There’s a lot of advice out there for those moving to a new country. In fact, there are a lot of helpful blogs with checklists, one-year plans or six-month plans, plus legal, tax and visa tips. If you prepare, the process can be smooth, organized, painless.

I wouldn’t know about any of that. When I left San Francisco for Rio, I had three weeks’ warning, and barely enough time to rent my apartment, sell my car and give away my books. Preparing to move from Rio to Zurich proceeded in the same frenzied, last-minute way. The to-do list for our last few months in Brazil, insofar as there was one, went sort of like this:

*November: throw wedding party for 150 family members in Minas Gerais. Then throw another one in Rio for 150 more family and friends. In between, desperately try to sell, give or box everything in apartment.

*December: spend the month in Colombia exploring the Caribbean coast, the astonishing Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (think the tropics meets snow-covered peaks) and the Colombian Central Andes.

*January: More desperate packing. Close Rio apartment. Leave for the Amazon; spend two weeks following the TransAmazon Highway — highway being a misleading name for this muddy, rutted track through the jungle — while reporting on illegal gold mining and interviewing men who were recruited to go into the forest during World War II to collect rubber.

February 5: land in Zurich.

I can’t recommend this approach. It usually means arriving wherever you’re going without half the things you wish you’d brought. But do I wish I’d spent less time hiking the Andes/celebrating with friends/camping out in the Amazon and more time crating my stuff into labeled boxes? Not at all.

TransAmazonica