Moving to a new country is both exciting and a bit scary. You may find yourself asking the question…”What should I take and what should I leave?”. There may be parts of you that wants to take everything. There are things that have been in your life forever and you can’t imagine yourself without it. You could also be on the other side of the spectrum and feel like you just want to leave everything and start a new.

For many of us we have been dreaming of the day that we can live overseas. No more working holiday or living to work. You want more out of life. And with this type of long term decision it’s very important that you take the process of planning your move seriously. There are things that you just won’t know until you experience it. If you watch Boondocks you may remember the episode that discussed knowns unknowns and unknown unknowns. It was pretty funny (and confusing) but for those who did not see that episode the bigger point is there will be things you know, you do not know, and things you don’t know, you do not know. Taking a leap of faith and moving abroad is embracing that there will some of both mixed into your journey.

This blog will suggest how to tackle packing and then instructions on what to include when creating your list. The fact is that you can’t take everything. So let’s just go on and toss that idea out of the window. The quantity of what you do bring with you will be determined by your budget, the law, and the hassle factor. And don’t worry I am going to break that down for you. Depending on your budget you may immediately find yourself limited by how much you are capable of taking. Don’t see that as a hinderance but as a factor you must consider. Even those rare few with an unlimited budget find the next two items may pose more of a headache than it’s worth. The laws entering a country may limit what you can bring in. For example allergy meds are banned in Japan. And this includes Vick’s vapor rub. Nigeria does not allow ballpoint pens….yes ballpoint pens along with a long list of other items. Kinder Surprise candies were not allowed into the US for years. Yes, the chocolate egg with the toy inside. Listen, I didn’t make the rules but hopefully I have made my point. The laws in your new country may prohibit items that in your home country are quite mundane. Avoid the culture shock and do your research.

My recommendation when creating a moving checklist is to start with a wants and a needs list. We will start with the needs since this is a non-negotiable.

  • Passport
  • Social Security Card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Visas and permits
  • Money – for living & expenses; cash and cards
  • Vaccines for family members
  • Import taxes for high-value items
  • Vaccines and quarantines for pets
  • Insurance
  • Adoption/Divorce/Marriage/child custody papers
  • Clothes – underwear/sleepwear/day wear/work out/socks/shoes
  • Soap/deodorant/shampoo/conditioner/make up

Now, let’s tackle the wants list. Because as long as you have money to enter and get around, clothes on your back, and the documents necessary everything else is technically a want. I would start by thinking about the size of the item. Larger items may be more difficult to ship and may technically be a want but you feel like you need it. I’ll give an example for myself. I LOVE my mattress. I want this mattress with me in central America. I don’t need it. Honestly I sleep well every time I visit but living there I know I really really am going to want a good comfy mattress and the fact that I already own one makes it hard not to just try and take it with me. Also I know already that this is not an easy item to get. For me the deciding factor is going to come between the cost to actually get it there compared to the hassle of finding a place to buy it from there. You will find yourself toggling between things as well. They are wants and as you discover what it takes to get it transferred to the foreign country that will become your new home you will also learn if it is worth it.

Last note: Start early, at least 3 months in advance. Sell what you have no use for or put it in storage for when you return. Give yourself time to get over any bumps (or unknown unknowns) in the road as there will probably be a few. The earlier you start the easier you will make it on yourself to cleave what you don’t need, store what you don’t need to take with you and plan and pack what’s going. As someone going on this journey with you I’d love to learn any tips and tricks you have in the comments below.

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