Friday, April 19, 2013

Things To Do Before Moving Out of the Country

1. Make sure to spend quality time with your friends and family. You will definitely have a lot happening with packing and planning, but once you are overseas you won't be able to see those people you left in the states very often. When we figured out that I was flying to Germany with my hubby, instead of a month later, we had to make a last-minute arrangement for me to come home and see all my loved ones. It isn't always possible to make last-minute vacations home, so if you end up with only a day or two, don't get overwhelmed; now is the perfect time to plan an impromptu reunion/party so you can see everybody at once. Even if you feel like you have plenty of time, making plans with groups of several friends/family members at a time will go a long way towards making your last days less stressful!

2. Check with your bank about their policies and your credit/debit cards. Every bank is different, so it is important to make sure you are knowledgeable about your banks rules and fees before you get overseas. For example, because your bank deals in American currency and you will now be buying goods in euros, you can usually expect your bank to charge you a fee for the conversion every time you use your card. There may be higher fees for using ATMs, as well. We luckily still had a chance to open up a new savings account before moving when we found out that we will not be allowed to open up any new accounts once we are living in Germany. Another interesting change you should research is getting a new credit card with a "chip." More and more vendors in Europe are using the method of scanning cards instead of swiping them, so you should ask your bank if they can send you a different card to make your life more convenient.

3. Go overseas with Euros and American dollars. Once you check on the fees to use your card, you should depend on it while traveling for its simplicity and safety (if it gets stolen, you can always cancel it). Although you may rely on a debit/credit/travel card, it is never a bad idea to carry some American dollars and euros on you when traveling. If you are an American Auto Association (AAA) member, you can get your dollars exchanged to euros for no fee. Keep in mind the exchange rate, which is always fluctuating, and that AAA will need about two days to get the currency for you. Another tip is to only travel with as much cash as you can bear to loose, and to never keep all your money in one place! You don't want all of your cash gone forever with one lost wallet or one stolen purse. Spread your money out between your wallet, your money belt, your traveling partners' wallets, pockets in your checked baggage, etc. With a good spread, you should never end up money-less.

4. Look into buying an international drivers permit. Also for AAA members, you can buy an international drivers permit for fifteen dollars. Most European countries don't require one for renting a car, but a few do. All you need is a current American drivers license and a decent hair day for the photo. The permit is good for one year from the date that you validate it and it must be used in conjunction with your American license to be valid.

5. Get a passport and make copies of it. It takes a few months to get a passport, so if you are moving overseas, this is one of the first tasks you should complete. Assuming you already have a passport (you savvy traveler, you) it doesn't hurt to make a couple copies. Leave a copy at home with a friend or family member and take a copy with you. Use the same idea as you did with your cash and stow your copy away somewhere different than your actual passport. Take the copy with you when you travel around, just in case. You always want to set yourself up with the tools to fix a negative situation!

6. When packing your checked baggage, consider what the weather will be like up until your household goods will arrive. It is easy to forget to pack shorts when you are still bundled up at the end of winter, but the rest of your clothes may not arrive until spring-time and you are going to be aggravated having to buy a whole new wardrobe. Keep in mind all kinds of weather and activities you may be involved in. Make sure to pack a nice outfit for interviews or going out to eat, and even throw in a swim suit for that unexpected hot tub party at your new friends house! Also, to get the maximum amount of clothing into your bags, roll up your clothes and stack the items from heaviest to lightest, stuffing your shoes around the edges as you finish up. If you really want to be organized and space saving, you can roll up clothing, organize into outfits, then put each outfit into a ziplock bag and squeeze the excess air out. I have done this before and it does work, although it takes a certain level of patience and maybe even a bit of OCD. Or really small suitcases. Either way, check with your airline about baggage weights and charges before you go overboard!

7. Don't worry about what you can't control. Any move has uncertainties involved that you could drive yourself crazy thinking about. A move overseas has even more of these uncertainties than usual! Research what you need to know, or what you are interested in, and leave the rest up to fate. If you aren't exactly sure how the metro works in your area before you get there, or where you will be buying your groceries, its okay. Once you arrive, everything will fall into place. Moving with the help of the ARMY makes my situation a bit different, but there are many unknowns that I have chosen to ignore for the sake of my own happiness and sanity before I leave. I want to enjoy the time I have in the states with the people I love, and not drive myself crazy trying to figure out what I just can not know. I can honestly tell you that I have no idea where we will be staying our first night in Germany, what kind of house we will be living in, when we will be able to move in, if I will be able to find a job, or when all of our household goods will arrive; I do know that everything is taken care of and I will find out the answers when we get there! Obviously, if you are not moving with the help of the military, it doesn't hurt to book a hotel for your first few nights in town, or to research housing and a real estate agent to help you get settled in. But don't drive yourself batty! The sooner you learn to roll with the punches, the sooner your move will go from a hassle, to an adventure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I Got to Be a Week Away From Moving to Illesheim, Germany.... (a.k.a. THE PROLOGUE)

Lets start at the beginning. Not at the very beginning where two people met, fell in love, and decided to have a second baby twelve years later (that's me). All of those other beginnings will come later, in a book, which is yet to be written. What you may be curious to know is, Why is Ali moving to a town in Germany with an even smaller population than her minuscule college town? For your sake, and the sake of my very tired body, which is fighting off a cold right now, we will keep the story down to a few facts.

This past September, I married a wonderful man who happens to be a helicopter pilot in the United States ARMY. We started our life together by living on the first base I had ever seen; Fort Rucker. I can tell you that I never expected to live in Alabama, or to be married before turning twenty-five, but everything seems to have turned out the way it was meant. To this point, not long after our wedding, we received the incredible news that our first duty station would be in Germany. Lucky for us, moving out of the country was our first choice, and a dream of mine that I wasn't sure I would be able to realize so soon. So here we are, eight months from the day we slipped on our wedding rings, and six days from moving ourselves (and our three pets) to a different continent. We are about to embark upon what will most definitely be one of the most interesting adventures of our lives!

As I said, I am currently encouraging my body to beat off an impending sickness with Emergen-C, orange juice, and soothing tea, so it is time for me to give this crud the one-two count with a good nights sleep. The fact I am exhausted and under-the-weather is actually good for you because I managed to keep my answer to your question concise; I do not promise you that I will always excel in this practice. I do generally love to paint the whole picture when telling stories; including exact dialogue and what I believe is a necessary amount of detail. If you stick around for the adventure, you will see an example soon enough.

Goodnight and take care, friends. Maybe drink some orange juice for good measure. Who knows if this ick-feeling is going around....