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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Re-entry: Back in the USA

I'm back in the US after six months in Ecuador and Peru. Re-entry was rough. I've returned from long periods abroad so many times I should have the whole procedure down pat, but I don't. This time I had problems getting my car insurance changed from storage status to driving status. The insurer made a mistake, and it took frustrating days to fix. Of course, if I had started my return preparations earlier, I could have had the insurance questions and other issues all resolved before I arrived.

Years ago, all these arrangements would have been a hassle and expensive. With the advent of cell phones, e-mail, and internet phone services, setting things up in advance has become easier and much cheaper. In Ecuador and Peru, calls to the States were 40 centimos (US$.12). Domestic long distance was 50 centimos or more. I've paid as little as 3 US cents per minute at internet cafes that have net2phone or other phone services installed. E-mail makes the time difference less of a problem.

Advice to myself: Don't leave all your pre-return arrangements for the day before your flight. Assume that anyone who told you that they needed "only a couple of day's notice" is a confirmed optimist. Do everything a week in advance.

Pre return arrangements might include:

  • Contacting the people who will pick you up at the airport
  • Contacting the friends you are hoping will take you in for a few days
  • Reinstating cell phone service

  • Reinstating car insurance company

  • Arranging to get your car checked out to put it safely on the road

  • Calling your hairdresser for an emergency appointment

  • Booking and reconfirming flights, trains, or buses

  • Making a hotel reservation

  • Reserving a rental car

    When returning to a house or apartment, deal with all the utilities, get the renters out, and arrange to have your stuff moved back in.

    Some of these things could wait. Before you delay them, however, picture yourself dealing with your phone company after a 33-hour flight. There really is no excuse. Don't repeat the mistake. Get it all done well in advance.
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