Maybe You Should Travel Light

Back in the day, before COVID changed everything, shipping personal & work-related possessions to a new school was, shall we say….an experience! In the seemingly never-ending age of COVID, the already murky waters of international shipping may have turned into an uncharted storm best avoided.

Consider the following:

1. Container ships are experiencing excessively long offshore waits to enter port. The average wait to unload at Long Beach, California, for example, has been just shy of 18 days. If containers can’t get in, yours can’t get out. Who absorbs the cost of a ship’s downtime at anchor?

2. Dock-side containers waiting pickup & delivery can sit for weeks, incurring storage fees of up to $300 per day. This because truckers are in short supply. It’s a no-brainer who absorbs that charge.

3. Empty containers are at a premium. The cost to rent one has skyrocketed instep with supply & demand. The price will surely be reflected in the final bill.

4. Oil prices are climbing worldwide, resulting in increased costs to operate ships, trucks & dock-side equipment.

5. Delays not only incur substantial additional fees but negatively impact the personal/professional lives of everyone waiting for much needed articles to arrive.

Prior to COVID, the international shipping business had a well-deserved reputation for “unforeseen fees” & paperwork ‘snafus’ that added up to a pricier move than originally quoted. Factor in today’s COVID-induced shipping loggerhead & your school’s shipping allowance could look like peanuts in comparison to your final bill. (See the ISR Discussion Topic: Don’t Get Burnt with International Shipping.)

A Solution:

International Schools which offer a shipping allowance normally allow that money to be spent at the teacher’s discretion. Avoiding sea shipments altogether & sticking to air may be the way to go. Air is by far & away more expensive, but if you seriously pare down your shipment, the essentials will arrive in time for the school year. For teachers returning home to their country of record, time may not be a concern.

At this milestone in the history of the pandemic, traveling light with just the essentials stuffed into a couple of suitcases could be the way to go. Household items along with living necessities can be purchased upon arrival using the unspent shipping allowance.

With new variants of COVID bursting onto the scene, the shipping industry could suffer increasingly costly setbacks, most, if not all, of which will passed on to the consumer, YOU. Imagine leaving all your possessions behind due to an previously unimaginable cost to ship them home!

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

14 thoughts on “Maybe You Should Travel Light

  1. I have a tradition of moving overland/sea between each post, giving everything away and only taking what I can carry. It’s really nice to give away what I have bought to help other new teachers, sell a few things, and really consider if I love something enough to carry it on my back across half the world through several weeks. Bonus- you bank the moving costs and save it for something else!


  2. I can get everything I own (other than a motorcycle and a guitar) into 2 large suitcases. I take fully furnished apartments wherever I go and if I buy something, I dispose of a current possession to make space. I’m not suggesting for a second that this is right, or even possible, for many people, but it makes me profoundly happy.


  3. Well, air shipping hasn’t worked for me, either. Seems Customs is finding new ways to seize packages if it includes stuff they want. So if it can’t be checked in luggage through to my final destination, it simply can’t come.

    Good luck to everyone downsizing or “starting over”. Inflation is a monster.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I followed that exact same logic the five years I worked in China after having a hell of a time shipping stuff there in 2014. I spent more in customs fees and hongbaos to get my stuff out of port than I did sending it all the way there. It was more than simply replacing the stuff locally. Paying for an extra suitcase or two is the way to go.


  4. I’ve been dealing with a shipping nightmare for a year now thanks to this Covid BS, and I was told that air shipping isn’t even possible from my current location. Thanks to shipping problems and the impossibility of getting where I want to go using sea shipping, I’m still stuck here. My stuff is not easily replaced, so downsizing is not an option. I just have to wait it out until shipping is finally normal again.


  5. Early in my overseas career I carried way to much stuff with me after my second or third posting I realized I could always find what I needed overseas. Of course it might look different or be cheaper but generally I managed. I have know some crazy teachers moving stuff around the world that I would often shake my head at. One guy in Alaska shipped 50 boxes of books. He had a had time getting them all into his tiny apt. out in the Bush. I knew a gal in Kuwait who bought 15-20 rugs and the cost of shipping them back to Texas was more than the value of all the rugs she had bought. I have many stories like this in my 25 years over seas. Travel light go fast and go far. Always have comfortable shoes ready to walk.


  6. I back products on kickstarter, and most of my projects are reporting shipping container costs jumping from 2000euros to 24,000-30,000euros with a 12-18month delay and NO guarantee of addition increases.

    Please pay attention to this article.


  7. Yes! I downsized when Covid hit.

    My reasoning was not just cost, but also the precarious nature of living overseas during Covid. I saw people fleeing the country when the virus began to spread. I saw teachers get stuck outside the country, having to pay rent on a full apartment for months.

    Now I am down to a couple of suitcases. I feel better knowing I am ready to leave at short notice.


  8. My current shipment has been in storage in my previous country since May of 2021 because I am unable to get into my new country to receive it. For various reasons I cannot work from my passport country, so I am living as a digital nomad on a tourist visa in a third country. I have just paid to keep everything stored in the port in the sending country until May of 2022 but still trying to decide what to do with it after that. I never really minded the wait for my belongings when shipping by sea, and I have shipped by air once before, but my current state of residency limbo means I don’t know where to send my belongings without having some idea of when they will arrive.


  9. I did air, but I had it planned out from the off, as I knew it was tough to get stuff in or out of that country. It was awesome. Set dimensions which the packers got spot on. No hidden costs and was so, so quick. No beautiful furniture but tons of fantastic smaller pieces I had collected along the way.
    I did a land one after that which was horrifically expensive. I hate removal firms!


    1. Which company did you use?

      My wife and are moving back from Asia to Europe this summer and were reluctantly having to let go of some our bigger things but we still have plenty of stuff we want to take back.


  10. My shipment of household furniture and belongings has been held up in India for 7 months with no prospect on when I can expect the FCL to be shipped onward, let alone arrive in Canada.


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