The Dance of the Overseas Shipper

Now that we’re almost in the home stretch for the visa, we need to secure our overseas shipper. This has proved interesting. I’ve learned a lot about the process and a lot about the business. There are brokers, there are actual shipping companies, there are third party contract movers, there are consolidators and there are customs clearance agents on both ends. Then there is the storage side of things – both in the US and in Spain. All of these can vary in cost and all of them can COST ALOT.  Everyone has their hand out in this relay race to get our stuff to Spain.

I started early – like months ago. Almost no one wanted to even talk to me that far out. The first bid I got was for $1600. This seemed low and in subsequent conversations and other quotes told me it was ‘stupid low’. This is what is known in the biz as a ‘low ball’ and then they jack up the price after you’ve gone with them – because, well, at that point you have not time to switch shippers.

Then there are brokers who will contract out with other companies. These third parties can go rogue and hold your stuff hostage until you basically pay a 3X ransom to get it back. Now I know where the term ‘a Kings Ransom’ came from.

There are partial loads, 20ft containers, 40ft containers and the rest. There is also weight as a consideration. There is load at our house and seal. There is load at our house and transfer, then seal. Its a learning experience. And you learn to spot bullshit when you hear it. It’s funny, but I’ve had some shippers try to pull stuff I’ve read about and when I call them on it they change their tune. Most start out acting like they’re doing you a favor, bringing your stuff across the world. The true professionals aren’t like that. So it’s easy to weed out the riff raff.

I’ve read reviews on Google, Yelp, and asked for advice from those on some of the Spanish Expat forums I belong to. And the stories would curl your hair. So I consulted Jeff; floating the idea that maybe we should just skip the shipping. Maybe we just pay a little extra in baggage fees and call it good. We went for our usual 6 mile nightly walk and discussed it. We weighed the shipping/replacing the small amount we’re bringing. Then we thought about how we will feel to have a few things from home.

Oh, and there’s his beloved motorcycle. Jeff goes out in the garage nightly to wish it goodnight – So very many adventures they’ve had together. Prying that from his grasp as we leave the US, might prove a bit of a challenge. It doesn’t have name but it should; a specter that looms large in our lives. One wonders if he was forced to choose between me and that BMW adventure bike if I would be the winner.

I tolerate this piece of equipment after he was nearly killed a few years ago in a motorcycle accident. He got the helicopter life flight and the whole nine yards – on our son’s 17th birthday. Went out for a ride, promised to be home by noon and didn’t come home. When he pulls out of the driveway now, I have a little PTSD moment. And when he puts on the gear, I always hug him tighter and make sure I tell him how much I love him. If he got rid of the bike it would make me happy. But it’s part of who he is. I can’t deny him that.

I can tell you that if a shipper tried to hold his bike hostage he would go full commando, gather a posse of dark clothed friends, and find a way to break it out of whatever dark, dank prison they were holding it in. Ultimately, we decided that we would ship what we had originally planned. It’ll cost us, but we’ll have our stuff – about 98% less than we started with 18 months ago. Jeff is excited for it.

‘It’s like being in college.’ he said ‘We essentially have nothing. No ties to a place. We’re totally mobile.’

‘I am not having cider block shelving in a studio apartment.’ I assured him.

‘Cinder block? You could afford cinder blocks in college?’

I rolled my eyes and got back to work.

I was told we need to get a ‘Change of Residence’ from the Spanish consulate. They won’t give us this so we’ll have to pay some duty. But it will be worth it when it all arrives. Until then we’ll be sleeping on an air mattress and showering with the one bath towel we’re each packing. But in a months time – it will feel like home. We’ll be riding up the coast of central Spain on his motorcycle, with the wind in our hair. (Well, it would be if we weren’t wearing helmets). Jeff’s right, we will feel free.

3 thoughts on “The Dance of the Overseas Shipper

  1. Hi Kelli
    Just a heads up. Once you get the motorcycle matriculated for Spain you will need a Spanish driving licence. Go to a driving school ASAP because it will take a few months to get the license. I passed the theory test in May but am still waiting to take the practical test. The reason for the long wait. ..the examiners were on strike for months so now everything is backed up and it’s worse in the big cities. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The theory and practical test are given by DGT the Spanish Traffic Dept. The driving school, which is a requirement to get your license, will help you study for the theory test and give you driving lessons in their car.If you don’t speak Spanish, the manual is available in English for you to study on your own. This is what I did. Practice tests are available in English as well as the real test. Once you pass the theory test, you can take driving lessons with the instructor. All of the cars are manual transmission. If the instructor doesn’t speak English you can have a translator in the car but for the test with an examiner you cannot. The school will notify the DGT that you want to take the test and you wait to be notified of the time and place. All of this cost me so far about €300 not counting each driving lesson which is $27 each. It’s really not that hard. It’s the waiting that’s killing me.☺

        Liked by 1 person

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