Logistics is everything: Our carton of personal possessions left our house in Atlanta on August 30th, arrived in Rotterdam on September 26th, and the second week of October we received a call that our shipment would be arriving at our apartment in Porto on Monday, October 16th. That comes out to just shy of 7 weeks.
At our old house in the suburbs we had a wide street, a mildly sloping driveway, and a big garage. No surprise, the apartment in Porto had none of those things.
The street in front of the apartment is one lane/one way with high curbs and narrow sidewalks on both sides. The very few parking spaces are always filled. We do have an underground garage with an assigned parking space that is presently empty since we don't own a car. Our plan was to have the carton placed there, and we would then tear it down and move the contents up the elevator a box or two at a time. And we’d specifically bought a folding cart at Aki to do the heavy moving for us.
We anticipated issues with how the driver was going to deliver the carton. His truck completely blocked the street—there was no way around that. Fortunately, the Portuguese are pretty patient, and it was some time before we had horns honking. Unfortunately, the driver really felt the pressure so there were a few tense (and heart stopping) moments as the hydraulic tommy lift slowly lowers this big, heavy carton, only to have part of it still on the truck. Of course, it begins to tip and there’s no way any of us are going to stop the slow-rolling nightmare that begins to unfold. After we called out a warning, the driver repositioned the carton and it came down nice and easy.
Once it was on the ground, he used a hydraulic pallet jack to manuever the carton down the ramp and into our parking space. The delivery documents were signed and the street cleared once again. We made sure to tip the guy handsomely because this delivery HAD to be a nightmare on his end. Since tips aren't common here, he was thrilled.
Over the next hour, we transferred boxes into our apartment and then started the long chore of getting it all unpacked and put away.
Sadly, there was some damage as we suspect the shipment took a shock sometime during the journey. We lost one computer—it had a cracked motherboard—and the chimes of our antique clock were damaged. Since we had a deductible on the load (I believe it was $250) we decided not to file an insurance claim since nothing else was damaged. It is possible the two items were messed up during our packing, so we decided to let it slide. Had their been noticeable damage to the exterior of the carton, or other items were damaged, that would have been a different matter.
And now is a GREAT time to warn you to back up everything on your computers if you are shipping them over. We did complete backups on Carbonite so even though that one machine was toast, we didn’t lose any data. In fact, it worked out fine as Harold moved the hard drive into his computer.
All in all, our shipment arrived in much better shape than what we had feared. There was nothing to indicate that the journey to Europe had encountered one hurricane and nearly avoided another.
Shipping household goods to Portugal is doable, but it takes planning, documentation and a bit of luck. Only you can determine if that is worth the effort and cost. As with all things, your mileage may vary. For us, it was the right decision.
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Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.