How to pack for a 2-year-long trip

With less than three weeks until my departure, I have been busy whittling all of my possessions down to airline-friendly dimensions. Experience has taught me some helpful tricks for tackling the empty suitcase / stuffed closet issue. You really don’t need much stuff to be happy and healthy.

For those curious, here are my five steps to stuff-minimization:

Step 1: Think critically about your possessions.

  • Realize that nothing is sacred. It’s just stuff. They are not tangible manifestations of memories. They do not host happiness.
  • Often seen as conveniences, items can just as easily be inconveniences.
  • Reflect on what delights you. For me, it is riding a bike, creating a nice meal, spending time with a loved one, reading a book, eating berries, drinking something hot, being outside, and naps in hammocks. These all require very little and can make me quite happy. Find the things that bring you joy and focus on those rather than the things that you are living without.

Step 2: Have loving parents/friends who also have space in their garage/attic/basement. They can help you to store any stuff that will be useful later but that isn’t so practical right now. It’s like Christmas when you come back and see all of your stuff ready for your next life-chapter. Some things that will be on-hold for me: a down comforter, old letters, and a kitchen table/chairs set. Thanks, mom and O!

Step 3: Realize that if you forgot something necessary, you can likely get it at your destination. Believe it or not, other people live there, and their basic needs are met. This means that you will get by too. Bonus: rather than bringing something from home, if you buy it at your destination, you will probably fit in just a little bit more. Now you’re not that pale weirdo who wears culturally inappropriate clothes. You’re a pale weirdo who, dios mio, at least dresses normal.

Step 4: Create a giant pile of things to bring. Ponder it. If you’re good at pondering, your pile will miraculously reduce in size. You simply don’t need all of that!

Step 5: Now you are down to a small assortment of quality shoes, a few clothing items and toiletries, some gifts for your host family/colleagues, a handful of comfort items – for me, my favorite cook book and some small personal items – and an odd assortment of consumables – in my case, tahini, spices, and dried cranberries. Note: you will also be left with a TON of dust bunnies that have been secretly reproducing like, well, bunnies underneath all of your stuff for YEARS!

That’s it. Simple, right? New life chapter, nearly a clean slate.

Now if only my credit card statement showed that I followed all of these steps faithfully…

Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


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