What Do You Do With Your Gadgets When You Move Overseas?

So you’re heading overseas to work. How do you decide which gadgets are worth taking and which ones to leave behind? Adaptor plugs are pretty cheap and easy to find, but at some point it makes more sense to just replace an item when you arrive at your destination. And what about large items like a desktop computer? Where do you draw the line?

Photo by jeroen020 (Flickr).

My mid-2007 iMac is starting to show its age, but I depend on it heavily for work and my whole life essentially revolves around it. As I got ready to move to Canada, I looked into my options. I didn’t want to sell it — I had to put a new hard drive in it recently, but otherwise it worked just fine. Couriers and shipping companies quoted me around $400 to ship it from Sydney to Vancouver. There was no way I was paying that — my five-year-old iMac wasn’t even worth that much.

In the end, I decided to bubblewrap it and shove it inside one of my suitcases. Everyone told me not to do it. People showed me amateur YouTube videos of suitcases being abused by baggage handlers and shared horror stories of smashed screens and exploding components. Lifehacker editor Angus was convinced it would be a disaster. And it was only a couple of weeks ago that the US Postal Service banned international shipments of gadgets with lithium batteries. The evidence was intimidating, but I wanted to try it anyway. If it did break inside the suitcase, I would just buy a new computer.

My dad used industrial quantities of bubble wrap and some cardboard to buffer the screen. On some iMacs you can remove the stand, but it wasn’t doable on mine without pulling the whole thing apart. My plan was to stick it into one of my two suitcases and pad it with lots of clothes to minimise movement, but since the iMac weighed about 9kg on its own, the suitcase reached Air Canada’s 23kg weight limit before I could fully pack it in. The iMac was going to move inside the suitcase whether I liked it or not. At the airport, I explained to the lady at the check-in desk that I had a computer inside one of the suitcases and she obliged by putting ‘FRAGILE’ stickers all over it.

When I arrived in Canada and picked up my suitcase from the baggage carousel, my heart sank a little bit. The ‘FRAGILE’ stickers had been completely ripped off, as if they were never there at all. I opened the suitcase and anxiously attacked the bubblewrap with a pair of scissors. As you can see in the above photo, the iMac survived. Was it dumb luck? Maybe. Would I do it again? Probably.

I had to let go of other gadgets in order to fit the iMac into my suitcase. I left behind my hairdryer, hair straightener, curling tongs, laser printer, mobile phones, cameras and chargers. I’m happy to replace those items, especially since they can be erratic when used with adaptors. For example, my 240V hairdryer would only blow at half its capacity on the 120V outlets in the US, and the portable neck massager I brought with me to Canada refuses to work on Canada’s 60 cycles-per-second electric power frequency. I currently have my iMac and mobile phone charger plugged into an Australian power board, which in turn is plugged into the wall via an earthed US/Canada adaptor.

So what do you do with your gadgets when you go overseas? What would you take and what would you leave behind? Let us know in the comments.

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