What Would You Take Along?

A couple of our fellow walkers up at the park moved to Mexico last month. They apparently moved everything they owned down there, including a baby grand piano! From some of what we gathered, the move cost them more than a small fortune but they were unwilling to part with anything.

Listening to their experience got Brett and I thinking about what we would take along if we moved to another country and we’ve talking about it ever since, off and on. After shipping things to and from Hawaii not once but twice, and having a good understanding of the expense of shipping even a small container full of furniture and other things, we quickly decided that if we ever moved to another country we would take nothing other than what could fit into suitcases. The number of suitcases would be limited to how many suitcases we were willing to check, and after some discussion we decided three full-size suitcases each as well as a carry-on bag would be our maximum because that’s all we think we could manage.

What would we take if everything had to fit into six suitcases? Below is the list we came up with:

  • Clothing & shoes: What and how much in this category would be determined by where we were moving. If we were going to Japan, for example, taking clothing for all seasons would be a priority as it’s difficult there to find clothing in our sizes there, and what’s available in military exchanges is limited as well. If we were going somewhere in Europe however, we would most likely be able to find clothing and shoes that fit so less clothing would need to be packed. Basically, the clothes we own currently for both both cold and hot weather would be enough to give us a good start.
  • Keepsakes: I can only think of a very few keepsakes I would want to take along: a few of our Japanese clay bells, one of our porcelain stacking boxes, and our remaining small Chinese teapots. There are six or seven pieces of art we would probably take, all of which would fit into a suitcase. Otherwise, we agree that everything else can pretty much go.
  • Kitchen items: Believe it or not, we would take along some but not all of our everyday dishes (unless we were moving to Japan, where they could easily be replaced), our cutlery, and some basic cooking utensils, including all our OXO tools. At first it was hard to think about living without my wonderful All-Clad cookware, which I’ve owned for nearly 30 years, but I realized I can cook just as well in pretty much anything.
  • Electronics: We would each take a laptop, a new iPhone, our Kindles, and one tablet that both of us can use along with two or three converters, and additional chargers.
  • OTC medications: If we were moving to Japan these are things we could find on any base, and the same for some places in Europe. However, there are locations where this would not be convenient so a good supply of OTC medications to start off with would be a good thing to bring. Painkillers, vitamins, nutritional aids (probiotics/prebiotics), stomach aids, cold medication, laxatives, etc. would go with us. We would carry written prescriptions for other medication so we could get those filled if necessary, although finding a local doctor would be a priority.
  • Tools: Brett has said depending on where we were going he would take along a basic set of quality tools (screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.), especially in metric sizes.

We imagined living full time in every place we visited during our travels and then paid attention to what was available in stores, the prices of things, clothing and shoe sizes, etc. Could we easily buy furniture there? What did it cost? Was used furniture available? Was there an IKEA in the area? Were our shoe sizes available and in stock? It was a helpful exercise, and we learned that what we would actually end up taking along with us on a move to another country could only be decided after an extensive amount of research about what’s available there, and after reading others’ experiences of moving to that country and the advice they offer.

Living in another country was a fun thing to think about when we were traveling and it’s still interesting to think about now. Could we get all of what’s listed above in six suitcases? Who knows? What I do know is that with time we could probably cut back on what’s listed above to where it did fit.

What would you bring along? What would be non-negotiable for you?

26 thoughts on “What Would You Take Along?

  1. What an interesting exercise! In some ways, I’d really like to be a minimalist and think that I could live in one of those tiny homes but then I turn around and complain that our house doesn’t have enough storage. Lol Back in early 2020, we talked about moving in the spring of 2021. This past year we did a pretty good job of decluttering our closets but I feel like they are full again. We’ve decided to stay put for now but it does make me realize how organizing, downsizing, and decluttering are an ongoing process. I’ll have to think of what we would bring with us if we were moving to another country.

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    1. Decluttering is a process, and one that takes a long, long time. Brett and I have been decluttering for over 15 years! The longer we do without stuff, the less we need. And, the older I get, the less sentimental I am as well about keeping things. It’s time to pass them on.

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  2. End of 2020 due to CV we moved from California to Australia. We faced exactly this dilemma. We ended up giving all our furniture and much of our possessions to our cleaning lady. The joy on her face made the decision even more right for us. We shipping 25 boxes. Bottom line it was not much difference between 10 or 25 boxes cost wise. We were thinking on box 10 we were just about done but ended up expanding a bit more and we have zero regrets about the things we did choose to bring. All our clothes, shoes, toiletries, duvets, coffee table books and selected kitchen ware. I could not part with my Le Cresuet pots and now being aware of the cost to buy them in Oz I am even happier with that decision. We did bring our favourite coffee cups and japanese bowls etc that we adore. Our only regret was we wish we had of perhaps not been so aggressive with some of our culling of clothes and other bits which we would likely still be using. We did bring out laptops etc. Interestingly enough our shipment was delayed significantly and as a result we each lived out of the contents of 1 suitcase for nearly 6 months which was doable until the weather got cold.

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    1. When Brett left the navy in 1992, our final shipment was lost for a while, and we had to contemplate losing *everything.* At first it was awful, but as the days went on I realized that I could do without all that stuff – the only thing I would honestly miss would be our photo albums (pre-cloud storage). They found our stuff, and for a few more years we accumulated more, but I always remember that experience.

      I will probably regret selling my All-Clad, but it can eventually be replaced, and I don’t cook as much these days as I did in the past, so need it less. I cooked on lots of different cookware when we traveled and learned I can still turn out a good meal without All-Clad.

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  3. We live in Mexico for six months and rent year round so we can leave our stuff. While you can get a lot of things in Mexico now, there are still things that you really can’t purchase there and even ordering from Amazon Mexico can double the costs after taxes and tariffs.

    Decent saucepans, as the gas burners on our stove will burn anything that is in a lightweight pan. Good knives and a knife sharper. Petromalt for the cats, as what they sell if Mexico smells like menthol and the cat’s won’t touch it. Any supplements, as most of them aren’t sold in the same form or amount. My spouse’s precious chocolate malted milk powder. Decent oven mitts. High quality surge protectors, as electricity fluctuates constantly and will destroy your electronics.

    While you can find most clothes and shoes in Mexico, decent quality bras don’t really exist, so I bring them along and store them in the fridge when we leave so that the elastic doesn’t dissolve in the high heat and humidity. High quality tools are a necessity here, as the quality is poor and they are very expensive. We also brought down cotton sheets, as the sheets you can buy in Mexico are polyester because cotton is imported and very expensive.

    When we first moved down, we brought a total of 8 suitcases, but that was because my spouse was bringing multiple computer monitors and other equipment since he is still working and needed what he needed in order to work. Since we left all of that in our apartment, we will now be able to travel back and forth with just carry-ons and the cats. 🙂

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    1. This is so interesting, figuring out what you can find and what you can’t and what you need to bring with you. It was sort of the same for us when we were stationed in Japan – we could find lots of things but there were other things that were difficult if not impossible. The only saving grace was that we had a U.S. address and could get things via mail order. Now there are Costco and Amazon in Japan so we would probably be fine. But who knows? Some of the learning curve I would enjoy (in any country), but I know there are other parts of it that would drive me nuts. You have landed on the perfect solution!

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  4. Before we went on our 20 month trip we sold our house and almost everything in it. We rented the smallest storage locker to hold what we wanted to keep. It was completely full of a few antique pieces of furniture from family, clothes (got rid of most work clothes), good pots, good cutlery, sports equipment (skis, hiking gear) pictures, and momentsos from our previous travels. There are a few things that got thrown out by accident and a few we threw out when we opened the locker but mostly we’re ad with what we kept. I’m not sure what we would have done if we were planning moving to another country.

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    1. Moving stuff to another country is going to cost one way or another, whether it’s shipping costs or customs. It’s also expensive to replace everything (a lesson we learned the hard way last year). Like you, we stored some antiques, good cutlery and cookware, and a few momentos, but the cost of shipping that to Hawaii was very high, and the movers didn’t do a very good job so things were broken and of course lost this time. We learned on our travels though how little we needed to live a quality life, and that is guiding our thinking now.

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  5. This is somewhat timely in that we are living in our travel trailer for two and 1/2 months while we travel through the Pacific NW, and are thus living very, very simply.

    So other than shoes and clothing for all forms of weather, basic toiletries, our iPhones, and our Kindles, plus my guitar, everything has been left at home. What would I miss from home were we never to return?

    Honestly, nothing. I much enjoy our home, and decorating my abode is a passion, but I don’t believe I’m attached to anything in it. I certainly haven’t thought about it at all during our trip thus far. Most of my thoughts have been about my much-cared for yard, which would of course not move with us ever.

    We love traveling small in our travel trailer. Purchases are confined to food items, clothing, and jewelry, because anything else simply creates clutter. And we’ve been so happy!

    I don’t quite have the courage to sell our home and all within, but it’s there. It’s definitely there.

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    1. You’ve learned what we have over the years, that as much as we thought we would miss stuff, once we were away from it we didn’t miss it at all, really. As I said in the post, there are very few things we would take along if moving to another country, and even those things could be downsized.

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  6. Wow…thought provoking. We’re observing our son and DIL moving onto their boat for a couple of years with two youngsters and a dog. It’s a real challenge. They’re storing a fair amount of stuff for their return, but renting out their home, so they have to empty it. It’s a real challenge….physically and emotionally.

    We have friends who married late in life (after both being widowed) and moved cross country. They rented a large home which was mostly furnished, I think. When we visited, we went into their three car garage to go to dinner, and the entire space (except for the minimum needed to park two cars) was JAMMED to the ceiling with furniture and boxes. Apparently besides the large pieces of furniture they had china, crystal, silverware and god knows what else. And they commented that none of it was worth anything to consign. When they told us what they paid to move it all, we were gobsmacked. Absolutely stunned. To each his own, I guess. But neither of them are young. The next generation will have a tall task ahead.

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    1. We have friends who were in a similar situation to yours. Their solution? They bought a HUGE (and I mean huge) house, a historic property that used to function as an inn. So, all their stuff fit, but they still have a LOT of stuff. Their kids will have a big task ahead some day as well.

      I am so happy living small these days, and am looking forward to downsizing more in the coming days and next year. I honestly have never missed anything we’ve let go. But, it’s taken us years to get here. It’s not been an easy task and it’s taken us a long time.

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  7. When we moved to New Zealand we brought our bed as it was new, all cookware and dishes, bedding as we use Scandinavian style bedding so can’t get what we need here, our sofa. Clothes were interesting – we moved from -10C to +25C in January so left in boots and large coats and arrived to have to purchase shorts and sneakers. I found that I needed a completely different wardrobe here – lifestyle, weather, moving from a flat city (Copenhagen) to a hilly one (Wellington). I wish I had bought some IKEA clip frames before coming down here – these just don’t exist here (no IKEA in NZ). Otherwise, everything else can be found here – though the pandemic has totally messed up the supply chain.

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      1. Don’t think the airline would let us bring a new sofa 🙂 You can get everything here, and it isn’t that much more expensive than where we were living in Europe. Guess compared to the US it is though.

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      2. I would think the cost of shipping anything from IKEA over to Wellington (love that city!) would negate all of IKEAs low prices. But, I think with small things you could tuck into a suitcase, if you had other reasons to visit Sydney, etc. a trip to IKEA might be worthwhile. Or not.

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  8. As you said, it depends on where we’d go. If we moved to NZ, I’d take a lot more. Things are so expensive over there, and they don’t have a lot of suppliers we take for granted.

    If we moved to Europe or the US, I’d take similar to you – clothes and electronics. I’d add, the photo books I’ve made and my two down pillows. While I could buy the pillows elsewhere, I’m fussy when it comes to pillows and they really affect my sleep. Given the squash down and they’re light, they’d be shoved into my bag. Mr S would take his oversized enamel mug which he drinks tea from several times a day. He didn’t pack it for our last trip to Europe and he missed it – and couldn’t find one in a store in Germany or Italy.

    Actually, that has me thinking, I’d pack several boxes of our favourite tea in both loose leaf and tea bags. We are big tea drinkers and have bemoaned the tea in many countries.

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    1. Your need to take along tea reminded me that there are probably several food items I’d like to take along. We missed peanut butter when we were traveling, and Diet Coke as well (although I’m no longer drinking it). Spices could also be difficult to find while we were on the road. We were shocked in the UK that Aldi’s only had about maybe 6-7 different spices – we’re used to seeing a rack with nearly 30-40 different items in the spice section!

      We had some good pillows and some not-so-good pillows when we were on the road. I guess we would probably take our chances, but if we wanted to take pillows there are always Space Bags!

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    1. Is a sewing machine something you feel you couldn’t find in another country? Also, what about the difference in electricity (plug, voltage, etc.? I guess the language difference might make it more difficult to operate a machine elsewhere but otherwise it seems like something that would be available in any country, and probably for less than it would cost to ship one from the U.S. (unless you could get it into a suitcase).

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  9. I think that I am past the point of moving overseas or traveling full time without a home base. Saying that, I think I would store most of our art. We just packed it up– about 15 boxes. We would, probably, ask one of our kids if we could rent room in their home storage areas.
    With me? My grandmother’s Prayer of St Francis (every home and long term hotel since I left home), a year’s worth of my toothpaste/toothbrush, Good bandaids (blister/heel/waterproof/fabric), several types of shoes, A basic set of clothes- including a stuff able down and GOOD socks, a 4set of silverware/Correll plates/ good knife, a tiny Epicurean cutting board, a flip set of pictures of our kids and grands, gallon and sandwich size baggies, 10 feet of parcord, a few clothes pins and several bottles of unscented Pure Castile soap. I find staying clean the largest challenge when on the road.

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    1. Our art was hard to part with before we moved to Hawaii in 2014, but we took it to auction and did well, and I’ve never missed any of it since. Who knew? However, we still have pieces I will not part with – eight of them – but all would fit into a suitcase so they would go where we go. I would probably keep one of my Japanese stacking boxes, a few of my Japanese bells, and my five Yixing teapots, but otherwise I find myself less and less attached to things these days. I like the Japanese dishes we have collected since early in our marriage -we don’t have much but they all get used – and I like my cutlery as well. Clothes would depend on where we were going.

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  10. I know this is more of a “thought experiment” but thinking realistically…

    First I would never, ever consider moving to another country without first living there as if I had already moved there for 3-6 months. I would go with minimal “stuff” and then figure out both “can I live here?” and then what can’t I get here that I really, really want to have that can’t get locally.

    I would really think that I would need to stop living like an “American living abroad” and figure out how I can “live as a local”. If you are not ready to consider this I would suggest you are not ready to move to another country for a long term-multi year stay.

    Here is an example to consider. In many cultures people do not entertain in their homes as they are too small or not part of the culture. They meet friends in restaurants, etc. So taking stuff thinking you will entertain like you do here probably not necessary.

    A

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    1. I remember reading once about a woman who moved with her husband to Italy. At great expense they moved over EVERYTHING they owned, from dishes to books to furntiture – everything. The husband hadn’t wanted to move but loved Italy; the wife hated it and disliked the Italians, even though she was Italian-American and was sure she would fit right in. After incurring all that expense, she moved back to the U.S. with EVERYTHING in less than a year. I don’t remember if the husband stayed behind in Italy or not.

      The point of moving to another country, in my opinion, is that shouldn’t try to recreated your life in the U.S. Learn what’s different in the country you’ve chosen to move to. Live like a local. Your example of cultures not entertaining in their homes is a very good one – if that’s true of where you’re going, you don’t need to bring all the things you use in the U.S. for entertaining. Same for bringing large pieces of furniture – many places in other countries are quite small compared to homes or apartments in the U.S. and American furniture looks out of place or oversized (if it can even get into the house or up the stairs).

      People who want to move to Hawaii are advised to come and stay for a few months to see how it goes, and then rent for the first year if they do decide to stay rather than buy. Statistically, most people who move here don’t last two years, and I’m sure it’s the same for many overseas moves.

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