I'm the last person who has a right to give ANY sort of packing advice. If overpacking was an olympic sport, I'd win the gold every time. If you asked me, I'd tell you that everything I packed is important, however, deep down, I know that's not the case. I can, however, say for sure that there are five items I can think of that anyone coming to live abroad should bring with them.
1. Comfort Food: I know, I know. You're moving to a different country and should be so excited about trying all new types of food. Yes, that's true, the options will be endless with all the foreign dishes at your fingertips. However, trust me when I say that it gets real old not being able to find your favorite snack from home, no matter how many 7/11s you search through. I came to Thailand with a carry-on that consisted of only American snacks. Fudge brownie m&ms, extreme cheddar goldfish, Dots pretzels, and most importantly, cool ranch doritos (the only flavor they don't seem to have here). You can try to rely on the big chain grocery store in your country to have your top picks, but even if they do, it won't be quite the same. Tops Market in Thailand (no, not the same Tops as in the states), is my favorite landmark to visit, and the only place I can seem to find ranch dressing. Though it doesn't taste identical, I always carry it with me when I go out to eat just in case I need to change someone's life with the world's most superior condiment.
2. Journal: It's annoying to keep up with and easy to forget about, but you will be SO grateful that you have it when you return home. My mom has always told me to bring a journal on any big adventure- my first year of college, my semester abroad, my summers as a camp counselor, and now, my job in Thailand. Not only is it a helpful way to record what you did, but it's a great and healthy way to express your feelings. I guess that makes it sound more like a diary, but I think it's important to write down how each day makes you feel. Especially when you've had a bad day, and something big happens that makes you question why you even came here in the first place. Cause I guarantee you that in a few weeks or months, you can read it back, and that big thing will actually seem pretty small. You'll laugh at how you once felt so sad and lonely here, cause now you can't imagine ever leaving. Using a journal is also a perfect way to show gratitude. As much as you should write your frustrations and vent your emotions, you should end every entry with something you're grateful for. Whether it's a small moment that day that made you smile, a laugh you shared with a friend earlier in the week, or just the overall fact that you're here and you're living the experience of a lifetime. It's a self-made souvenir that allows you to see just how quickly things can change.
3. Photos: We are so fortunate to live in a day and age where facetime is an option. Being able to call up your favorite people in a way that allows you to see and speak to them truly makes it so much easier to make that big move across the world. However, time zones and schoolwork do get in the way, and sometimes you may go days or weeks without finding time to make a call. Well, it's a good thing a picture is worth a thousand words huh? Not only does putting up photos add some decor to the blank spaces in your room, but it gives you a sense of comfort seeing your loved ones in there with you. Sometimes that reassuring smile you need is hanging right there on the wall. Pictures are also great conversation starters! When new people come by your room, the photos will likely catch their eye, and this can lead to a conversation where you get to talk about some of your best memories with the best people. There's nothing like feeling a sense of home in a place that is so far away.
4. Plush Pal: Call me a child, but there's something about curling up in bed at the end of a long day with your favorite childhood memento. Whether it's a stuffed animal or a blanket, it's a piece of your former life that you get to take with you. Not to mention, they make great assistants for a Halloween-in-quarantine costume fashion! I've had Flipper, my Build-A-Bear dolphin, since I was 7 years old, and she has since traveled all over with me. I also brought my favorite blanket, which, although not from my childhood, brought me comfort when I was in quarantine sleeping in a bed that just didn't feel right. It was a college graduation gift from my best friends at school, with pictures of the eight of us printed on it. Not only is it a way to see their faces when I'm missing the girls, but it also lets us have sleepovers every night!
5. Books: Believe it or not, social media gets boring and Netflix gets old. Your screen time will go up, and your desire to look at a phone or computer will go down. Time to go back to the olden days! Some of my friends brought kindles with them to read with, which is definitely smart because you have unlimited access to books, but, I can't fully enjoy the story until I can crack the spine and smell the pages. You'd be surprised how often a book may come in handy. Lazy Sundays when you're bored in bed and no one at home is awake to provide you with content to scroll through. Hour long domestic flights that don't come with tv screens or skyfi. Lounging on an island beach too secluded to have any service. It's amazing that the power of a story can take you all around the world without ever even having to stand up.
Take this advice with a grain of salt, or make these objects the first five items on your packing list. Regardless, be sure you put all of them in your carry-on! In the rare case that your luggage gets lost, you'll still have the five most important things with you :)