We are in the midst of a “stuff” revolution—the likes of Marie Kondo “Sparking Joy”, the rise of minimalism and fashionable tiny houses, as well as an increased awareness around environmental sustainability, means many of us are decluttering and rethinking what matters to us in terms of what we consume.
Moving abroad is the ultimate chance to de-clutter and downsize, but it is not easy! Trying to put our lives into a suitcase can feel incredibly daunting. Luckily, we have put together a list of the must-haves and tips so that your both your luggage and conscience can stay light.
A large part of packing is the organization and the way we think about the process. If we are able to simplify and organize our minds around the move prior, the physical act of packing up our belongings will become much easier.
Arrange your documents, make lists and reach out to people.
One thing that has always enabled me to feel less anxious and more confident when embarking on a new transition abroad is having all important documents with me in a folder that I can reach for immediately in my carry-on. Important documents include your Passport, first and foremost! You don’t want to attempt to leave without that one. Beyond this, I make sure I have copies of insurance, visa, teacher contracts, phone numbers for contacts in-country like the school, and some addresses written down. I prefer to have a hardcopy of these items, but a backup cloud version is a good call, too.
Before you start deciding on packing your favourite coffee table centrepiece that you just can’t live without, find out what your allowances are. Does your contract include an allowance for relocation? What airline are you flying with and what are their weight and size allowances, including fees for additional luggage? The airline websites will have all the information there.
Unsure about if the country you are moving to will stock a medication you need or your fix of a favourite brand of peanut butter? Now there are multiple online forums and expat pages, so you can pose any questions in advance, saving you from doubling up unnecessarily. The school might also put you in touch with someone there who has been through the same transition so they are a useful resource and great for calming the nerves. Maybe there is a departing teacher at the school? This can be useful in preparing some hand-over of items so you don’t have to by brand new and they don’t have to plan getting rid of them-win win!
About to go teach at an IB school? Skip over to one of our previous blog posts all about IB.
So now we have decluttered our minds, what items do we pack?
We can never be prepared for all scenarios, and sometimes we just have to go with the flow. However, having some familiar items and some goods to get you started and comfortable for the first few days could be useful. For me this is teabags and a blanket from home, transforming the most difficult situation into a more cosy one! Taking some sheets, some cutlery, plates & a cup is also a good tip.
You can’t possibly pack all your teaching and motivational books, but you can digitize them. I ended up getting a Kindle e-book and this was a game changer for me. Also, find out what items your school already has. It is nice to take some home-country items like stickers and posters to a new classroom environment—but don’t go overboard. Rather than having physical items taking up unnecessary space you can also make a photo slide show of your life online that you can show students. Saving space and still sharing a piece of home.
Necessities, cultural norms and staying connected.
Having necessities like medication and a small first aid kit is a good idea for anywhere that you go and gives you a bit of reassurance. Other supplies will depend on your environment—don’t go shipping your fancy road bike when you know there will be no chance to use it, for example. Country-specific plugs and other electronics are a must have! It is disheartening to arrive at your destination only to find out you cannot connect anything due to having the wrong plug. I suggest getting hairdryers and shavers in the country if you can, that way you don’t have to deal with the different voltage issues.
I speak for myself here that clothes always end up taking up most of my luggage. It is that thing about wanting to be prepared for any scenario. The priority is to make sure you have something appropriate to turn up to work in. It is best to air on the conservative side, that way you can adhere to any cultural norms easily. It is likely you can find what you need clothes wise once you are, but the forums and expat pages will be able to help with this. Try and reduce the number of the same items, too. You won’t ever need 10 bikinis, no matter how much you love the beach.
Travelling abroad is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself but it is also a great opportunity to let the real you shine. Pack something that makes you feel at home in yourself and that you can do alone or with your family, wherever you are. For me, that is a journal, a pack of cards and some herbs for my foodie dreams.