Settling in…

Finding what makes it feel like home.

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The View from My Bridge. Waterloo Bridge, London, England. September 2014.

Or, at the very least, like you are more than just a guest or visitor.

At this point, I’ve been living here just a bit off of the South Bank of London for just a day over two weeks and it’s been surprising what has made me feel like I am actually living here rather than just visiting the area.

I’m living in school run accommodations, sharing a flat with three other girls which makes it feel a bit like being back at my undergrad. These girls, however, nice as they are, aren’t the girls I spent my undergraduate career with—there is none of the familiar “lets run around town figuring this place out together” that fundamentally shaped my previous away from home living experiences.

I have the majority of the things from home that I need straight out of my suitcase—my bedding, my monkey (stuffed, obviously), my best friends going away gift, and a good portion of my wardrobe. Unpacking however, made me think more about what I brought that I maybe didn’t need (too many cobblestones for those heels no matter how easy to walk in and lovely they look!) and those things left behind that maybe I should have considered after all (a second towel, for example… not that I can’t buy a spare or that just right shade of lipstick which seems to have been misplaced). Once my bags were packed and stowed safely out of sight, things still didn’t sit the way I thought they ought to.

And then I looked at my bed and realized I couldn’t actually get in it… as my clothes were without hangers and this school, it seems, had never heard of dressers.

So  STEP 1 of feeling like home is simple get organized which for me translated directly into go and buy some hangers. This took a few days of doing and a few long walking trips to Argos but a few days later, my clothes were all organized and put away exactly where I knew they should be (if you are living in a smaller area than you are used to like I am, there are a lot of blogs that talk about making the most of the space you have… I’m planning on maybe posting on another blog about this down the road but HERE is a great option!).

So 30 hangers later, my room felt a bit more like home.

Walking out of that room and into the living/dining area shared between me and the three other residence, however, still felt far from home. Just so you get the idea: upon arrival my first night, I found a welcome package in my room that, among a few promotional items, contained a complimentary bag or spiced, microwavable rice. So my first night, I sat cross legged on my bed, surrounded by a moat of clothes (no hangers at that point!), fighting with my computer which did not want to access the internet, and eating my newly steamed bag of rice with my hands while mentally cursing the heat of the pouches contents. And yet it took almost a full week for me to finally get to the store to pick up my dishes and cooking utensils.

For my settling in that was STEP 2being able to cook real food and eat it off of an actual dish rather than a plastic bin. There is nothing wrong with eating take away or easy to go meals that you pick up at the market and pop into your microwave when you get back, but there is a real home feeling and satisfaction to being able to buy ingredients and prepare a meal for yourself. And not having to eat everything with my hands or out of a mug (there was also a lot of ‘just add water!’ soup in mugs that week as well) was unexplainably refreshing.

In fact, having pots to cook in and dishes to eat out of even makes me forget that I’m cramming my stuff from groceries to those same utensils into every nook and cranny I can find (oh, the joys of moving in last!)… or, it almost does!

But maybe I’m easy. All I needed to feel a like I could survive living in this place so far away was a few hangers and cook wear. The easy access to friends and family online doesn’t hurt, however (I was serious a few weeks back about looking into social media and video chat networks!). But I guess that’s the thing about moving, or really travel in general:

You can have all the extravagances in the world, but it’s having those little things that actually make the biggest differences.

Anyway, I want to hear from you guys. What do you need—whether buy, bring or even make—to make where you are feel like home when you move or travel?

I’m not sure what next week’s post—or next week’s adventures—are going to entail, but, as always, until then:

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Settling in…

The only modern time travel…

Or my in-flight adventure.

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My Room with a View: Living under the Shard. London, England. September 2014.

I enjoy flying, or I like the concept of it, and I’m usually a great flyer. I’m the passenger that others glare at because I’m that annoying person who gets on the plane and only seems to be awake for meals.

Usually.

I’m not sure if it was nerves about moving or classes, homesickness, or the fear that either my suitcases or I wouldn’t make it to our final location (and if stories I’ve heard this week are true, worrying about getting through customs/border control wasn’t unwarranted.), but I could not sleep.

Honestly, I could have easily been the inability to recline the whole way (or at all for the first third of the flight) due to the long legged man behind me (I apologize for your leg space, but I didn’t make you that tall or economy that little!), or the fact that I was surrounded by a very friendly and talkative international dance-troupe who seemed to be stopping in London for two days on some kind of cruise tour.

I was in the four person center isle in an edge seat near the rear of the plane, and it was sitting here that I realized that this was the second long flight I’d ever taken without my family and the first without anyone I knew or who I knew would be around me for the foreseeable future. This meant there was no one to lean against or curl up with and I found myself suddenly missing the previous summer and my little sister very much.

My companions, however, did not share that problem.

The nice thing about international flights is that you get a goody-bag no matter what class you are booked in. this seemed to confuse my seat mates who excitedly examined each and every item, asking about each before investigating the purpose and exclaiming all over again (quite a spectacle and I had a good laugh over the discovery of our complimentary toothbrushes, though the debate over which eye mask was the coolest was a close second). In all, we got an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, earphones, and socks (I did miss having the ear plugs, no matter how uncomfortable the always are.)—not a bad haul for an economy ride.

And so I settled in for a rather quick ride (for a flight from LA to London) with the wind always at our back, helping us along.

And didn’t sleep.

Like I mentioned, the boys next to me were very nice. They were polite, offered to get me a drink whenever they went to refill their own, always tried to crawl over each other or leave together so I didn’t have to move, and apologized every time I did or was bumped at all. And all the while, I was entertained by their antics (it seemed they didn’t fly often, making me wonder how these European men got to LA in the first place) and they made me feel comfortable despite not being part of the group.

When it did come time to sleep, I have no qualms in stating that I was extremely jealous of the trio next to me. Their earlier antics and quick conversation showed that they were very close friends but the sleeping arrangement showed the extent. The middle boy was sprawled across the other two, head in my neighbors lap and legs curled up on the one furthest from me. The others then shifted so that the leaned into his mostly vacated seat—which they were able to fully recline (all three of them!)—and spread themselves out, all the while using the boy between them as a heater and an armrest. It made quiet the picture.

Meanwhile, I sat, partially reclined watching movies on my personal viewing screen, slowly drifting in and out but only really falling into anything like sleep for half an hour to 45 minutes. But, on the bright side, at least I am small enough to actually fit in to economy seats without my legs getting crushed, meaning that I get to sleep at all, right?

All in all, the flight was quick, the people were nice, and the food was good. The really isn’t much more you can ask for.

Oh, right, and no one got sick on landing! A major feat and fear that’s been instilled since childhood with memories of a sister who always got sick on descent.

So here is my advice on airplanes and nicer travels if your flight is more than a few hours long (none of which I actually took):

  1. Bring sleeping aids that you have used before (never use anything like this for the first time on a plane as you don’t know how you’ll react to it or how long it will knock you out—or if it works at all).
  2. Look ahead to see what is provided (eye mask, head phones, ect) so you can plan on filling the gaps.
  3. Grab a water bottle before you get on the plane or fill up your own (hydration helps you fight jet lap so while drinking too much on the plane will make you have to get up more—though it’s good to stretch your legs—it’ll help later, I promise!).
  4. And, when you are awake, stretch! (Airplane seats—economy usually—are torture devices, leaving you stiff and achy after too long in them. Why do you think it’s so hard to sleep? So whether it’s pointing your toes and flexing your heals in front of you, stretching your arms up to get your back in alignment or standing up to go to the toilets, just get moving.)

So, what are your trips and tricks to flying/ traveling easy or some horror stories of your own? I love to hear from you!

And I think that’s it. Next week I’ll talk about getting settled and making a new place feel a bit like home.

But for now, as I enter my second week, London’s calling.

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

The only modern time travel…

A life in Two Suitcases…

I’m here (at least when this is being posted).

Building a wardrobe. Northridge, California, USA. September, 2014.

In reality, I’m typing this the day before I fly out, sitting on my couch and watching TV while I should be finishing everything else I should be getting to. Then again, it’s do this now or in the first few days I am in country—now is better.

This week has been the week of tying up the loose ends—cleaning and packing up my life while trying to see the well-wishers who are coming out of the woodwork.

But the main point of this writing is to talk about the process of packing for a larger scale move. I’ve covered packing for a vacation before but I’ve discovered that there are great differences in the packing styles—and a surprising amount of similarities.

I’ll be moving away for the span of a year (unless a job works itself out and I can manage to stay longer), so there is a lot of things that I need to bring with me—much more than I needed for a quick trip.

Originally, I thought that I’d pack everything I would need immediately in one large suitcase and a carry on, but then I looked at shipping costs. The cheapest I found would ship out a parcel of 30 pounds for about 120 USD, while (if I book ahead of time) I can bring a second suitcase of 50 pounds on the plane with me, have it immediately, and only spend 50 USD. Therefore, it became my task to place everything I would want of need—the makings of my life—into two suitcases and a small carry-on bag.

But how to choose what to pack?

A few week ago, I talked about what to buy in country and what to bring with you… as it turned out, my mom had other ideas. As it stands, the Pound is up, making the US dollar about half as effective as it would otherwise be. That unfortunately make it easier moneywise but causes some space problems.

This is where space bags come in. I prefer the vacuum variety rather than the press type as they are more efficient at removing the air, but you will have to practice stuffing them a few times to see if you can get them as flat as you can get them (read the diagrams if you have them—it really does work the best!). For suitcases, flat is also better than a cubed bag. When you pack and vacuum the bags you should work on shaping them as they shrink. If your suitcase has bars along the back rather than a flat surface, you can sit or kneel on the bag in the suitcase while you suck out the air and you’ll get a better fit. Then press out the wrinkles that you can—flattening it. Repeat as things go. If they are too lumpy, try repacking and vacuum again—that’s why you should practice.

But what do I put in the bags?

Just like when packing for any other trip, you have to look less at the individual pieces you pack but more at the whole of the wardrobe you pack.

To help with this process, I set up a clothing wrack and put the clothes I thought I’d want to pack on it on hangers or folded along the bottom rack. By looking at the pieces presented, you can see any piece that doesn’t work—that you wouldn’t wear with anything else. Then look for anything that is a close duplicate (not really in the cases of shirts as those are wash and wear but Jackets and blazers), and narrow the number down, especially for bulkier pieces.

Once you’ve narrowed down the selection, try every piece on. I mean this step. If you try on every piece you’ll see what fits, what doesn’t, and what needs mending. The first goes in the suitcase, the others do not (unless you really, really feel like mending in your last weeks!).

Now you’ve reached a nice place with what you have. The last bit to look over is if what stands is what you not only will wear (useful pieces), but also fit the life you’ll be living. If you are moving to a colder region, do you have warm clothes? If you are going to be working, are work appropriate clothes packed? And so on and so forth.

Next, vacuum and pack them, weighing the bags as you go. Remember, if you go over the weight limit, you’ll have to pay fees!

Finally, look at the space you have left in your bags for things like shoes, makeup, toiletries, ect. Remember also that these items tend to have a higher weight so keep track of your distribution on items.

For your carry-on, you should look at the measurement guidelines of your airline (this goes for extra baggage costs as well) and then pack everything you’ll need on your flight—books, music, ect.—as well as a full change of clothes, just in case. Also dress in layers for your flight and that’ll sort you if you lose your luggage for a bit.

And with that, I’m off to finish the rest of my tasks. Next week and the year to follow, I’ll be writing from my new home in London so we’ll just have to see where the year takes us.

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

A life in Two Suitcases…

The Bank Bust and the Phone Call…

(despite the phrasing, this isn’t criminally inclined) And only 5 days left to get ready!

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The View from the Middle. Pathway up Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland. Summer, 2013.

So I know I said I’d be covering banking around this week and that was the plan… until we went to the bank and hit a snag (and a pretty large one at that).

So the plan, based on the talks the day before with a lovely account manager at the bank (and yes, a bank that works both overseas and locally), was to go in and set up national account and then meet with a branch in London to set up corresponding account there. This supposedly meant there wouldn’t be certain fees and wait times if money was put into my US account and used in London.

However, the minimums for either the possible accounts offered were much higher than what a student could ever afford, even with the help of well-to-do parents, and the monthly fee for being below the minimum is 50 USD.

If you plan a bit earlier (about a month before you head out but I’d give it an extra week or two for wiggle room), there are apparently student accounts that have smaller money requirements, but you need the extra time to do it and then work through the international department.

All in all, it’s simpler—in most ways—to bring all your documentation to a bank in your new city (usually with documented reasoning for having a foreign account—you can’t just have one because you are there, so this isn’t for the average traveler) and open a basic account there. You may need a local contact to speak/vouch for you so remember what I talked about these past few weeks, work your contacts and make the best connections you can manage.

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What I did manage this week, was one such connection.

Major connections come through a man I edit for and this week—as the bank stuff fell to pieces—he had me call a friend of his—an ex-pat of 20 years—who would know more than either of us. But this meant one more introduction and first impression over a phone line.

I’m from a generation that doesn’t talk on the phone regularly—we text, we email, we post on blogs and web chats… systems that we can reread over everything we are going to “say” and then send hopefully errorless into the world. A phone call is a bit more tricky and something I’ve had to deal with a lot recently in my at home work setting—after all, I don’t have an office besides my bedroom so I’m always working remotely.

SO how do you make the impression you need to make when it’s not the outfit you put together to meticulously say that you are the person they should help and /or hire?

All you have in these circumstances is your vocal poise and your communication skills. Most people understand that phone calls are awkward and people get flustered on them, so most will give you wiggle room for blank or spaz moment, but you still want to put you best foot forward (even if they can see those perfect interview shoes you invested in—at least I wish!).

Sometimes you need some help. For me, this seems to be a nice layer of lipstick… usually a nice matte red shade. Something you can do to give you a boost. I can sit there in an overly large ()stolen from my mother plaid top and leggings, hair in need of a wash, but as long as I have my red courage, I’m much more likely to go in with my best foot forward…. Even if it is just a call to a contact and possible work contact I’ve never exchanged words with be for…

It’s also about going in prepared. At least half an hour before any call, I put together a talking sheet—who am I calling? What is it about? Who am I to them? What might they ask and what answers can I have at the ready? If I get a message machine, what is the basic information to leave (though I regularly forget this part the closer to the call I get and therefore I end up scrambling a bit!)?

I was prepared and the phone call went well, including an offer to help with my banking as well as another set of ears to the ground in my job and connection search.

One large step forward and one small move back (or maybe just a pause)… so it’s been a good week.

Well, that’s it for this progress report and next week I’ll talk about my current troubles trying to figure out packing and what I need to bring. One preview is that shipping is hugely expensive.

This is Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

The Bank Bust and the Phone Call…

A Case of the Nerves…

This is new.

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Along the Waterfront. Erie Canal, Waterford, Ireland. Summer, 2013.

I am 12 days out and I beginning to feel the pressure… and maybe need to stop eating my feelings (I’ve had a latte, 2 scones, and the works of Morningstar breakfast foods… that’s a whole lot of empty carbs for me!). This a really new experience for me (the nerves part).

I’ve been traveling since I was three years old (my first trip to England—where I threw out my bottles and learned to climb out of my crib). Since then, I’ve been to Italy, Japan, Australia, France, the UK, Ireland, and all over the US, and yet, I’ve never felt this kind of anxious. I know this is different; I’m moving away—alone—for at least a year, and not just 6 hours by car like in college, but a 10 and a half hour plane ride from anyone I know. The last time I moved (besides the 6 hour college drive), I was 7 years old and I had both my parents, three sisters, two cats and a dog coming with me.

So what to do?

I’m making lists and trying to tie up loose ends; seeing friends and making plans; keeping busy.

Basically, my list for now is:

  1. Get my banking done
  2. Pack my boxes to ship
  3. Get the necessities to pack in my suitcase and carry-on bag
  4. Figure out what I have to buy when I get there (and how to pay for it)
  5. Clean out my room
  6. Double check my lodgings
  7. Double check my classes and work out the details for my internship
  8. Contact my UK contacts and set up meetings
  9. Check any of my annual contracts to postpone or cancel the contract/payments*

Well, it’s a work in progress.

*this is something to look into if you are suddenly moving to a new place. Some contracts have clauses saying that if you are moving a certain distance from one of their facilities (like a massage parlor), you can cancel your payments after the next month’s payment if you bring in proof of your new address. It’s nice to look into.

Like I said, I’m 12 days out, I have my ticket, and all my paperwork in order, but I have so much left to do. It’s no wonder I’m starting to eat my feelings…

In the next week and 5 days, I’ll be working through this list (and probably adding just as many points as I delete from it) and hopefully putting my excess jitters into running rather than eating everything in sight!

SO, how do you deal with travel anxiety whether for small or more major trips?

I love hearing from you and hope you don’t mind the randomness of the post…. Promise I’ll be more constructive in the next couple of weeks.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A Case of the Nerves…