Family walking

Follow the Ma Family’s Big Move

23 March 2022

So the house is on the market, the tickets are booked and the baby’s passport has arrived. It’s really happening. Our expat adventure is about to begin.

It’s been a long time in the planning. Our family – mom, dad, a son, aged eight, a daughter aged four and another son, aged two – have talked about moving from Ireland to Canada for years. My husband has family there, and there are opportunities for further training and experience in our jobs as doctors.

As any expat will tell you, the first part of any journey overseas begins with paperwork, which we started more than two years ago (COVID-19 delays pushed out our citizenship process). We’ve spent months filling out forms of every type, from passport renewals to social security applications, all the way to health care questionnaires.  We’ve had to dig out our marriage certification, request vaccination records and compile school reports. Thank goodness for email – I can only imagine how hard this was before the internet. Still, our ‘expat prep’ folder is getting bigger by the day.

Travelling so far, and to such a different part of the world can be daunting, especially with small children. We’ve been trying to prepare them by explaining how exciting the adventure will be – particularly as it’s their first flight since the global pandemic. There’ll be snow to look forward to, and tobogganing, and catch-ups with their Canadian cousins. My eldest son is mostly excited about all the maple syrup he’s going to eat!

The grown-ups are more concerned about making sure we’re prepared for the unexpected as we embark on a transatlantic move. That means organising comprehensive health insurance. For us, the peace of mind of knowing we’re protected is invaluable, particularly as we’ll be going straight into winter sports such as skiiing and ice skating. The occasional tumble is a normal part of growing up, but with the proper expat health insurance in place, we know we can get help when we need it, wherever we are in the world.

Putting our home on the market was a bittersweet experience. It makes sense to sell, as we don’t know when or if we’ll be returning to Dublin, but it’s still difficult to close the door on a place that holds so many happy memories. It’s also been a challenge trying to keep it clean and tidy for viewings, while emptying cupboards, packing luggage and dismantling bunk beds. Saying goodbye to the lovely people who have helped to care for our sons and daughter was also very poignant: we’re so grateful to the amazing childminders, teachers and instructors who were such a big part of the childrens’ lives over the last eight years.

We’re selling or donating most of our bulky furniture, and shipping the rest of our belongings, which means the kids have had to say a temporary goodbye to some of their favourite toys. We’ve promised them new ones, but there are still a few tears shed over crucial Lego pieces and VIP Barbies that are currently sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.

So here I am, surrounded by boxes, getting ready to move my family to another continent and start a new chapter abroad. Relocating has its challenges, but I know that there will be great rewards too, with plenty of opportunities to find joy in expat life.

Next month, I’ll be writing from our new home in Northwestern Canada. First on the shopping list for when we arrive? A family-sized bottle of pure maple syrup!