We are moving this year, and we sure are going to miss our place in Guam! I know we’ll never get a beachfront condo again (where else could we afford such a thing?)
It has been amazing to wake up and see the ocean each day, but it’s time to go back to seeing a fence and more houses behind it. Setting aside how much I will miss our home here in Tumon Bay, moving with the military involves a lot of paperwork and red tape. I thought I would write about what it is like, for those who don’t know.
People keep asking “Have you started packing yet?”
The answer is no. We aren’t allowed to pack our stuff, because then we could hide drugs or guns in it. They pack it for us (like we’re children.) We have no say over how things are wrapped or boxed. Movers come, pack our things, and take them away. We get a receipt and the vague hope that we’ll see any of it again one day.
I have also had many people ask “Are you throwing away all the trash in your house?”
Again, no. Both of us are so used to moving that we don’t keep things that we don’t need in our house anymore. Sometimes this means regretting that I threw away something that could have been useful later. However, I have moved more than twenty times in the last twenty years. Rich has moved six times in the last ten years. At this point, we just re-gift or throw away pretty much everything (I say this with the sincerest apologies to my mother, who likes to get me things like artificial snowballs.)
I feel bad, since I know that the reason people ask this stuff is because they want to relate to us and say “Oh yeah, I know what that is like.”
Believe me: I appreciate every single one of you. Thank you for trying to relate to me and make connections with me. It means so much! But the truth is that it’s this whole different world when you live a nomad lifestyle. And with the military, it’s a whole different world, plus red tape. It’s just not an easy life to relate to.
Now, I may not have to worry about packing or throwing away trash. But, there are a lot of things that I do have to worry about. With the military, we are required to fill out more paperwork than you can imagine.
We have to have a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) binder. They require special forms and appraisal information for my paintings. They require very thorough medical checks for both of us. Then there is the power of attorney forms we have to get so we can sign for each other (since he’s going to school in Japan and I am going straight to our next duty station in Hawaii.) There is also the checklist to make sure that our phones, cars, etc are all sorted, and that has to be turned in to the command. Not to mention all the paperwork we have to turn in to housing.
As to the cars: Yes, the military would pay for us to ship one vehicle. A lot of you have said that we should take what is owed to us and ship one of our cars. However, I have never owned a car nice enough that I think your tax dollars should be used to ship it. We buy beater cars because we’ll only have them for a couple years, and then we sell them when I go. It’s just easier that way, and means we don’t have to wait months on the other end for our car to show up.
There are two shipments of our stuff: Household goods and express. Both will probably take 16 weeks to get from Guam to Hawaii, so we’ll get to live without our stuff for quite awhile. As to why they call one of them “express,” many jokes are made about that in the military, but the real answer is that no one knows.
Another fun thing is that they aren’t really going to give me enough money to stay in a hotel while I house-hunt. Rich will be off at school and they will be paying for him to have a hotel and per diem as well. But me? All I get is the housing allowance for Hawaii (enough for a two week hotel stay.) I either get to make friends to stay with really fast, or try to make it work staying in the youth hostel in Waikiki with all my stuff.
I suppose normal couples get to look at houses together, but they are not in the military. In the military, they just send the spouses ahead with a boatload of paperwork and not enough resources, and expect us to set everything up for our active duty spouses. (Then find a job and help with the mortgage because BAH -or Basic Housing Allowance- is way too low in Hawaii.)
I have been asked why we don’t just rent, and I get that. I am sure it seems like it would be easier. However, most people build personal wealth over the course of their lives by owning and paying off property. If we just rent everywhere we go for the rest of our lives (with rents everywhere being higher than mortgage payments), we’ll have nothing when we are old.
A mortgage costs less than rent in Hawaii, and that money is going to equity in the home (meaning we can get it back by selling.) Since housing will take up 70% of our total income in Hawaii, it sure would be nice to get some of it back, don’t you think?
Also, even though no one has asked: Yes, I’m nervous.
I’m scared of job hunting and house hunting and starting all over again. I am scared of having to make new friends and learn new street names. I am scared of having to buy us a house, get us two cars, set up our utilities, and get furniture off craigslist all without help. I am scared of having to deal with all the military red tape and paperwork without Rich to sort it out. I am scared that something will happen to him in Japan (he did get hit by a car the one night I left him alone in Korea- so I worry!)
But, I am also excited. This is our next adventure! Will we have a house as nice as the one in Guam? No! We really won’t. But I am hopeful that I will find a great job with fun co-workers, and that we’ll make awesome friends and find all new beaches to enjoy. I am always looking forward, and I am sure we’ll make our next adventure a good one. It just might take a while to settle in.