THE SIMI EDIT YOUTUBE CHANNEL IS LIVE - CHECK IT OUT AND SUBSCRIBE

So! For years I capture footage from my many travels and never got around to doing anything manfully with them. One of my blog goals this year was to dig up the footage and make something of it. Hence, the youtube channel to complement the blog posts . There is no schedule for posting yet, but my goal will be to have at least two videos loaded per month (maybe more depending on my volume of travel in any given period).

I just posted a short video from our Easter holiday in Prague. We had an excellent time and hoped you see why in this video. I will appreciate it if you will check out the video; give it a like and subscribe. Also, share with a friend and tell them to subscribe here. If you need more Prague inspiration - click here for my guide to Prague.

THE LONDON GUIDE - THIRTY-FIVE FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

I have avoided sharing a London guide for the last year and a half because there is just so much to do/see/ eat and pulling a post together was a tad daunting. I decided to break up the blog posts between the attractions; the food; markets; festivals, etc. and that way it seemed significantly less daunting. Kicking off the London series with a list we can all get on board with - FREE. Thirty-five things you can see and do in the city without spending a penny

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1. See Big Ben. If you are visiting before summer 2020, you will likely find this icon covered in scaffolding for long overdue renovations; but that does not make it any less of an iconic site in the city. Stop by to visit and explore the area around Big Ben; stroll along Westminister bridge including an incredible view of the London eye (riding the London eye will cost you money, but you can see it for free).

2. Visit the Tate Modern. Perhaps one of my favorite museums in London (and the World). I love this museum for so many reasons including the view of the St Paul’s from the 6th-floor cafe - very few views of St. Paul’s Cathedral as amazing as this one. The permanent exhibitions are free to see; a temporary exhibition carries a price tag.

3. Visit Regent's Park. Visit Queen Mary's garden to see the most extensive collection of Roses in London; pack a picnic and have a lazy afternoon exploring the grounds. If you are feeling to a trek/light workout, then make your way across the park to Primrose Hill.

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4. Hike Primrose Hill. The hill is located on the northern side of Regent's park and on a clear day you get a clear view of central London; Belsize Park and Hampstead.

5. Visit platform 9 3/4. London is home to several Harry Potter specific sights; you can catch the play or take a Harry Potter tour of London and while all of those will cost you. Visiting Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross (outside the Harry Potter shop) is free. The queue can be long, but it is always orderly.

6. Visit the sky garden. Spectacular view of the city from the Sky Garden; if you are in search of greenery in the cold months or just want a fantastic city view - head over to the Sky garden. While it is free, you have to reserve a spot on their website here and make sure to arrive early. There are restaurants and bars you can dine at with a reservation which also gets you access to the garden. However, if you just want access to the garden - reserve your spot and prepare to be awed.

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7. (Window) Shop on Oxford Street. Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping street in the world and while I try to avoid it as much as possible - if you are visiting here; I think it is a spot to visit at list once. Stop by Selfridges for the ultimate window shopping.

8. Visit the National Gallery. Located on Trafalgar Square, the national gallery is a personal favorite in the city; it is home to over 2,000 paintings some of which date back to the 13th century.

9. Explore Kensington Gardens. Access to Kensington palace requires a ticket (paid ticket); However, exploring the gardens is entirely free home to one of the city's most ornate monuments - the Albert memorial. It is also home to the statue of Queen Victoria and Peter Pan. You can also visit the Italian garden or wander the allotment.

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10. Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This generally occurs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sundays at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m., but you are advised to get there early - I recommend taking your spot no later than 10:15 a.m. The celebration lasts about forty-five minutes. Before visiting, you can confirm the dates and times of the event here.

11. Visit Holland Park and the Japanese Garden. One of the lesser know parks for those who do not live in London; but a very favorite destination for residents. There is quite a bit to see/explore here, but my favorite spot is the Japanese garden. Watch the majestic peacocks and if you visit at the right time in spring - you can photograph the most beautiful cherry blossoms.

12. Explore Portobello Market and Notting Hill. While it was the backdrop for the famous 90's RomCom featuring Julia R and Hugh G; the market is famous all by its self. It is the most notable street markets in Europe where you can shop for antiques; second-hand clothes; food; and enjoy street performances. - then you already know about Portobello road and the market which was featured in the movie Notting Hill.

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13. Flower shopping at Columbia Street Flower Market. This Sunday market is one of my favorite things to do on Sundays. Come rain or shine, the market is open till 1 p.m., and you can pick up the lushest floral arrangements. The area around the market has also got some fantastic bakeries; restaurants and coffee shops so you can make a day of exploring this part of London.

14. The Mayfield Lavender Farm. This is not free, but for 1 pound admission fee it might as well be. While Provence will always hold the price for sighting lavender; a very (close) second best is the Mayfield Lavender farm.

15. Recreate the Album Cover on Abbey Road. Warning - do this at you peril. This is a bustling road; but if you are patient and plan accordingly, you can recreate the iconic Beatles album cover on Abbey Road, just outside the studio where some of their hits were recorded.

16. Explore Borough Market. This is possibly the most known street food market in Europe; obviously, you have to pay to eat here (and I highly recommend it and have shared a post here to help you with the dining options); but you can also just walk through the market taking in the sights and scents and characters of the market.

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17. Visit Barbican Conservatory. I cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Keep in mind the conservatory is only open certain Sundays and bank holidays during the year; it is the second largest conservatory in the city, and it is entirely free to visit. For a fee, you can also have afternoon tea in the conservatory; afternoon tea requires reservations on the conservatory website.

18. Visit Somerset House. Somerset house is known for its winter skating rink; During the summer months, the water fountains are a perfect destination to cool off from the summer temperatures. The house also hosts several exhibitions during the year; most of which are free including free guided tours three days a week.

19. Photo op at Trafalgar Square. The iconic Trafalgar square is one of the most known public squares in Europe and if you are heading to the National gallery; then you are already there; get your picture in the iconic square with the fountains as a backdrop; if you are visiting London at Christmas, don't miss the annual Norwegian tree.

20. Spend an afternoon at Neal’s Yard. Hidden down a tiny/narrow street in the seven dials; this is one of the prettiest streets in the city and while it covers a small area; you can spend hours here. It is a destination for locals and visitors alike with a variety of shops, spas; coffee bars, and restaurants.

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21. Explore Covent Garden. If you are visiting Neal's yard; then you should make a stop to Covent Garden for a shopping and food experience that is uniquely London; you will also find the transport museum here (paid), and you can take in a variety of street performances.

22. Explore the colorful streets of Hampstead. Hampstead does not come up on a lot of London guides, but you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't explore this part of London. It is like a village within the city. My favorite way to explore is on foot starting from the high street; then on to the Holly Bush; Hampstead Heath; Flask wall and others.

23. Explore the Natural History Museum. This is one of my favorite destinations to escape to in London; entry is free, but you may have to pay to visit a special exhibition. It is located in South Kensington and if you are already here; you should plan to stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum

24. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum. While the museum is free; a donation is requested (if you can) and why not. The museum is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design including Michaelangelo's David. When you are done exploring, you can retire to one of the three cafes on the grounds for nourishment; treat yourself to afternoon tea in the historic Morris room (Fridays only) - reservations required. There is also a kid-friendly courtyard for your little ones to run around.

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25. Walk along Tower Bridge. It will cost you to visit the tower bridge exhibition aka the glass floor above the bridge; however, the trek across the bridge is free, and you can plan your itinerary to coincide with the lifting of the drawbridge. You can find the lift schedule here. The closest train station to access the bridge is Tower-hill.

26. Stroll along the Thames. The Thames path is about 23 miles long starting at Hampton court to the Albert Bridge with lots of beautiful scenery along the way, so I don't propose you trek it all; pick a start and stop point and stick to that. Save the rest for a different trip.

27. Explore Street Art in Shoreditch. You can pay a tour guide to take you around the area to see all the street art, or you can save your coins and wander Shoreditch on your own. You will have the best luck spotting street arts on these streets - Shoreditch high street; Fashion Street; Brick lane and Toynbee Street.

28. Explore Tate Britain. Not to be confused with the Tate Modern; The Tate Britain is a must visit - it holds the most extensive collection of British art after the National Gallery. The art collection, which includes the works of Turner; Reynolds and Hogarth is exceptional

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29. Complete the South Bank Walk. The South Bank walk itself begins at Westminster bridge and ends at St. Pauls. However, my favorite bit is abridged. I start at Borough market and trek along the bank toward Tate Modern; passing Shakespeare globe along the way; I like to make a stop in at the Tate Modern to take in the latest exhibition before making my way across Millenium footbridge to get to St. Paul. For the best view of the Cathedral, head over to the rooftop terrace at One New Change.

30. Explore the British Museum. It reportedly is home of a permanent collection of over eight million works of art sourced during the era of the British empire.

31. Visit the House of Parliament. Watch British democracy unfold at the house of Commons or House of Lords. To observe the proceedings, it is recommended you reserve well in advance.

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32. Visit St James Park. At watching the changing of the guides; take time to explore St. James Park. The park is in proximity to Buckingham Palace and other landmarks and includes the mall and horse guard parade.

33. Explore Camden Market. Another favorite market - we have got a load of those here; I love Camden market because it still seems like a secret place for locals and it has got vintage shops; food and artisans - everything my heart craves.

34. Stop by Picadilly Circus. This round open space is one stop I recommend you make at night - it is so much more magical at night. It located in London's West End and connected Piccadilly to Regent-street.

35.Watch Deers at Richmond Park. Charles, I created the park in the 17th century as a deer park, and you can see these beauties on a trek across the park. A trip to Richmond park can take up to an hour and a half depending on your base in the city so plan accordingly.

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FIVE LIFE LESSONS FROM MY TIME IN SAO PAULO // SAO PAULO , BRAZIL

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What an experience ? I still pinch myself when I remember my time in Sao Paulo. The opportunity to visit Brazil and spend time in this city has been one of the most significant life experiences of my thirties. Unfortunately, I don’t have a guide for you because I spent most of my time in the city working or commuting to and from work and/or nourishments. However, through interactions in those settings, I discovered away of being and life in Sao Paulo that I think I (we) could all do more with in our day to day.

KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. I cannot even tell you how many times strangers stopped to help me without prompting or asking. They saw the perplexed look on my face and always stopped to help. There were at least two occasions where I handed my phone to strangers to give the Uber driver directions on how to find me. The Sunday afternoon I arrived, I decided to make the most of the free afternoon to explore the city. I ended up at a cafe trying to figure out the paper map because my phone was acting up. A lady at the restaurant spent ten minutes helping me sort out how to get where I wanted to go. That willingness to lend a hand was really touching and made me love the people more. How could I forget mentioning after a meeting how several friends in the states had asked me to bring back Brazilian coffee but we were working too late for me to get to the supermarket before they closed. A member of the team made plans for someone to pick up coffee packs for me and my colleagues delivered to the office. If we all made a daily effort to give/show kindness - imagine how much better our communities will be.

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LEARNING TO SLOW DOWN THE PACE OF LIFE. The pace of life in Brazil is slower than the western world and initially I found that irritating because I have spent all of my adult life living and working in the United States and United Kingdom which is crazily fast paced but is that really the only way ? Most of my days are spent glued to my Computer and phone and since moving to the UK, I feel the work never stops - those hand held things that keep us connected have also become the source of more stress than I am willing to get into in this post. It took me almost a year of working in the UK to stop having panic attack of thinking I needed to be available 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, they work really hard in Brazil, there were days when we worked several hours past closing time; but It is not handled as THE most important thing and it as do or die as (I think) we approach it in the West. There is not a mad sense of urgency and they don’t let work consume them. They genuinely seem less stressed and happier than we are in the West so maybe there is something to this approach. I wonder how much more normalized my blood pressure will be if I put work in its place - meaning work hard; but also step away from it and experience life.

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IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY. They seem very community orientation (at least with those I interacted with); everyone looked out for each other. I am sure there is a Brazilian version of Corporate competition; but there was a sense of people and relationship first and everyone seemed supportive of each other. I observed this in the work setting; dining out and in the hotel we stayed in during our visit. There is something about that sort of connection that I think is a great value add for my life here and for all of our groups and communities.

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VALUE OF CULTURE. Brazilians truly love their culture and they are happy to share it with others and help you experience it. They are patience to share their traditions and discuss why it is important; they take time at lunch/dinner to explain the cuisine and the ingredients. They remind me of my people (Nigerians) that way. Even more important than loving and sharing that culture is the willingness to embrace and inquire about others and strive to get to know about others. There are times when people ask a question about where I am from and as soon as the words leave their lips, they are tune off. That was not the case in Sao Paulo. They are happy to share about their traditions and willing to listen and learn about mine as well. We could all do better listening (truly listen).

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WILLINGNESS TO REACH ACROSS. This goes hand in hand with my last point; their willingness to reach across and make other comfortable. I was the one visiting their Country and the only Portuguese words in my vocabulary were “Olá” ; “Obrigado” and “Por favor”. Everyone I interacted with made a great effort to communicate with me in English; even when they only knew a few english words; they strung those together to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I felt very ashamed - given I was the one visiting their Country; I should have been the one going above and beyond to communicate with them and not the other way around.

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My interactions with locals left a positive impact that makes me want to return to Brazil in future. I hope to properly explore Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I want to visit the Christ the redeemer statue; get to beautiful beaches (maybe ring in the new year on Copa Cabaña) and spend time interacting with locals.


THE BASEL CITY GUIDE - HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN BASEL , SWITZERLAND

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I am typing this on my flight from Basel to London and let me confess - I am already having withdrawal symptoms. I loved Basel. For years Switzerland has been on the bucket list and I finally got a chance to tick it off the list. Before we get into the fun bits, lets clear the air. Yes! everything you have heard about Switzerland being expensive is true but don’t let that discourage you; with a little bit of planning ahead, you can visit Basel / Switzerland without breaking the bank. Before you board your flight, keep in mind that Switzerland does not use the Euro; they use the Swiss Franc which is about a one to one with the British pound.

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Getting there. British Airways offers direct flights from London Heathrow to Basel daily. Flight is under two hours so why not. When you arrive, make sure to take the exit for Switzerland and not the one to Germany or France. Look for Bus 50 outside the arrival gate; that bus will take you to Basel SBB (the main train station) and from here you can hop the tram or bus to the city or take a train to other parts of Europe or Switzerland.

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Where to stay in Basel, Switzerland. I recommend staying at a hotel - any safe neighborhood that works with your budget is fine because hotels provide a free travel card for the duration of your stay. With the travel card, you can get on the bus, tram and other transportation modes within Basel for free. The card also offers a free two-hour bus tour; discounts for tours and museums. I found a great deal on Expedia for Hotel Wettstein. I loved staying here; it was not quite the city center, but with the free transport I could get most places in under twenty minutes. The hotel is less than a five-minute walk to the tram station; great restaurants within walking distance and the service was incredible. Also, the mini bar is free. You read that correctly - FREE. The only downside, my room did not have air conditioning but I had a standing fan which worked great. I also had a room not facing the street so I could leave my window open. All in all, I did not find the lack of air conditioning to be a burden.

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What to do in Basel, Switzerland. Basel has got something for everyone - architecture; art; culture; food; entertainment. Everything! The things I will recommend for your itinerary. Take a tour of the old town, the tickets cost 10 CF and it was very informative. You can get tickets from the tourism office or online. The meetup spot is by the fountains at Theaterplatz. The Tinguely (Fasnacht) fountain in Theaterplatz is a must see. Trust me, this is not like any fountain you have seen. If you explore the old town on your own, don’t miss the Basler Munster (cathedral); the Rathhus (Town Hall) with its impressive facade cannot be missed - make sure to go inside - it is beautiful. Take a walk along St. Alban riverbank which offers great views of the old city walls and one of the three historic gates to the city and Rheinsprung street. There is also a free street with both high end and high street shopping.

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Cross the river Rhine by taking a walk on Mottler Brucke - an impressive bridge with great views of the city. You can also cross the Rhine on the Basel ferries which are only powered by the flow of the river. Away from old town, visit two of Basel’s old city gates - Spalentor and St. Alban-Tor. My favorite part of Basel is the fact that you can be in three countries at the same time - do not miss the Tri-border point - this is where France, Germany, and Switzerland converge. Even more impressive you can take a stroll across the Weil am Rhein bridge from Basel (Switzerland) and be in Germany / France in under ten minutes.

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Basel is the perfect hub because of its proximity to other parts of Europe and Switzerland. The Alsace region of France - Colmar is under an hour by train from Basel SBB; You are also under two hours from other Swiss cities - Lucerne; Zurich and Bern. The black forest in Germany is also less than two hours from Basel (are your bags packed, yet).

Basel is known for a lot of things including - Basel carnival and Art Basel. It is estimated that Basel has about one museum per kilometer and a half - everything from the paper mill museum to Foundation Beyeler (the most visited museum in Basel). On to another art form - architecture - Basel has some stunning architecture - some of my favorites were the stairs at the former Warteck brewery; Messe Basel (aka window to heaven) and Bis by Mario Botta.

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Where / What to eat in Basel, Switzerland. Because Switzerland is quite expensive in comparison to London and other European cities, I did not eat out as much as I usually do. I did manage one meal out daily and quite enjoyed everywhere I ate. Possibly the best Pasta I ever ate was at Hotel Restaurant Resslirytti right next door to the hotel I was staying in - Hotel Wettstein. Brunch at Les garecons Basel was incredible - if you like the Mediterranean - I recommend the Mediterranean breakfast - delicious. Save some of your money for Schiesser tea room across from Rathus. This tea room has been around since 1870 churning our incredible dessert. For about 12 Swiss francs per person, you can get a great dessert and tea or coffee. You are in Switzerland so you have got to try Swiss chocolate and there are a lot of shops around the old town to buy from or even the supermarkets. There is also the Basel gingerbread delicacy of Läckerli  - I really enjoyed the ones from Schiesser tea room.

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HOW TO PREPARE FOR A MOVE ABROAD - 17 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO BEFORE YOUR MOVE

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It has been about fourteen months now since I packed up a decade of doing life in Dallas to move to London. It has been a roller coaster of a move and while I have settled in a lot of areas; there are still days I feel completely out of my depth. One thing that has kept me moving forward has been this space and I am hoping this year; in addition to the travel guides; I can also share the practical ways to travel more and fit that around your work life. Now on to the point of this post, I did not realize how much was entailed in moving countries and there I a few things I wished some one told me before I started the process and ultimately made the plunge. I am not saying it will have impacted the decision to move, but I will have planned better and sooner. If you are thinking of moving abroad for whatever reason, here are twenty things to keep in mind as you prepare. Some will be no brainers and other mights surprise you like it did me.

1. Cancel your services. Make a list of your monthly bills; if you tend to have direct debit set up for your bills; it helps to print out a copy of your bank statement to help you make a list of all of the services I needed to cancel/defer. Some of the more common ones are car insurance; rental insurance; Appliance rentals; toll tags; utility service; cell phone; internet service needs to be suspended or canceled; streaming service that will not work in new home country. Because I travel back to the states a few times, I chose to downgrade my cell phone service to the cheapest option available.

2. Submit your move out notice if renting or Put property up for rental. Most apartments will charge an additional fee if you give less than 60 days move out notice; so as soon as you know you are moving, submit that notice immediately. If you are moving before your lease is up; you may incur cancellation fees. In my case it was one month rent (and my contract did not reimburse me for that). If you own your place, make plans to put it up for rent or sale.

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3. Cancellation fees. The sooner you start prepping for your move the better. Don't forget to factor in cancellation fees for apartment lease; cell phone; utilities etc in your move budget. Those add up to a lot of money.

4. Credit Cards - I recommend keeping at least one credit card open even if you are making a permanent move; it always helps to have that financial connections if you decide to return. One of my colleagues move back to the UK after almost two decades of living state side and it was very useful to have maintained their banking here while they were away; they avoided the hassle that is the process of setting up a bank account/line of credit in the UK. My credit facility in the UK does not offer similar perks as the one in the US i.e. airline/hotel points ; cash back; no foreign fees so I often use my US credit card when traveling. Just make sure to update your travel alerts appropriately.

5. Make a declutter schedule. Start by getting rid of any items you would (should) have gotten rid of move or not. . Hopefully, you have ample notice before you have to move. When you think a move is probable, start decluttering. Don't underestimate what you have accumulated over the years. Be brutal with the process. This process will help streamline the items to ship; store or donate. This is one I wish I did; I crammed everything into the last month of my move and barely slept the entire month.

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6. Schedule Donation Pickup. In line with point 4, figure out what items you are packing and what you are donating early and schedule pickup. Organizations like Salvation army will come pick up donations but require time. I scheduled mine three weeks ahead of schedule and I barely got a date that will not conflict with my actual move date. You also want to do this early one so you have time to clean the property especially if you are renting.

7. Excess luggage vs. shipping. If you will staying in temporary housing while you settle into your new home country. Consider shipping some of your possessions instead of having to log it from airport to temp accommodation and then to the my new home. You can request the shippers deliver it to your new home once you have permanent accommodation sorted. This is another reason to start preparing early, various countries have different requirements for shipping items in and these may be burdensome process. A week before my move, I decided to pay for excess luggage to move my possession because the paperwork involved with shipping was time consuming and tedious. Shipping would have been cheaper.

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8. Store ; Ship or Sell. If you are temporarily moving you might consider storing some your items that you won’t be need i.e. furniture or car. I chose to sell my car and furniture. I donated all of my kitchen appliances and moved personal items only. I have 8 bags; a carry on and a backpack (don’t judge, I had a lot of shoes).

9. Make plans for your mail. Switch as much as you can to electronic mailing only and for everything else, find a mail service that can sort and forward your mail to you. I could not find one in the time I had to move; thankfully family and friends have been kind to store my mail in my absence. If you use a mailing service, don't forget to get a notarized form 1583 for your mail forwarding service - most mail forwarding companies will require this of you.

10. Schedule appointment with Healthcare providers. Get your annual physical done; visit your dentist and ophthalmologist before you leave and while you have health insurance. It might take weeks or months to find a healthcare provider in your new home. I fell ill within a few months of moving here and have had to pay out of pocket for all my doctor visits. While you are at, make sure to get prescriptions filled for you needed medications.

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11. Make a to-do list for your new home. if you are going short-term - have a to-do list of all the non-work stuff you want to experience and do. Let's face it - work experience was only 50% of why you chose the expat life. If it is a permanent move, then maybe you need not worry and focus on settling into your new home.

12. Make a shopping list. This should be of items you make not be able to purchase in your new home country. I absolutely love the first aid beauty red clay skin care line. The brand is not available in the UK or Europe and I will need to pay to have it shipped to me. Thankfully, I was aware of this early one and order a few back-ups to bring with me.

13. Professional licenses and Continuing education. Look into whether you can defer compliance while abroad or if CPEs taken abroad will be considered towards your CPE requirements. If not (and you want to keep current on your license) then you have to make sure to schedule time while abroad to keep up with your CPEs.

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14. Update your calendar for birthdays; anniversaries; profession certification renewal and any important dates of your nearest and dearest.

15. Make one last visit to your favorite places. My friend "S" gave me this advice and I cannot stress how important this was to me to have one final drink at my favorite wine bar; mani/pedi at my favorite spa.

16. Inform people. Believe it or not, this is one that actually gets lost the process and you don't want people sending a search party for you.

17. Schedule a going away party. You want to spend some time with your favorite people before moving on to new adventures and you can one final goodbye and not fifty mini good byes. Time is of the essence that last month before your move.

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