Our correspondent, Kathy McKay explains her approach to the need for flexibility of location that so often comes along with having academic career goals.
In my last post, I spoke about my minimalist approach to possessions – the fewer things I own, the easier I find moving when a job is offered. I have learned exactly what is precious enough to move with me (a small cat heading that list) and what is not.
With job precarity in academia (remember, precarity is a very specific kind precariousness), comes the very real experience of having to move for work, and all the related costs that come with that. For all the thrills that come with finding a new place, very few people truly enjoy the actual practical moving of stuff from one geographical location to another. (Should you be one of those people, do let me know – I have boxes to move!).
How do you make it easier, to move house?
1. What do you take?
Some moves will just be from one house to another in the same city, so you can just pack and unpack – you might not even really think about getting rid of too much stuff. Other moves will take you from one end of the globe to another, and to extremes of climate – these moves require more preparation and much more clearing. While these decisions may be easier if your work is paying your removal costs, it’s still worth going through your belongings and really asking yourself whether they’ll be necessary in a new place.
Will you really wear your clothes that work in an Australian summer, in Norway?
Is it worth taking your proper winter coat to most places in Australia?
Will your electrical goods actually work in the new country or will they all need adapters – and does that mean it might be easier to sell here and buy again there?
If you have a pet, what do you need to do to get them overseas with you – and is it worth it? For example, my recent contract on the island was only for a year and, as much as I missed her, it wasn’t worth taking my cat. She wouldn’t have been allowed back in Australia. So she had foster fathers for a year. Now, I am about to move for a new job and Jet Pets is in charge of moving Laks.
2. Who moves you?
Again, depending on the move, and if work is paying, this decision may be made for you – or at least made easier. Some moves require that you use removal companies; other times, it may be you and a few mates. Treat anyone who helps you to move with care. If you have removal professionals, tip them heavily halfway through the job when they’ve emptied one place: hopefully then they will be motivated to take care of your stuff in your new place. If friends have helped, large quantities of appropriate food and beverage given with love are vital. A friend once helped me move house for the reward/bribe of a Nigella Lawson Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake. Anyone who makes moving easier is a truly beautiful person.
3. Have a packing process.
Admittedly sometimes the notice given to move can be stupendously short – I once moved from Australia to China for work, with six days notice. I did what was possible in the time and just accepted that, once I was on the plane, there was nothing else I could do. However, if you have some time, you can be more organised. The basic steps are to sort out:
- What needs to come with you for when you first arrive? This is usually stuff that you also need until the day you leave, so maybe make list.
- What can be packed in a box and take its time joining you? This is especially important if moving overseas.
- Are there things you can pack right now, that you won’t miss before you leave, so that you’ve made a start? (You might want to label boxes in some way so that you know what’s where when it does arrive months later!)
4. Have a plan for arrival.
What time will you arrive? Do you already have a place to stay – and is the electricity/gas/water already on? Or do you need to book a temporary place, eg through Airbnb? Where do you need to get the keys?
Figure out some of the logistics before you go, for example:
- How will you get to work?
- Where is the nearest supermarket?
- The nearest coffee shop?
- If you have children, which is the most suitable nearby school?
- If you can make a preliminary visit (or perhaps when you first arrive) go for a walk around the block to get your bearings.
5. Before you move, put a call out to other academics
All of us have arrived somewhere and not known anyone – we’ve all known what it’s like. These small things can make a new start seem just a bit less frightening. It may all still be new, but at least you’re getting yourself centred.
Right now, I’m preparing to move to a new country and start again.
The wanderer in me loves the adventure. The nester in me is looking for furnished cat-friendly apartments with a window. Friends joke that I can make a home anywhere, but I think it is also a skill borne out of necessity. At the end of the day, I know what is most precious to me. I know that home – wherever it may be at the end of the day – is really where Laks is – everything else is replaceable. Where I live can change but the important people in my life stay the same – just with differing time zones.
Have you also had to move house a lot for your academic career? We’d like to hear from you on Twitter, tweet us @jobsacuk.
Featured Image credit: Master Octa (CC BY 2.0). Image of Laks the cat: by the author, all rights reserved.
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