I suppose it’s possible that some of you may be thinking about what we’re doing, and wondering just how it is that one goes about disentangling life in one country and reassembling it in another. Let me assure you first of all that it’s probably a lot easier than you imagine – we’re moving to a country where we speak the language, we understand the customs, and we already know people. Therefore we don’t face any of the challenges faced by many families who undertake far bigger challenges, and often with much less notice.
At the same time, however, it’s fair to say that it’s a lot harder than you imagine, too. For me, there has been the prospect of walking away from the job I’ve done for more than 16 years. That job was our safety net – as long as I was working, we would be able to feed and clothe ourselves. Our roles will reverse, and I will no longer be the breadwinner; no longer the traditional ‘head of the household’, laughable as that stereotype may be to those who know me, I think there’s something primitive in there – something which makes me wonder if this really is a sensible move.
Actually telling my employer was hard – and finally leaving, walking out that door for the last time will be hard, too. And, yes, being at home with the boys, doing the school run, taking them to after-school activities, and all the million other things I will suddenly be doing; that will be hard, too, once the novelty has worn off. I’m certain I’ll miss the daily routines and the sense that I can shut myself off from domestic concerns for part of the day.
Selling the house has been hard, too. Not especially because of any deep emotional attachment to it, but because of the realities of selling a house in the south of England. As I write, the process seems secure, but nothing is signed yet, and everything could fall through at the last minute, and it wouldn’t be that unusual. Also moving the cats, which is becoming more and more expensive by the day – there has been a particular vet-related farce today, for example – and seems beset by obstacles which aren’t in the way of moving humans.
So, what would I advise? Firstly, there is no such thing as too much planning. We have known for nearly two years that we want to do this, and a significant amount of that time has been spent making plans of one kind or another – firstly for our holiday, which was our chance to come out and see for ourselves if this really would work, and since then for the eventual move. You have to set an objective, and you have to keep your eyes firmly fixed on it.
We set up a project plan, listing relevant milestones along the way, and setting ourselves tasks – often mundane, sometimes pivotal – which has helped to keep us focussed on what needs to be done. There are, even at this late stage, a number of things which remain uncompleted – I have to do something about moving my pension, for example, and we won’t even talk about where we are going to live when we get there.
Then everyone has to be on the same side. With the possible exception of the two cats, who really have no idea what is about to hit them, we have been working on this as a team. The boys were told as early in the process as we could, and they have been kept up to date with everything we are doing, and allowed to feel part of the process. They have, for instance, been doing ‘Canada projects’, colouring and activities which Zoë put together for them, and it has helped them get a good understanding of where they are going, and what life will be like.
And us? Well, we have to be committed as a couple to making this work. I think if one of us had doubts, it simply wouldn’t come off – there’s too much at stake for there to be any uncertainty. Sure, we’re both a little apprehensive about things – Zoë is going back into full-time work after years successfully self-employed, and that is daunting. But I return to that planning process again – we both know where we are going, and how we’re going to get there, and because we have regular ‘Canada time’ – originally Monday evenings, it has now expanded to be virtually every evening – we can see the pieces of the puzzle being put together.
Don’t underestimate the bureaucracy involved – paperwork upon paperwork, precise and maddening definitions of passport photo sizes, forms in triplicate, medicals, any number of seemingly unrelated questions. Don’t let it put you off, and make sure you leave enough time. Just filling in forms takes time, never mind the time it takes to send them back and forth, have them scrutinised and passed from department to department.
And get yourself a broadband connection. How people did things like this before it was possible to do it all online, I cannot imagine. I’m 43 years old, and at one stage in my life, I thought that the computer age was going to pass me by. Now, not only do I work in the field (but not for much longer!), I couldn’t live without the comforts and benefits. For instance, I’ve just been interrupted in my frenetic typing to be asked how we will register with a GP in Prince George. A couple of minutes searching, and there is the answer – I guess that 20 years ago, we’d have just turned up and trusted to getting everything done in situ.
Has this put you off, or has it inspired you further? I hope the latter, because the truth it, it is not an impossible dream we’re fulfilling, it’s a possible one, and it’s just about within our grasp now. If you’re still reading, my next missive will be about our impressions of Canada and Prince George from our holiday last year – it will be interesting to see how our impressions change when we see it all again.
Until next time….