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07/28/2021

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Michael Walschots

I'm 5 years post PhD - did my PhD in Canada, first postdoc in Scotland for 2 years, then a 1 year teaching job in Canada, then a few postdocs in Germany. My wife and I also spent a year in Germany during my PhD. So I've essentially moved my family across an ocean a few times, and now we have a child so our next move is going to be even more intense. Here's a few things I've learned just off the top of my head:
1) Don't delay and just commit 100% to a completely digital book collection immediately. It sucks for a number of reasons, but moving physical books is impossible. I've only done this recently, where I only ever buy books in digital format and I invested in the e-reader of my choice and apps that do what I want them to do and my research life is much simpler.
2) As Marcus said in the post, I'd say there is the month prior to the move and at least 2 months after the move where you should expect to get little to no work done. There are so many administrative headaches about moving, not to mention the packing, unpacking, finding a place to live, etc., that it's very difficult to work at all. Just be realistic about your expectations.
3) related to 2: try not to schedule conferences immediately before and after a move (if they require travel). I've made the mistake of doing this and, among other things, can add to the stress of your partner (if you have one) who is suddenly alone dealing with things while you're away.
4) Think very hard about what having kids abroad will mean - it's complicated. More than anything else, the amount of stuff you acquire once you have kids is ... monumental haha. So if you plan to have kids, be prepared to hire a shipping container to move it all once you leave.
5) Last but not least: think very carefully about whether moving far away for your career is worth it. Job prospects in the profession are VERY low, so taking a 1-2 year job in a place you don't want to live (or that your partner will hate), for a career that may never come, might not be worth it at all. In fact, I would probably discourage people from taking 1 year positions that are far away entirely - they just aren't worth the hassle of moving and then relocating again.

I'm sure there are other things that others will think of.

Mover and shaker

I think I might count as senior, but I still have a good sense of the impact of moving for my career. I moved a lot between the PhD and my first TT job - four times (and twice across North America - I should not exaggerate, the one time was only 3000 km.). I even moved recently, 6 time zones. I have worked in 4 countries.
The key is to make things easy for yourself. It is worth paying for a mover to move your stuff. It encourages you to only keep what you need, and it saves you from killing your body. Outsource stresses. It is worth getting a convenient apartment when you first move, even if it is a bit more costly. You want to make it easy to get to work, and you want to make it easy to get to an airport, if you are still on the job market.
Take advantage of things like faculty housing where it exists - it may cost more, but it will be convenient. I have lived in faculty housing three times - it is worth it.
In good cities, and there are some, there are many inexpensive culture experiences to take advantage of. Be sure to do it. First, it is good for you. Second, it will connect you with a city. Third, that is the sort of thing that you will remember years from now, when you are living far away.

Assistant Professor

Regarding out of touch aspects: I got the sense that senior members of the field were dismissive of the social/emotional dynamics of having to move, let alone to locations generally out of your choosing. A lot of pressure placed on feeling lucky/grateful to have a job/postdoc/fellowship for which to move. But every move is not only a logistical undertaking, it is a life undertaking. I agree with Michael above on point #5 to think strongly about the goals of a move and whether it fits into one's overall values and objectives.

My one piece of advice: if you can afford it (or better yet, negotiate for it in your hiring) get the professional packers and movers. It is way more efficient than doing it yourself.

Harold

I don't mean to sound like I'm attacking 'Mover and shaker' here, but it strikes me that their comment could come across as very off-putting for someone who is actually in the position suggested by the post, i.e., an early career person moving from post-doc to post-doc, between adjuncting jobs, or whatever.

I imagine that most people in this situation will not be thinking 'oh, I could spend all this money I accumulated during my years on the dole at State U on professional movers, but then I wouldn't be able to buy that new silverware service for the faculty accommodation the temporary lecturers are provided on this 9-month contract'.

I imagine most people in this position will be personally on the hook for all costs associated with a move, including visa fees if the move is international. In my experience, these have been outrageously expensive, in some cases amounting to 15% of my annual pay.

I don't have any good advice for anyone, my experience has been that moving frequently for several years at the beginning of my career was a huge setback in terms of research time, was hugely expensive, and meant that I couldn't really own more than would fit in suitcases. Very good luck to everyone facing this, and it's great to see people talking about a barrier to access that hasn't been talked about much (in my experience).

rutabagas

If your finances are tight and you're working with a small or nonexistent relocation budget, and if you're moving within the US, Amtrak is the cheapest way I found to ship belongings. (I believe Greyhound ships too, and that may even be cheaper, but tbh I trust Amtrak more.) It's not fast, but everything I shipped arrived intact, and, if you live anywhere near a train station, it's pretty convenient.

Mover and shaker

Harold
The first time I lived in faculty housing I had a two year contract position. It is not some sort of special deal for the elite. It was a service that university had because the city had inflated housing prices.
Further, paying for movers - even a trans-continental move - is cheaper than the cost of maintaining a car for a year. In fact, I did not own a car until I was 39 years old.

Puzzled

Regarding mover and shaker's moving costs estimation: the average of the 5 quotes I received for a 3000km move in NA this summer was $12k. This was for a modestly-furnished two bedroom. Even the PODs service I eventually used cost more than annual car maintenance, at $5k.

nomadic fortress

I've done a number of budget moves in the US ranging in distance from 1000 to 2000 miles. Here are some things that worked.

1. USPS Media Mail can be used to ship books for a reasonable rate (~$25 for a 40 lb. box). I've shipped them directly to my new department (with the blessings of the department admin, of course).

2. U-Pack/ABF generally has good rates for shipping larger items. The version where you pack up the back of a semi has always been cheaper than the cube (which is the competitor with the much more pricey pod).

3. For moves with less stuff, old cargo vans are great. Reliable ones can usually be found in the $3-5K range. Ford/Chevy are popular in the trades, and hence easy to resell.

4. I'm a fan of Google Street View to scope out neighborhoods. The bougie apartments marketed to academics, as well as temp places on sabbaticalhomes.com, are generally above my price range (I've not been offered 'faculty housing'). Smaller local landlords usually come through with more affordable rents that IMO are a better value, though my standards are not very high.

5. Moving frequently has made me (and my family) reconsider what sort of 'stuff' is important, and it turns out that we don't need all that much. Most of what gets moved these days is books, some items related to our hobbies, and smaller things I've inherited from dead relatives.

stm

I am fairly surprised to not see more people saying they've just had to gut it out, rent the U-Haul/Penske truck, and make the long drive from one place to another. Not saying this is the best option for going coast-to-coast, but do people still do this for, say, a move that is approx. a 12/15 hour drive? Does anyone want to chime in as to why they've decided against this moving means? For someone in my position who is likely to have little to no moving funds from the department, and who used U-Haul frequently for moving around town while in grad school, this is my first thought as an option.

Ian

stm, I have done exactly as you describe here. I have moved five times for jobs, as well as several brief summer moves to live with my partner over the summer. All of the jobs were in the US midwest or east coast. All of the jobs were temporary except for my current tenure-track job.

1. If you are easily-satisfied (and alone, possibly), do not fly out to find an apartment or house. Either arrange a one-week airbnb or hotel stay when you arrive to find a place, or find a higher-priced apartment complex with good reviews online and bite the bullet on something sight-unseen. [This is for temporary jobs, of course.] I say "higher-priced", because you really *do not* want to rent a shitty apartment or house; it will ruin your productivity and well being. Decent housing should be the last thing you cut from your budget imo. I learned this the hard way during my first VAP job. Also, try to find one near a bus line.

2. UHaul (NOT BUDGET!). If you need help moving, don't hire movers for the entire trip. It's way too expensive. Just hire movers to pack/unpack the truck. If you're not shy, you can ask students at the university you're moving to help you unload (and pay them of course!). If you have a car, you can tow your car with UHaul equipment. A UHaul + Tow will cost you about $800-1000 for a east coast to midwest trip or vice versa. Movers unloading your truck will cost about $100-200 in my experience.

3. Consider selling your heavy furniture before a move and buying new stuff when you get there. If you rid yourself of large furniture, you can probably move everything yourself without needing to hire movers. I once had *one single* heavy item of furniture. I would offer people on the street $20 to help me move it every time I moved. I always found someone to help.

nomadic fortress

@stm You're right: UHaul or similar may be a good option for shorter moves.

Still, I'm not convinced that it's always the cheapest option. It can be a good value if the mover does not own a vehicle and uses the truck as their transportation to the new destination. But, if you don't have a vehicle, you probably don't have state minimum insurance, and adding it on to a rental can be expensive.

The times that I used ABF/U-Pack (for longer moves), the shipping charge ended up being cheaper - by even a thousand dollars - than a truck rental fee. Since I had a vehicle that I figured would make it to the new destination, that worked out. Again - YMMV for shorter moves.

I also learned that towing a vehicle behind a U-Haul is not fun. Getting in and out of gas stations and parking lots can be an interesting experience, especially if one does not have experience towing a trailer. Granted, my experience may be colored by the fact that I was a road warrior back then and my partner and I did the 24 hour drive straight through - don't do that, either!

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