November 2019 - The Philanthropy Issue

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Top 20 Things To Pack When Moving Abroad

Some things cost exponentially more outside the US, and some things aren’t available at all...

Top 20 Things to Pack When Moving Abroad

When making a major move abroad, you’ll need to edit your household items as much as possible. You will want to weigh the cost of leaving something behind against how much it would cost to replace it, if the item is essential to your household.

Initially, neither of us could bring our furniture, so it was up to the home accessories to create an atmosphere of normalcy. The shock of being outside your comfort zone is intense. Depending on how much space you have, prioritize the necessities and then include items that remind you of who you are where you come from. There’s nothing like having your own food, books, or music to make you feel at home.

1. Kitchen Equipment - Both of us love to cook and expats all over the internet recommend bringing your kitchen equipment if you can. Some of the items Nicole and I brought with us and recommend bringing are: an Instapot, a dutch oven, a food processor, a rice cooker, a Crock Pot, saucepans, a skillet, a frying pan, silicone cooking utensils, a toaster, a juicer, spatulas, tongs, measuring spoons, measuring cups, a water filtration system, Le Creuset stoneware, a strainer, a colander, a loaf pan, whisk, etc. If you use it often at home, you will definitely want to bring it with you.

2. Sentimental Things - Once again, not exactly minimalists here. I brought with me two of my grandmother’s paintings, small gifts from loved ones, photos, and as many knick knacks and area rugs as I could sneak past my significant other. I’m pretty sure Nicole brought a mold of her teeth, although I’m not entirely sure if that was sentimental…

3. Clothes That Will Suit Your New Lifestyle - I lived my prior life in suits, dressy separates, and heels. Life in San Miguel is way more laid back. Consider your new climate and whether you will experience a rainy or dry season. Lightweight clothes are ideal for hot days, and a light jacket or windbreaker is good for cool mornings, evenings and rainy days. Comfortable walking shoes are a must (especially in SMA you need shoes that can handle cobblestone streets). I live in my Birkenstocks.

4. Make-up, Skincare, & Hair Products - If you have some favorites in these categories, bring them and definitely don’t feel bad about it. It is nearly impossible to find the great hair products we used to back home. And Amazon Prime does not exist here…

5. Official Documents - Passports, birth certificates, marriage license, car title, medical history, animal medical history, etc. Remember, if coming on a tourist visa, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after your travel departure date.

6. Electronics & Adapters - Purchasing electronics in Mexico is expensive, so bring your computer, phone, chargers, camera, etc. with you. Make sure everything is out of the packaging so it's not considered brand new, and therefore taxable.

7. Packing Cubes & Space Bags - These save room in your luggage for all the other things you'll be bringing. Flatten out your personal items as much as possible. Space bags are great for pillows, blankets, and towels also.

8. Specialty Food Items - Bring these with you, especially if you have dietary restrictions. Food items that you are used to getting in your home town might not be available in your new city, and if they are, you can expect to pay a little more for these items. Here in San Miguel, I have been able to find items such as gluten free flours, baking mixes, and pastas, non-dairy yogurts, sugar substitutes, nuts, etc., but they are at premium price point. I always leave room in my luggage when I am back in the states to load up on these specialty items.

9. Tools - You might be lucky enough to have a Home Depot not too far away, but again, you can expect to be paying a premium for that convenience. It will likely cost you less to ship your own tools than to pay for a new drill or saw in Mexico.

10. Cotton Fabrics - I have found that the fabric stores here sell low quality, synthetic fabrics. For sewing projects, I prefer natural cotton and can find a better selection in the US.

11. Medications - Bring at least a one month supply of medications and supplements. And don’t forget these for your pets also!

12. Pet Supplies - Animals will adjust easier if you bring a month supply of their usual kibble. Don’t forget leashes, crates, carriers, travel bowls, medicine, brushes, etc.

13. A Kindle - You can’t bring every single book on your reading list. Trust me, I TRIED!

14. Yoga Mats - Consider how much more grounded you will feel by practicing yoga. You may be able to find one in Wal-Mart in a bigger city, but we decided to take ours with us.

15. Towels & Bed Linens - Yes, these can be purchased at your final destination, BUT the quality of sheets and towels we were able to find upon first moving to San Miguel was lower. We also do not sleep without TEMPUR-pedic pillows. Good luck finding those…

16. Rubbermaid Tubs - These came in extremely handy for the car ride down to Mexico. They’re discreet, and they keep things organized. They’re also great to have around when you are ready to move again.

17. Shower Curtain - If you have one you love, bring it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an ugly plastic one from the grocery store. Having a pretty bathroom makes all the difference in the world.

18. Cookbooks - There is just something so comforting about having my cookbooks. I enjoy reading the handwritten notes inside from family and friends, and I like being able to make food that reminds me of home.

19. Bathrobe & Slippers - When you’re in a furnished rental in a new country and nothing feels right to you, you will appreciate the heck out of having a comfortable bathrobe and matching slippers.

20. Decorative Pillows - Forget the inserts, and just bring the exterior. These were great for covering up decorative pillows that weren’t mine.