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International moves in the middle of a project


What happens if you or someone in your project team has to make an international move while being closely involved in a project? It is my experience that careful planning and preparation well in advance is a requirement.

In this article we will provide tips that can be a big help when moving to another country while trying to keep your project going. The recommendations should prove useful if you are the one that is moving or if you are in a position to support and make a project team member as productive as possible under these circumstances.

Whenever you have to move a long way away the first thing to acknowledge is that there is a sad component to it. No matter what you leave behind it is human nature to prefer the comfort of the familiar and to miss whatever we leave behind. If the project team member moving has a family, the number of people involved in the move multiplies this issue. It is important to have plenty of time to talk over all the fears and sadness to make sure they are all ready for the big change when the time comes.

The shock of leaving behind the familiar and missing what you leave behind should not be underestimated.


As in every move you can divide it in three: all the tasks that have to do with leaving a place, the actual trip and move and getting settled in the new place.

I. Leaving a place

Let's deal with the wrapping up:

  1. Have a list of all the services you have to cancel (electricity, gas, water & sewage, bank accounts, credit cards, insurances, car related services, phones, rent, etc.) and keep track of the status of each. The last thing you want to have is an outstanding electricity bill when you are already thousands of miles away unless you plan to go back eventually.

  2. Have a list of all the things you want to sell and keep track of the price, and the status of each (this list may include small things and important ones, as the house or the car, as well);

  3. Have a list of the things you want to give away with the people or institution of your choice and the status of each. As soon as you feel you can do without something give it away. The sooner you dispose of things the better;

  4. Have an idea of the things you want to take with you and budget for the move. This will ensure that you are not surprised by the moving cost and will not be making last minute changes trying to sell or give away things you thought you could take;

  5. Try to go light. The more you can decide to leave behind upfront the less worries you will have. Throw away everything you need to throw away before the move and not thousands of miles and dollars later;

  6. If you can afford it, outsource all that does not need your personal attention (e.g. packing time-consuming stuff like cups and saucers or books). If you are on a tight budget try to enroll everyone that offers help in packing, cleaning and sorting activities. Sometimes babysitting is a great help too while you attend to the moving stuff.

  7. Plan for the last night and day. It is probably better to be already out of your home so you leave no loose ends there, no forgotten last minute items;

  8. Leave a trusted person with the power of attorney to act in your place in commercial and legal matters in case something comes up after you left;

  9. Have everything having to do with the wrap up done a week before the departure because you need to think about the move and the re-settling at least a week before you move.

  10. Last but not least wrap up your personal relations in one big farewell party. Plan to hold a farewell party two weeks before you leave and invite EVERYONE. If possible send the invitations on the mail so you make sure you have an updated mailing list. This gives the chance to people you would like to see and who would like to see you, to have a last opportunity to do so. If you don't, trust me, you will have people blaming you for the rest of your life. Get real; you will not be able to attend every farewell party they are willing to throw for you the last day. Be ahead and do it yourself, it will help you get impeccable social closure.

It is advisable to have a notebook to keep track of all these lists and to write down everything that comes to mind in terms of things you need to do. This takes away some of the worry. It also makes sure that whatever good idea you have is saved in one place where you can get back to it.

II. The move and the trip


Why? Because even if you are 99% done things will continue to pop-up. You will remember a semester credit card charge you need to cancel or an old boss and mentor will want to spend a whole afternoon with you. Also you need to make last minute decisions about items you could not sell, the place where your pet will stay, etc. For this stage here are my suggestions:

  1. Have a list of things you want to take with you in your suitcases. It is strongly recommended that you work on this list a long time before hand, so it will be a familiar tool and not only a reminder. Personally, I have a packing list I have been using for the last ten years and it allows me to pack for my entire family and me in 2 hours if need be. In order for you to know what you will need immediately when you get to your destination you have to think about what you will be doing and, thus, needing during the first two weeks.

  2. Make a list of first and basic needs and how you plan to cover them. Use this final week before the move to make sure you have all the information you need to get established (housing, health insurance, car rental or airport pickups, reservations, required legal documentation, required work stuff, important contact information, etc.)

  3. Have everything packed one day before departure and be ready to take a dirty clothes bag inside one of the suitcases or leave some old clothes behind. This ensures that things not fitting in your suitcases 4 hours before departure when it is too late to include them in your household move.

    0 Confirm your airline reservations and check the luggage limitations and how many hours in advance they are requiring passengers to be there;

  4. Asses the deliverables you need to comply with on the project you are working on making sure you will be able to do so. If you find you are bound to be late, communicate it now and get the help you need or delegate the tasks.

  5. Plan how you will get to the airport and who will be there for the final hugs and kisses.

  6. Try to plan for the most pleasant and relaxed last day in this place ...

III. Getting settled in

If you have accomplished the first two tasks successfully the rest will probably go smoothly. You have properly wrapped up every affair, and you have successfully traveled with all you need to your destination. Get your list of basic needs at your new place, prioritize it and begin to work on it. Hopefully you will know how to solve housing, health insurance, transportation and schooling needs at least temporarily and you can start working on more long-term solutions. These are my recommendations for this final stage:

  1. Keep your list notebook handy because it will help you remember how you thought you would solve things and it will be handy to write down all those things you never thought about and you, nevertheless, have to solve now;

  2. If you see you are going to be late for work deliverables because you underestimated the workload of a move, communicate it ASAP;

  3. Enroll help, be ready to allow other project team members to come in and help out with what is in your plate.

  4. Have your family (if you have one) first on your priority list. Nobody will suffer your absence like your family because the need for you is unlike any need your fellow project team members may have. If you cannot do both, support your spouse and little ones through this so they will be able to support your long hours, trips and job related mood swings again very soon.

Have you ever moved in the middle of a project? We would like to know what tips you have!