It takes many types of people to make the world go round but to some extent or other we are all travelers by nature: curious, adaptable, resourceful, and of course survivors. Our species has spread and evolved across every continent and settled in as varied a geographic setting as any that can be found on planet Earth.
But these days we travel more so for business or pleasure than for outright survival, still travelers we remain: from the casual weekend family visit and the cross country road trip to the international months-long backpacking affair and the long-term immigration settling. Unlike our medieval ancestors who were more likely to be born, raised, and die in the village/town/city of their birth, current generations are uprooting more frequently than ever before in history. Mainly for economic reasons (ironically, I cannot find a job in the country that prides itself on perpetuating the ideal of the American Dream even with a degree), which make experimentation with international unions quite popular because they facilitate this kind of uprooting for the citizens of participating such as in the case of the European Union. As such you are most likely reading this article because you are contemplating making such a move yourself and don’t know where to start. Welcome!
This article will be focusing on travel packing for upwards of a year or more but is easily applicable to the semester study abroad student stint. It’s broken down into three easy steps that will cover the initial essentials of packing and how to choose what you will be taking abroad with you.
Put those research skills to good use, my lovelies. Find out everything you can about your destination: geography, geology, and the highest/lowest/average recorded temperature are all great places to start. Become a fluent converter of Celsius (also known as Centigrade in some countries) and Fahrenheit. You may even want to look up humidity levels because dry heat and humid heat are two different situations entirely. Trust me. As a native Californian I thought I could handle heat, after all the running joke in this state is that California has only two seasons: summer… and not summer. That is until I found myself in Tokyo’s muggy, typhoon mess and between swimming in my own sticky sweat vs weather that was twenty to thirty degrees hotter but drier, I choose the latter any day. So… prepare yourself! Even when you think you’ve got something, turns out the differences might surprise you, too.
For those going to countries with significantly colder weather: although you may feel like investing in TWO suitcases just to accommodate all of your winter regalia, first stop and investigate what options, if any, your new home country will have for you. Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase it on location than it would be to pay charges for extra check-in baggage. In the event that your new home country will not be able to carry your size (Japan, if you’re a taller/larger/wider American female such as myself – woefully a comfortable medium in USA sizing is an extra large over there) just buy the jackets/boots here and have them shipped in a box. This will save you packing headaches down the road and can be a nice care package from and to yourself 😉
So what’s in the closet? Once you’ve established what kind of climate you will be up against, the next step is to take stock of what you already own, what will work, what won’t, and what you’ll need. This is the part where people start tearing out their hair. When you’ve settled down somewhere for a comfortable amount of time and have a space of your own that you think of as permanent, you tend to settle down and accumulate stuff. And fast. This goes for furniture and living utensils as well as clothes. Rarely, if ever, do people take a mass inventory of their life’s accumulation for the sole purpose of tossing it out. Be honest, when was the last time you went about doing this?
However, this is also an amazing opportunity to donate all of your unwanted items: thrift shops, women’s shelters, religious organizations, and the Salvation Army will always welcome your used and well-loved items. If tight on cash yourself, you could always opt for the other route, which is to sell your items as “vintage” on Etsy or eBay, but try donating what you can first to those in greater need than your own.
Start a list, draw it out, sticky notes… whatever helps you get organized.
Research. Check. Inventory. Check. Now comes the fun (or not so fun, depending on how indecisive you are)! Time to choose what to keep and what to give away/sell 😀 Below you will find an infographic from this neat website which is geared towards simplifying your closet weeding and it gives you a point of reference for what you can keep and what should get thrown out. Generally speaking, I love the flow chart style and it works if you promise not to make special allowances for a single item of clothing. Okay, well, maybe you can give yourself up to three passes but only those three >.>
Once you can mentally take a picture of everything you’ve got and everything you will most likely need to take, this will make it easier to purchase the appropriate type and amount suitcases for your trip. My rule of thumb is pack for a week and a half. Do your laundry more often and accumulate clothes over there as needed. It is astounding how little you need to actually survive. Most suitcases can’t carry much more without going over the weight limit so check with your airline and weigh as necessary.
And those are the first three steps to packing for long-term travel 😀 Next we’ll cover choosing suitcases and the lost art of packing them!
Till the next post!