This has been [very] hard for me. There is always a book you are attached to, a picture you bought in a village in Myanmar, the pretty dress you never wore… and you want to hang on to them– after all they are part of your history. But, unfortunately, you will have to learn to separate from these things multiple times. They don’t fit in your lifestyle… or in your suitcase.
When you are traveling, buying souvenirs and local things are part of the experience. You negotiate in the local market, you buy a beautiful picture that will look great in your living room. Most people are on vacations, and will fly back to their home, where they will expose all the exotic things they bought around the world. But when you are living abroad, and constantly moving, these beautiful and exotic things become a problem.
Things you don’t absolutely need in your daily life become a nuisance every time you are relocating. You don’t have a settled house to go back to, actually you might just go back to a temporary little apartment you are renting out in a safe neighborhood. And then six months later you might end up somewhere else, and all the beautiful things you own will become a problem once again. So it is easier to look at them, and think “maybe next time!”
Surely you can always ship your things. But this is tricky. I have friends who have lost all of their stuff (with insurance!). Others who spent a lot of money just to ship a few things and received them 6 months later. You can pay extra-weight and extra-bag every time you travel, and drag heavy suitcases around airports. It is an option, but it is annoying, exhausting, and expensive.
From experience… You will forget about things you bought. I own amazing beautiful things that are in boxes at my parent’s house. If I don’t check what’s inside every time I go for a visit, I forget they even exist. Don’t get me wrong, I love buying local things, but so often I had to leave them behind for lack of space, that I am realizing they are not worth it. It is an unnecessary problem every time I have to pack my things and leave. Memories are forever, and pictures will capture those memories. If you are living out of suitcases, moving around, and without a place to settle down, it is much easier to avoid the stress of having unnecessary things and keep the memories.
In the end, you will find yourself having friends and family holding on to your things everywhere – this is almost inevitable. When are you going to get them together? This is a great question… for now, let’s just be thankful we have people willing to help out and donate some space in their homes. 🙂
- Books: accept the fact you need on-line books. It is not the same as paper book, but what are you going to do with them next time you move? Short story: When I left Malaysia, I left around 9 books behind… It was heart-breaking. Currently I have 2 boxes full of books sitting in my friend’s garage in the United States. So I finally learn: I bought a kindle. It makes life much easier, and I can carry them with me, no matter where I go.
- Souvenirs (pictures/objects): Sometimes buying things is tempting. But you usually don’t have a house to display them, and they become a problem every time you move. So, you can either mail them to your parents/friends, and kindly ask them to save everything for the day you actually settled down. Or you can look at them and think “this will cause me a headache, it is beautiful but I don’t want it.” I am trying my best to follow the second rule…
- Collections: If you want to collect things, collect something easy to carry. Mugs, for example, are a pain to transport. I collect pens (boring I know), but they fit everywhere, they are cheap, light and easy to carry.