ON New Year's Day, the company I work for, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, will move me from Washington to Paris, where I will become a regional vice president of the company and general manager of the Hotel George V, which it manages.
My wife, Meg, teaches at a Montessori school. She and our teenage daughters, Eleanor and Georgia, will reunite with me at the end of the school year. It's the seventh move for Meg and me: about every three years for the last two decades, we've packed and unpacked, and left newfound schools, friends, cars, dry cleaners, banks and homes, and found newer ones.
If you want to advance in the hotel industry, you'd better be able to check "yes" next to the box that asks, "Willing to relocate?" Mobility must be in your DNA if you want to move up. Originally from Switzerland, I myself have moved eight times over 25 years of working in hotels, rising from hotel restaurant food runner to hotel general manager: from Gstaad to Lausanne, Switzerland; then to Washington, Rome, Paris and back to Washington, then to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and to Chicago and Washington once more. Eleanor, now 17, was born in Rome. Georgia, 14, joined the journey on our first assignment in Washington.
Meg knew the score -- and welcomed the global lifestyle -- when she married me. In fact, she chose a mobile career herself, knowing that there would be Montessori schools worldwide.
The company provides good logistical support when it moves its employees. And on the home front, we have grown increasingly adaptive, and the moves have become easier over the years. The process begins when I first realize that a move may be in the works. Meg and I go out for lunch or coffee and review our trusty to-do list to become move-ready. Then we take our daughters out to lunch or dinner and broach the subject, beginning with "How would you feel if we moved to X?"
The worst reaction was when we planned to move back to Washington from Chicago less than a year after arriving there from Mexico. We thought the girls would be thrilled to reunite with friends in a familiar place. We thought wrong. In unison, they broke out in tears; they had just made new friends and were starting to fit in again.
Meg, so skilled at working with children as a teacher, had them talk about the roots of their fears and sadness, which usually revolve around establishing new social networks. I, racked by guilt about upsetting their cart again, blurted that they could get the puppy they had been begging for. (I had been adamantly opposed until then.) The tears stopped. Needless to say, our pup, Snickers, will be moving to Paris, too.
To stay sane at relocation time, we keep the house we're in as homey as possible until we move, then turn the new house into a home as fast as we can. That way, we don't have to stare at cardboard boxes on both ends of the trip. We can pack in two weeks.
Moving makes you prioritize what's important. You have to decide what's crucial enough to bring, and what's marginal enough to leave behind. With friends, you have to choose those to see before you go, and the ones you want to stay in touch with after the move.
Each of us has certain things we take along -- our "transitional objects." For example, I need the big wooden credenza that's been in my family for generations, a great coffee machine, my A.S. Roma soccer-club shirt and my watch box -- after all, I am Swiss. For Meg, it's not about things, but about creating a cozy, well-lit new space. The girls still bring their favorite stuffed animals along with photos, but their most important transitional object is each other.
BUILDING a new network of friends can be as daunting for Meg and me as it is for the girls. We've found friends among new work colleagues and through tight-knit expat communities. But there's a danger of getting stuck in a cultural bubble and never befriending local people.
Our moves have brought us a great appreciation of cultural differences. The ability to adapt quickly to change helps in all kinds of situations. The moves have also prepared our daughters to make new friends quickly. Still, we wonder and worry how it will affect their future relationships. Will they have trouble forming long-lasting bonds?
We find inspiration, meanwhile, in the lyrics of "You're My Home," the Billy Joel song: "I never had a place that I could call my very own, but that's all right, my love, 'cause you're my home."
As told to Perry Garfinkel.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.