known as Palisadoes watching light bounce off the Caribbean Sea.  

Each successive move prepares you for the next, but each time feels different. There are new variables at play and of all the moves I’ve done, leaving Jamaica as an adult was the hardest. We were migrating yet I didn’t want to leave home, my family and my friends. It was a completely different story with our latest move. We were both ready for a change professionally and the kids (luckily) were at the right age to change schools.   

In ‘The Global Staircase – A Handbook for People Relocating Internationally’, Mary MacKinnon encourages people to gauge the stress load of each move. Look at everything that is going on in your life and assess what your life is currently like as you contemplate relocating. ‘The Slice of Life’ exercise that she outlines is useful as you explore the variables that make it good timing or bad timing. 

She provides examples of each. Here are a few: 

Good Timing: Desire for a new challenge, children at a good stage for school shift, personal life running smoothly 

Bad Timing: Spouse has job they want to keep, crisis in domestic situation, family, friends and community provide much-needed support to your family 

No-one wants to refuse a great opportunity, but you need to set yourself up for what someone I know refers to as ‘joyful and sustainable success’. If the timing isn’t great, negotiate to delay it or shift some variables – find a solution for any of the issues that will impact the moving and settling in experience.  

Looking back, that move from Jamaica was clearly a high stress load, but it was a valuable learning experience. Over the years, we’ve aimed to analyze what’s best for us and how to make each international move a fulfilling experience for the entire family. We are still working at it and embracing all the gifts as we navigate change together.  

Are you contemplating a move? Share your experience and comment. In my next blog post in the series on Navigating Change, I’ll dive into the nitty gritty and share some practical things to consider.  

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