We arrived on Guam with emergency cash, documents and an advanced shipment of necessary belongings. Unfortunately, an 8.2 earthquake destroyed our hotel and damaged the unloading docks, leaving us — at least temporarily — with just a rental car and the clothes on our back. Clearly, it was time to re-evaluate our settling-in strategy.
Even under normal circumstances, unfurling in a new location requires more than just a simple unpacking strategy. Here are our top tips.
—Networking: Check out international organizations that offer networking opportunities to global travelers. For example, Hash House Harriers, an international running club formed in the late 1930s, has chapters all over the world, including Guam, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Meetup.com allows individuals of any interest category to connect throughout the United States. In Kuwait, there are both Canadian and American citizens groups, as well as a French language association. Nora Dunn ( www.theprofessionalhobo.com) is a member of Rotary International, a global service organization that not only provides her with immediate opportunities for service, but an instant network of local contacts that are happy to help a newbie. And don't forget university alumni associations, trade groups and other professional organizations, with chapters in the U.S. and abroad.
—Infrastructure: During international moves, an ironing board, French press and chairs rank high on our must-have list. Other seasoned travelers, with special needs or diets ease the pain of relocation by traveling with back-up supplies of medicine, medical equipment and cooking supplies. During an extended stay in Scotland, Greenland and Iceland, one traveler filled individual Ziplock bags with coffee, spices and other nonperishable food items. The storage bags were stuffed into paper towel tubes and then stashed in her luggage. This strategy created a portable supply of kitchen ingredients. With that stock, she prepared meals while staying in rented homes in Europe. Donna Frose, an international teacher whose career has taken her to the U.A.E., Singapore, Kuwait and Ecuador, has a different set of priorities. Arriving with one set of bed linens and a pillow, she immediately searches out a couch, membership in the local Canadian Women's League chapter and the nearest diet cola supply.
—Routine: New digs mean new routines for everything from banking, grocery shopping and medical care. While living in Paris, we used an informal alumni association to help us find the best deals in entertainment, groceries and clothing. For example, an old college friend provided information about great parties and events, including a poetry reading at an elegant bookstore in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of Paris. After moving from New York City to South Beach in Miami, a network of friends and family helped us find affordable housing, supermarkets, health care and restaurants.