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Brandon’s Recommended Gear For Living or Traveling Abroad

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If you’ve never traveled or, at least traveled very far, then it could be a strange first-time experience for you if not handled well, especially if you’re planning on living abroad for a while.

When I first moved to Asia I didn’t take every single thing that I owned, of course. I took what I thought I would need, but looking back now I realize that I actually took way too much, plus I took a lot of the wrong things and not enough of the right things. I hope that with my list here, I can better help you to avoid similar mistakes and make better decisions!

So what should you pack when moving abroad?

There are a few primary necessities you should pack when moving abroad, and in the correct quantities. There are also some things you should just leave behind, no matter how much you think you need them. I will divide these up into two categories:

  1. Must-Have Gear for Living or Traveling Abroad
  2. What to Leave Behind When Living or Traveling Abroad

Let’s get started with the necessities!

Must-Have Gear for Living or Traveling Abroad

What you should bring with you when heading overseas could vary just a bit, depending on a few factors, a few being:

  • How long you plan to stay before moving back
  • If you plan to move back at all!
  • Where you are heading to live/travel
  • If you’re going to stay there for work or are just traveling for a little while
  • How much you love your knickknacks or need your good luck charms

If you are just going for a one or two-week vacation then a full-sized suitcase and a nice carry-on bag should suffice. If you are a lady you can add a purse or another shoulder bag or camera bag could be added.

For a one or two-week vacation with minimal shopping planned, I will use the following:

  • My orange pumpkin (a full-sized suitcase, as seen in my page title picture)
  • My Nike backpack
  • And sometimes my Canon camera bag (although I will rarely take this anymore since I have a really cool, new OnePlus 6T phone)

I typically don’t take my large suitcase for a week-long vacation BUT over the past year I’ve begun to do so when I go to Japan. The reasoning is simple: my friends in China always ask me to purchase some products for them so it becomes much too cumbersome to carry these things back without the added assistance of my pumpkin (my friend Jean as nicknamed my large, orange suitcase for me).

If you are going to be attending a special event and need to bring some special clothes, then I believe the large suitcase would also be a necessity.

For an extended (2+ weeks) vacation or trip, I would recommend this:

  • If there are no special events to attend and no special dress codes (IE every day is basically the same casual clothes), then consider if you are able to wash your clothes locally or have them washed. If so, then you can stick with the same combination above, but if not, then you can decide if you will need the extra room to separate your clothes.
  • If you are going to be abroad for a few weeks or more and plan to do some shopping, then it may benefit you to bite the bullet and bring two checked suitcases to ensure you have enough room to carry everything and do it easily.

Tip: You may want to consider the location you’re going to before you buy a new suitcase (or two). Last month (October 2018) I traveled to Tokyo for the 8th time and took only my backpack with me, but returned with a large suitcase full of beauty supplies and gifts for my friends and colleagues. You could actually wait until you arrive to buy the luggage you need for the return trip, rather than going to the trouble of taking it with you on your outbound flight.

For a short or longer-term move abroad, I would suggest you to use this:

Assuming that you are already sure of which city you’ll be living and staying in for a while, what kinds of facilities and shopping are available nearby, and the ease of getting your stuff there, you can then make a choice as to how much–or little–to bring. For the sake of this article, I will assume that your intended location is considered average in all of these areas and then you can draw more detailed, in-depth conclusions for yourself. How does that sound?

  • Two full-sized checked luggage
  • One large backpack (not like the ones the serious hikers wear)
  • A nice-sized shoulder bag
  • A medium-sized purse (if you’re a woman)

Note that on this list, I don’t recommend a camera bag. The reasons are that 1) I am more serious with my camera purposes because I make films and also do photography as a hobby, and 2) I sometimes use my camera bag as an added shoulder bag. For you, however, I would recommend that you find a larger shoulder bag (not too large, mind you) which can house not only a separate camera (if desired) but also other stuff that you need quick, easy access to.

Safety Tip: It’s important that you keep your shoulder bag and/or purse slung over your shoulder AND head while walking around in public. This way, it would be practically impossible for someone to snatch it off of you. In certain places or circumstances, you should wear your backpack in front of you rather than behind you so that no one can steal anything out of it. This is especially true on the subway trains, and I further urge you to keep your pockets closed or covered as they are prime targets for thieves.

What special things should you bring when moving abroad?

I feel that this one sort of depends again on how long you’ll be living there.

If you’re moving to a city where you know for certain that you’ll be staying for the rest of your life, then by all means pack up and ship as much as you like! However, you must realized that if you are wanting to actually carry this stuff with you to the airport, onto the plane, and out of the airport on the other side, then it may take you quite a bit of energy–not to mention added weight expenses.

Another useful option here would just be to ship your things out before you fly out yourself. This can be just as affordable as adding the baggage on your flight but it’s definitely more manageable as you don’t have to deal with all of that. If you are like me and have quite a few special items such as a couple of t-shirts your daughter made for you (yes, I brought mine with me), then feel free to bring them along if you are essentially burning the bridge between you and your old life (the location, not necessarily the people or relationships).

For shorter stays or if you’re unsure how long you’ll be there or if you’ll move elsewhere, you can select a handful of special personal effects to bring. These should be chosen AFTER you’ve already packed up your primary gear, as they shouldn’t take up so much space and take away necessary item’s baggage area.

Here it is: My Recommended Travel Gear

As I get more time, I will add more to this list so feel free to bookmark it or check back from time to time!

  • A sturdy, good-quality, full-sized suitcase (or two if needed) that is hard-lock style rather than zipper style. I currently have the zipper style but if someone tampers with it, I will know. I am just being a bit cheap because it’s more expensive for the other style. Haha. Try to get an out-of-the-ordinary color like I did (pumpkin, remember?) or dress it up with something that makes it easily recognizable. I am adding unique stickers to it here and there, such as Air Jordan, The Hoth, Rode Microphones, and more. My suitcase is an expandable luggage by Ambassador, but solid orange in color.
  • A nice, normal, medium-to-large-sized backpack. I don’t do what I call “the serious hunchback hiker” style backpacks, but I do like a nicely-sized backpack that enables me to leave my pumpkin at home sometimes. The one I use currently is the Nike LeBron James Soldier Backpack in seaweed color. It is solid but I have toted my laptop around in it so much that some of the shoulder seams are started to come apart a bit. I think I can get it repaired, though–nothing big!


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