Relocation: the seven
pillars of wisdom

Pillar number one: Fill a container
or sell everything?

When we relocated from Canada to a Central American country we decided to hire a leading Canadian moving company. They were a large outfit with many years of reliable service, so we felt we were in good hands. The salesman faithfully promised us that this was indeed door-to-door service. It wasn't. In fact it wasn't even country-to-country service.

In a strange country and being unable to speak the language it was a major struggle to find a broker who could arrange to transport the container and have it unloaded at a bonded warehouse. That's another thing the salesman forgot to tell us. When the container arrives at the customs shed there could be a charge of $50 per day if you leave the goods in the container, while you await customs clearance. So the goods are unloaded and stacked in the middle of a dusty warehouse.

Four months later, our relocation complete, the household goods and vehicle finally arrived at our doorstep. This is the first problem with movers; for the most part they are not truly international. They may operate from the US or Canada but then they rely on a broker in the receiving country to complete the deal.

I have heard horror stories of goods being damaged, stolen and in one case an entire container disappeared. If you must ship by container then try and arrange for the handling of your goods to be controlled by a shipping agent in your destination country.

GOOD WINE & GRAND PIANOS. Some things they say don't travel well. I heard of someone who had not one, but two grand pianos shipped. The tropics are not kind to antiques and fine furniture. Case in point was a hotel in Granada, Nicaragua. They had a beautiful, 100 year old, Steinway grand piano shipped from New York. The case was beautiful but the soundboard suffered terribly from the excesses of both extreme dry heat and alternating high humidity. Even expert tuning couldn't help. I remember attending a concert one night when Cuba's leading pianist gave a recital. The performance was-excruciating to say the least and the poor Cuban was most probably waiting for Castro to enter the room and shoot him.

The cost of shipping a container can run from about $4,000 all the way up $20,000 depending on size etc. The simplest and most sensible thing to do is to sell off all your old furniture and buy new in Panama. Or you could put you valued antiques into storage until you are absolutely sure Panama is going to be your new home.

TRUCKING ALONG When my wife and I moved from Nicaragua to Panama we hired a local shipping company. They came to the house and professionally labeled and listed all of our household items - we didn't ship any furniture - we sold it all or donated it. The same bonded truck arrived at the customs warehouse in David a few days later. The seals were broken and the contents seemed intact. The older, women inspector glanced inside and spotted my guitar case. I immediately opened the case to show there was nothing contraband inside and she indicated she wanted me to play something. My party piece is the Beatle's "Yesterday" and though I say so myself, I do a very good rendition of Paul McCartney's classic. The moist eyed inspector waved the doors of the truck shut and within an hour the entire contents were unloaded at my new home in Volcan-nothing missing and nothing broken.

If you really feel you have to bring all your things with you - a small piece of advice. Try to put everything inside large, strong, plastic containers. Or better still have custom-made wooden crates made. It makes moving easy and keeps moisture, dust and prying hands out of your stuff.

Try to think of your new life as a new beginning. If you do it well it can take years off you. You can almost feel like a child again. Lets face it your TV and computers are most probably all out of date, so why not shop for something new. Starting off your new life with nasty emails to your moving company is not the way to go.

Sell it off or donate it; these are words to relocate by. You will find that money hardly takes up any room in your suitcase.

In next month's newsletter: Relocation pillar number two:Buy or rent first? why the second option is the smart one.

David Dell

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