Tuesday 17 September 2019

Between the Lines: Moving to the Other Side of the World (with Books)

It’s almost twelve years now since I moved to Australia, so I have spent two thirds of my life in England and one third here. Initially, I only came here as a tourist, but then I met my future husband and simply didn’t go home. It was a bit more complicated than that, of course, involving a lengthy, and sometimes stressful, immigration process, but eventually, once it was certain I could stay permanently, I had to shift my life to the other side of the world. I’d been living with my parents still back in England, and all my things remained at their house. It wasn’t until late 2009, when I made my first trip back (with hubby), that I could organise to have my possessions shipped to my new home.

I only had a few items of furniture: a chest and a bureau. However, we still had a lot of stuff to pack and ship. There were clothes and general items, and a few small musical instruments, but the bulk of the shipment—filling ten huge plastic tubs and several other cardboard boxes—was books. My collection was over 1000 titles, as well as a hefty batch of sheet music. Corey asked if I really needed to bring them all, and I’m sure you can imagine the look I gave him at such a ridiculous question!
That said, I didn’t take everything. I had a sort-out and shed just over 100 books. Some of those I later came to wish I’d kept, but by then it was too late. C’est la vie. If someone had told me I had to abandon all my clothes, and most other items, I would have shrugged and lived with it. The books were a different story.

My books are a huge part of my life. I don’t have many childhood ones anymore—I didn’t keep them back then—but my current collection includes items bought from my teens onwards. For a while, I kept everything, but these days I am a little more circumspect. Space isn’t infinite, so I only tend to buy print copies of non-fiction/reference works, classics, and books by a few of my favourite authors. Nonetheless, my current collection stands at around 1200 titles (not including sheet music).

How did I decide what to trim when arranging the shipping? Essentially, I worked to these key points:

1) Is it a book I know I will want to read again?
2) Is it a book to keep for its reference value?
3) Is it a key work/classic?

If I couldn’t answer Yes to at least one of those, the book in question stayed behind. There were, however, one or two exceptions—books that I kept for sentimental value.

So, that’s the story of how I moved all my books between hemispheres. What couldn’t you bear to part with if you moved to a different country? If you have emigrated, what figured highest in your shipping list?

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