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.
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.
Last 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?