In an attempt to be forthright about our move overseas, it seemed only appropriate to include a post about some of the crazy sh*t that happened in the lead up to our move to Spain. Some of the items are downright ridiculous and will hopefully make you chuckle.
Who needs coats anyway?
On an incredibly cold February morning we drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago to submit all of our visa paperwork to the Spanish consulate. Our appointment was the first of the morning so we assumed we would finish early enough to do some ice skating at Millennium Park and get some lunch in the big city.
While the visa process went well enough, the outdoor activities in Chicago were thwarted by the fact that we forgot winter coats and snow pants for the kids. It was so early in the morning that we pulled them directly from bed and put the them in the car in their pajamas and forgot all of their outdoor gear. This did not speak well to our upcoming packing skills.
Fast forward a few months. The visa paperwork was submitted and we were anxiously awaiting the verdict on our application. On a sunny Friday afternoon in April we found out that we were approved for our one-year visas. We were ecstatic. This was the closest that I’ve come to crying from joy in a really long time. The kids were literally running around the house whooping it up. We were on cloud nine. Now the serious business of renting out our house and closing up shop in the U.S. could begin.
Cue the screeching breaks
Monday, a mere 3 days later we get a call from Jed’s mom saying that his dad had taken an ambulance ride and was in the hospital due to a health issue. Jed’s dad is very healthy. This came as a huge shock to everyone. Jed was feeling very helpless and we didn’t have a lot of details in the early days. He wasn’t sure if he should fly to see his parents, he wasn’t sure how this would impact life for his dad long term. We had more questions than answers.
As the days progressed we got more information. I won’t get into further detail, but in the end this incident ended up being a warning of a health issue which would have to be more actively monitored and maintained.
Family health issues like this have been a concern for us as we’ve planned our time out of the country. We knew that we may have to get back to the U.S. on short notice to support aging parents. For this reason we’ve been stock piling airline miles and credit card reward points (paying off all balances of course). We’ve debated whether or not to use miles for planned flights that seem a little bit expensive, but in the end we’ve saved them for possible emergencies. Jed’s dad’s episode was our reminder that life can change quickly and it’s good to be prepared.
Once we were assured that Jed’s dad would be okay, we kicked into the serious work of packing up the house and getting it rented out.
Don’t Count Your Chickens…
The process of showing the house and meeting potential renters proved to be a roller-coaster.
We almost got a rental agreement from our first showing. Within 12 hours of listing our house, we showed it to a dual doctor family that decided to complete an application. They could easily afford a house much more expensive than ours and we thought that they seemed too good to be true. Turns out they realized it as well and rented a house on a lake instead of signing our lease.
Another woman completed an application and stated that she was looking at a house for her mother who was relocating from Houston, Texas. However, when the management company tried to contact said mother they were not able to reach anyone. We can’t even guess what was behind this bit of fraud.
One family was interested in the house but they had a signed agreement with another management company. The family was given the impression that the agreement was not as strict as a lease but unfortunately when the family pushed the point they found out that they did in fact have a strict lease in place.
Another couple was planning to relocate to Madison and was very interested in the house. They completed an application which proved that they could afford the rent. However within a week after our showing we received a message from the couple saying that their “work situation had changed.” We assumed that they must have been laid off.
The couple that finally rented the house reached out to us from multiple angles – from our online listings and Jed happened to play on the same soccer team as the tenant’s cousin. The showing went great and the family was well suited for the house and the neighborhood.
Darn College Students
Running in parallel with the renter search was our search for storage. We debated whether or not to rent out our house furnished but quickly realized that most people looking to rent homes in our area have their own stuff that they need to move into the house.
I started to call various storage facilities in early May and found out that storage units in all of the major facilities in town were already rented out. Many had been recently filled up by college students heading home for the summer. DOH!
Time to look a bit further afield. At one point we had two temperature controlled storage units on hold over 50 miles from our house. This was our fall back plan.
Thankfully I found a brand new storage facility nearby that had not previously appeared in my internet searches. In the end we were able to book two units directly across the hall from each other which made it really easy for the movers to unload the moving trucks.
You couldn’t have gotten sick one day earlier?
We transitioned our health care insurance from U.S. coverage to an international expatriate plan in the middle of June. The international policy only provides coverage for catastrophic events that land you in the hospital, so any office visit would be on us.
Wouldn’t you know it, our son woke up the exact day after our coverage expired with a high fever, sore throat, and pretty bad cough. We ended up bringing him to the doctor to test for strep throat – out-of-pocket, of course.
The house was rented, storage units were leased, the movers were booked and all of our going away parties were finally complete. Time to get packing! Everything in our 4-bedroom house needed to get packed up. Simultaneously we needed to select all of the things that would travel with us to Spain. The process was hectic to stay the least.
During the height of our packing, a huge storm ripped through town. We found ourselves seeking shelter in the basement in the middle of the night waiting out a tornado warning. We woke up to a huge limb hanging off of a tree in our backyard. Upon closer inspection we saw that lightening had struck the tree!
While we were very glad that the tree was far from the house, clean-up for the limb ate into several hours of packing time for the day.
What’s up with that barking dog?
The movers had emptied out the house and exposed some very dirty floors. Our plan was to use our last two days in Madison to thoroughly clean the house. Our hope was that if we turned over a very clean house to our renters, then they would be more vested in keeping it that way.
Early on the morning after the movers cleared out the house we heard a dog barking at regular intervals for quite a long time. Our neighbors did not have any loud dogs. When we went to investigate we found that there was an unaccompanied dog on our porch and he looked like he had been there a while.
He had a collar and tag and we tried to approach him but this little guy did not want anyone near him. We gave him a bowl of water and borrowed some dog food from our neighbor. We asked various neighbors if they recognized the dog, and posted a picture to Facebook and to the neighborhood online group but no one responded to the inquiry. With no other option we had to call the dog catcher who arrived 90 minutes later. Thankfully the dog catcher was able to cage the cranky monster and presumably return him to his owner.
At this point I was really beginning to question our luck. I mean lightning strikes to the house, stray dogs showing up randomly, what was up?!?
A Bump in the Night
Departure day was finally here. Everyone slept well except for the bowling ball that dropped on the floor in the middle of the night. Come morning we find out that the bowling ball was really our son V who fell out of bed onto the hardwood floor and landed on his chin.
He was not disturbed by this fact and managed to climb back into bed and fall back asleep. We inspected the damage to his chin the next morning and I can honestly say that if we had not been leaving the country that day, I would have taken him to urgent care for stitches. But seeing as we were leaving in a few hours, we cleaned up the cut and put a band aid on it and kept several extras accessible for the journey ahead.
At the time that all of these events were occurring it seemed that our luck was really off. The true lesson that was reinforced was that any number of things could and would go wrong. What was most important was that now we managed the challenges together as as a family.