This is not the far more typical 2 or 3 month living abroad scenario; I never lived less than 3 years in any one country. So each place where I land, becomes my real home for a few years. And amongst the practicalities that come with it (learn the language, meet new people, deal with the (sometimes insane) bureaucracy, etc), the one that always seems the hardest job is moving.
I carry pretty much all the stuff I own with me. So that's all my clothing, shoes, bedding, pillows, towels, blankets, books, dishes, cutlery, glasses, pots, plants, rug, computer, speakers, printer, CDs, gadgets, tools, coffee table, shelves, lamps, guitars, amplifier, electric piano, motorbike(!)... The list goes on. Sure, a lot of these are not essential, but if you're going to live in a place anywhere between 3 and 7 years, you really want to make it a home; that means carrying a lot of personal items. So that leaves you two choices - pay a fortune every time you move (my kind of job doesn't pay that well, and certainly doesn't pay for relocation expenses), or rent a big van and do it all yourself. I like to think that I'm self-sufficient, and therefore always choose the latter option.
Moving the contents of a small flat on your own is always a daunting task, but when moving overseas (from Paris to Dublin, in this case) the planning must be spot on. For example, you can't rent a van in France and drop it in Ireland - you need to drive it back. So my plan was the following:
Rent a van in Dublin; with 55 volumes to carry (some big, like the motorbike!, some small, like a toolbox), I needed some space, so I rented a van with 10 cubic mt. cargo space, from "Irish Van Rentals".
Drive it to Rosslare (170Km), to get the evening ferry. I made sure that I left Dublin with plenty of time to spare - if I were to miss the ferry departure, the whole plan would fail! Being a fairly short distance, though, and having an empty van, I gave myself 1 extra hour for the trip. I did get a bit of late rush traffic leaving Dublin, but thankfully it wasn't too bad, so I still got to Rosslare with 1/2 hour to spare.
With nearly 19 hours of sailing ahead, it was time to just chill and enjoy the crossing!
Drive from Cherbourg in Normandy to Paris (360Km). The ferry arrives pretty late to Cherbourg, so I arrived to Paris at 2230. Driving a big van to Paris is always an adventure, and this being a right hand drive, the thrill was there for the taking! Thankfully, the road is pretty much one long motorway between Cherbourg and Paris, and I chose to arrive late in Paris, to avoid the maddening rush-hour traffic.
Free day to deal with all remaining bureaucratic annoyances, and to spend some time with most of my friends in Paris. Having to deal with banks, I had to make sure they'd be open! So that meant making sure that my free day in Paris wouldn't be a Saturday, Sunday, or MONDAY; I nearly fell for that last one. All in all, I did 100Km on the bike all over Paris... it felt great though, one last go at zigzagging around Paris traffic, I'll definitely miss that!
Load up the van in the morning. I was a bit unsure as to how much space would my stuff really need, and whether I would be able to get the motorbike in the van with all the boxes. Thankfully, my calculations were correct, and with the help of two great friends, we loaded it all in no time.
I left Paris around midday. I had to make sure I left plenty of time for the return trip - if anything goes wrong, that's a late arrival to Cherbourg, and a missed ferry; that in turn means waiting 3 days for the next sailing, IF there's a place, and buying a new ticket, and paying for an extra 3 days of van rental; not to mention rushing with a van filled with everything I own! That's a lot of domino effect costs that I wanted to avoid. So - leave Paris much earlier than needed, and no stops until Cherbourg, where I arrived with 2h to spend. I could get some petrol, a lovely dinner by the sea side (cheaper and far better than the boat food), and even a late dash to Monoprix to stock up on French goodies.
As this was winter, there are no big summer sales and promotions for the ferry tickets, and you're forced to pay extra for a cabin. Cost aside, that turned out to be a great idea; I was able to have some rest between the two big drives.
Drive back to Dublin, where I arrived in the evening. I managed to get a few good friends to help carry all boxes up to the apartment - I wouldn't want to do 55 travels up and down the stairs to the second floor, not to mention unloading the motorbike on my own!
Return the van in the morning. Total distance was 1082Km, and the costs were as follows:
- Van rental: 32€/day, plus 35% extra for taking it abroad (56€), plus insurance at 42€/day, plus VAT (45€), plus compulsory AA insurance for continental Europe (80€);
- Ferry ticket: 284€ return (including cabins);
- Petrol: 132€
- Motorway toll (in France): 42€ (21€*2)
So the grand total was 1009 euros. That's a lot of money... but basically half of the cheapest quote I got from moving agencies! Plus it was a great trip, and a nice opportunity to go back to Paris, and see my old friends there. And finally, although I feel I still own far too much stuff (got rid of quite a bit after the move, out of "post-move radical sorting"!), I still feel self-sufficient. I'll probably do it all over again in 1 or 2 years!