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Packing Your Life Into One 50-Pound Suitcase

By Dorothee Rembold

At the airport, you see a girl with a 50 pound backpack on her back, 25 pound carry-on backpack in the front, and ski boots over her shoulder in the middle of summer, kicking a duffel bag across the tiles. What would you think? If you are moving all your belongings abroad, you understand. How do you decide what to take and what to leave behind? I was spending only six months in Europe, but even packing for such a short time seemed impossible. The following strategy helped me to successfully take everything I needed:

1. Double check how much the airline allows you to take Most airlines let you take a 50 pound bag, a carry-on, and a laptop bag or purse on international flights, but there are always ways to bend the rules a little. You can often take additional luggage for a fee. This can come in handy, as shipping things overseas is expensive.

2. Find the lightest possible bags The weight of your luggage is limited, so why waste it by taking a suitcase that weighs 20 pounds? Duffel bags are a pain to travel with, but may be worth it. I ended up taking a backpack that I could have hiked Mt. Everest with, only I could barely lift it off the ground.

Dorothee backpacking

3. Think about what you’ll need What kind of clothes will you need? What’s the weather like? Will you need to bring sheets and towels? My plan was to go skiing, backpack through Turkey, and work in a business setting while abroad, requiring me to take a lot of different clothes.

4. Pack the essentials first Take the things that you can’t live without, including appropriate attire, teaching materials and electronics. Make sure to also think about upcoming holidays and small items that remind you of home. Try to keep your carry-on light, and don’t bank on it to fit everything your suitcase can’t. Filling it up will never be a problem. And don’t forget to check what you will need to make your electronics work abroad. Voltages and outlets differ internationally!

5. Surprise! You have too much stuff. What now? I thought I was ready to go, everything squeezed into the backpack, but the scale told me that my bag was 20 pounds too heavy. So here’s my tip: Throw out everything you haven’t touched for the past year. You can live without it for another year, so leave it behind. If the bag is still too heavy, it’s time to get creative! Wear as much as you can on the flight – but keep in mind that you have to carry everything if you get too warm. In my case, this meant throwing my ski boots over my shoulder. Worst case scenario, I would wear them as I walked on the plane.

6. None of this worked? Consider shipping some items that you won’t need immediately, but remember you will probably have even more belongings the next time you move. This is your chance to downsize. You can live with a lot less than you think, so only take what you’ll really use and enjoy the adventure. Good luck packing!

Dorothee Rembold is an intern at Teach Away Inc.

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