Let’s Just Leave the Country Again, Shall We?

Yesterday we went luggage shopping, for proper hard-shell wheelie bags, the kind that grown-ups buy. The kind that cost more than, say, free.

It’s not that I don’t own any luggage. I do. I own all the bags and suitcases that people all over the world had already discarded and passed on to me in previous times of epic moving-my-life panic. There’s a stack of them in my parents’ basement, dating back to my Cape Town era at the turn of the century.

This time, I needed something to move my life that wasn’t falling apart already and held together with duct tape and grime, and I needed it quickly.


lightweight expandable

I am both expandable AND lightweight, just like my new luggage.


In about 4 days, I’m moving to the UK.

About three days ago, we suddenly, unexpectedly, received my passport complete with the elusive spouse settlement visa stamped across one of its pages.

About a week before that, we had received yet another terse email from the border agency dudes in Sheffield, saying we still needed to submit Difficult to Procure Chinese Document X if we wanted to be approved, which we promptly did and which they never even acknowledged having received.

Which is why the DHL delivery dude and his little yellow parcel came as such a surprise.

After over three months of non-stop, low-level stress and scurrying and elusive document hunting and bureaucratically critical emails filling my inbox, I was, quite frankly, stunned.

It had all just screeched to a mighty successful stop.

Visa in hand, the reality is sinking in and it’s interesting, to say the least. We have to move quickly as I’m in the last week of my 2nd trimester and flying after that is awkward and complicated, needing doctors’ notes and airlines that are okay with carrying women in their third trimester (many won’t, as a matter of policy).

Thus the hasty quest for wheelie bags yesterday and this morning’s flurry of sorting through my life’s possessions to determine which are essential enough to be included in the 33kg luggage allowance, factoring in a shitload of gifted baby clothes and maternity-friendly clothes. I’ll be leaving a lot behind- again.

Kevin the Panda is one likely victim, as are the Hippo and Elephant. My fabric market silk tunics. My Moroccan lamp, my Indonesian shadow puppets, my absurdly heavy little Buddha statue, all of my books.



I shall miss you, Miss Shimahippo (10 points to anyone who catches the gratuitous Murakami reference)


All this sorting and mental shuffling and packing and repacking is so familiar to me that it is second nature.

The idea of suddenly leaving and abruptly moving somewhere entirely different, far far away, tossing my current (albeit intentionally temporary) life aside without much fuss or apprehension, jettisoning previously acquired personal detritus, poised to start again with a different combination of clothes and small decorative objects is nothing new. I’ve been doing it for twenty years now on a fairly regular basis; it’s more normal than staying in one place for an extended period of time.

This particular trajectory is both deeply, comfortably familiar (I used to live in London, many moons ago, and spent a good chunk of this summer bouncing around the country) and completely unfathomable (holy fuck, I’m married and having a baby in February and we don’t even have a job or even a city lined up yet).

And come Wednesday afternoon at Gatwick Airport, at a time when my knocked-up app says I should be painting the nursery and nesting and being gentle with myself (don’t lift more than 20 pounds, it bellows with regularity, or you might break yourself or the baby!), I shall be hauling 33kg (+10kg of carry-on baggage) of bags across London then up to Leicestershire and onward to somewhere as yet undetermined to start the next chunk of my life. And I’m cool with that.


I can’t complain.


I am, however, entering into this new move with a small mental caveat.

About a week ago, my shamanic-healer cousin (Rachel, when your website is up, let me link you here!) treated me to a session of her craft, which brought up one thing that really stuck with me afterward.

It’s all a bit metaphorical, but it goes something like this:

Your self is a flock of seagulls.  Each place you go, some seagulls stay behind, not wanting to leave.  Then you pick up a whole new bunch of  seagulls in your next destination.  Eventually, you become a massive mishmashed collection of new and original seagulls from all over the world, with a lot of your original flock scattered across all the places you left. Result: you can feel scattered and a bit uncentered, rooted to nothing. Parts of you are still in Ireland or Cape Town or London or Istanbul or Shanghai or wherever. Parts of you are still at home in Canada. Parts of you may not feel entirely like your original self because you acquired them along the way and you’re still getting to know these weird foreign gulls. 

What do you do with this conglomeration of unaffiliated international seagulls? How can we move yet again, without leaving too many gulls behind? How can one find a home (whether tangible or otherwise) for a coherent whole self when global movement is inevitable?

Restless people out there- travellers and expats and all of you lot: How do you keep your core whole when you bounce around the world? Do you keep (or want) a tangible home?

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.