Packing For a Year Abroad – with four seasons and only 100lbs

Didn't even need the expander. That's success.

Didn’t even need the expander. That’s success.

Oh hey there, miss pack and re-pack.

Packing for a year abroad is daunting, I’m not going to sugar coat that at all. It’s one of those things that seems like a mountain when you think about it, and then feels really, really good when you reach the summit.

In my living room at the moment, I have two forty-eight pound suitcases that encase all of my worldly possessions (or at least the ones I’ll be using over the next year). That’s pretty darn weird.

To fully hammer home the full weight (ha!) of this: when I did my semester abroad in Hong Kong, I had two seventy-five pound suitcases going there, and three (THREE!) coming home. Ridiculous.

I can see that I’ve matured as a traveller. Or at least I listen to my dad more. (You pick).

I will attach my packing list to the travel tips section of the site, in case anyone ever needs to use it, but I’ll give a bit of detail on how I got my things down to such a small size after fully expanding my life out to fill a one thousand square foot apartment.

My mandatory items include - a dictionary, a cookbook and peanut butter... obviously

My mandatory items include – a dictionary, a cookbook and peanut butter… obviously

  1. Cull early and cull often – I took an entire carload of clothes, shoes and miscellaneous things to my local charity thrift shop twice this year. Not only did that feel great and make my closet much easier to navigate, it made it infinitely easier when it came time to pack.Bonus: when I get home, I don’t have to do this again, I know that everything I stored is wearable.
  2. Research the country you’re going to and know what will be available – if you’re going to Europe and have a strict weight limit, maybe you don’t need those four bottles of your favourite shampoo.Things I splurged on – peanut butter and one of my five cookbooks on Chinese cuisine (did you guys really think I’d go away for a year without at least one of those bad boys? c’mon).
  3. Bring drugs – I know this seems counter intuitive to my “bring fewer things” arguments above, but make sure that you have the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you need for the time your spending. With respect to OTC drugs, at least have enough to get you until you can properly speak the language or find a drugstore you trust.Drugs I brought – cold meds (day and night), pepto, immodium (yeah, I said it), a costco-sized jug of ibuprofin, gravol (natural and the kind that makes me sleepy), allergy pills (daytime and the kind that makes me sleepy – for big reactions), vitamins and veggie supplements (see below) and a fully stocked first aid kit that fits in my daypack nicely. I’m a worrier, and this made me feel better, if you’re heading to Europe, you might not need this; in my experience, their pharmacies are not only helpful, but have better drugs (win!).
  4. Think about your diet a bit. I brought a big jug of natural peanut butter because I eat a lot of it here and am unsure about where to find it in the city I’m moving to. I wanted enough to get me by for a bit. Also: I follow a pretty plant-based diet here, which means that the change in my eating habits might cause a bit of a shock to my body (which I definitely don’t want). I definitely don’t want to say no to any sort of dumplings, noodles or pig-based products, so I brought along some supplements to keep my bod happy. If this is going to be part of your change, maybe think about bringing some along.
  5. Ok, back to culling – I packed three times. Once when I moved home to my parents, once with the supervision of my father asking me if I really needed that fifth scarf (I didn’t) and then a final time where I took everything out and thought critically about how often I had worn or used something over the past year.Bonus – Sort your clothes into little category stacks (work shirts, dresses, pants, sweaters, etc) and then think about how many outfits you can make with each item (if it’s just one, maybe it’s not a great weight investment). Also: if one pile is much higher than the rest, it’s easy to see that you might have too many bar tops or skirts.
  6. Apply the same culling techniques listed above to your shoes – I’m moving to China, therefore, I brought one pair of wedges and no heels. I wanted to. Believe me. But, I fought the urge.
  7. Bring things you like, but don’t bring too many things you LOVE. This is a tip that gets thrown around a lot, but I thought I’d reiterate – I have a few purses that go with everything I own, but the trip might take a toll on them, I also have pretty shiny things I like to wear. They are currently taking a vacation in my closet here in Belleville, I would hate to lose them, or draw attention to myself with them overseas. Be smart, people.
Tylenol, iron and veggies.. oh my.

Tylenol, iron and veggies.. oh my.

So, those are my pre-trip tips. Let this post be a record of what I thought was a good idea on my second long-term trip to Asia. I shall re-evaluate in a few weeks and let you know if they worked.

These tips aren’t too helpful if you’re going for a short period of time to somewhere that’s a high on the tricky-traveling list; so if you need tips on that, I recommend this post by Eat Live Run, it’s pretty comprehensive:

Hope this helps!



p.s. AHHH! I’m leaving tomorrow. This is feeling really real.

More on my backpack later - I think I have it down pat, but I need to test my system before I share.

More on my backpack later – I think I have it down pat, but I need to test my system before I share.

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