Pretzels or pants?

Here it is again .. my suitcase, standing tall and empty in the spare room. Soon it will be suitcases, plural. After all when you leave the country to set up shop somewhere else for a long period of time, I would argue you need at least two suitcases.


photo courtesy of

Suitcases are not my style; I like to travel light – especially over long distances that involve flight time. Apologies to airlines everywhere, but I don’t trust you with my stuff and I have no intentions of paying through the nose for you to manhandle my baggage. I will carry-on my luggage 99% of the time, to avoid the hassle of baggage claim and the frightening fees associated with checking a bag. Nowadays even carrying on has become something of an Olympic sport, with low cost airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet challenging travelers to stuff their bag into one container or another or pay the price. So what? I’m going to Rome for the weekend, I don’t need much more than a toothbrush and a camera.

Not so, as I pack for another year in Spain. This time – nine months, and a bit more than a toothbrush and a camera.

I laughed out loud when my friend and fellow auxiliar Natalie wrote to me and said: “call me crazy, but I’m going to bring less clothes and more peanut-butter-pretzels this time around…” She’s not crazy. She’s moving to a mountain town with a population of 7,000 that is 90 kilometers from Seville. They probably don’t have a Wholefoods and damn sure no Trader Joe’s.

packageLast year in Seville I pined for the funniest things: Quaker oatmeal, vanilla extract, Claussen pickles, Grape Nuts and Burt’s Bees products. This year I’m off to Madrid, a larger and more cosmopolitan city that probably stocks a full line of peanut butter (which I did not have while living in Granada) and at least three familiar name brand cereals.

Does this qualify as exporting the expat? Can we go native without our creature comforts? Probably. But I will still dance around the kitchen when the Thanksgiving box arrives with McCormick gravy mix, or the Easter Peeps appear.

So what have I learned? If you’re going to a big European city, you can leave a lot at home. You’re going to want your favorite hoodie more so than that family size bottle of lotion. Lighten the load! They may not have your favorite brand of shampoo, but they do carry hygiene products in our fellow first-world countries. Yes, if you’re picky about face wash or deodorant, you might want to stash that in your bag. But rest assured there will be toothpaste, q-tips, and razor blades at your destination. Save room for your pretzels.

What do you have to pack that you can’t live without?


12 thoughts on “Pretzels or pants?

  1. I found your blog via Kaley at ymuchomas. I’ve been living in Spain about 18 months now and just yesterday caved and had my first PB&J while here(parent’s recently visited and stocked me up.) I feel like a pregnant lady with the cravings I get all the time! Good luck on your move back!


  2. Even though I am only 900 miles away from my native land (and not in a foreign country… unless the Midwest counts as such?), what I have been craving are Wegmans brand products… particularly, their Fruit Flats. Those things… haunt my dreams. It is amazing what one misses, even when one is not that far away! I so packing my trunk full of those suckers when I next visit the East Coast!

    And if you need a Burt’s Bees supplier when in Spain… I can hook you up!


    • I promise I’ve seen Aveeno in Madrid 🙂 What I can’t find are Aveda products ..

      What day is your orientation? I’m the afternoon of the 29th, with the second years.


  3. Believe it or not a Sugar Cookie scented Yankee Candle seriously warmed my body and soul last winter in Seville lol. I went to Yankee Candle today and bought a bunch of the small candles to put in holders I already have over there. It’s a silly thing, but I swear it made a difference for me!

    BTW I just found your blog and love it! Look forward to following.


  4. I’ve been an expat for over 3 years now and I still get a little chill when I can find vanilla extract! And for some reason, whenever my mom sends me packages stuffed to the edges with taco seasoning I am right as rain for weeks 🙂 Have a safe journey back abroad. I’m going back to Ohio for 3 months, but maybe we can finally meet up on Spain in the spring sometime. Would be much fun!


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