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Americans often struggle with their “stuff” when they move abroad, and for good reasons. Our possessions are often an extension of our world and personality. People enjoy seeing things that they have collected over the years, things that make them remember and can help shape who they want to become (and I’m not just talking about that treadmill that is suddenly a motorized clothes hanger!).

The author of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, said, “He who would travel happily, must travel light.”

When considering the expat lifestyle, though, possessions take on a different role. They can become inspiration points, anchors holding you back, gifts to cherished family and friends, and elements essential for making a new house your home. For example, when I moved to Spain, I took way, way, waaaaaayyyy too much stuff. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t trust the world I was moving into enough to understand what I could replace and what I really needed. Others need more, like the one acquaintance who basically moved her whole house, at tremendous expense, to her new home, only to return six months later. A retired couple I know keep everything they own in their two suitcases, plus two storage totes for switching out items when they come back to the US to visit family.

What about you? What do you need? 

The first step is probably travel, and that means figuring out how to travel like an expat. If you aren’t sure how to do that, then here’s some help to get you started:

Pack Light: Quick & Easy Tips for Traveling Everywhere with Exactly the Right Stuff Kindle Edition 4 stars / 25 reviews

For $1.50, you really can’t go wrong with this book if you are thinking of traveling for more than a couple of weeks or relocating.

From the author: Oh sure, everyone talks about packing lighter, but how do you start? What’s the best way to figure out what you really need, avoid buying those “must have” travel gadgets you’ll never use, and keep your things organized and accessible on the road? Having visited more than 60 countries, often traveling for three months at a time, bestselling travel writer Karen McCann has worked out a host of handy shortcuts that will help you identify what you really need — and feel relaxed and confident about leaving behind excess baggage that would slow you down.

The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light by Erin McNeaney
4.8 stars / 95 reviews

Paperback $11.99
Kindle $4.99

This may be your best starting place if packing “light” is new to you.

From the author: 

Save money, time, and stress by never checking a bag again.

Have you ever struggled with packing for a trip? You can’t decide what you’ll need, so you pack for every scenario and take far too much. You struggle to fit everything in your bag, you get stressed lugging it around, and you pay a fortune in airline luggage fees.

The Carry-On Traveller will teach you not only how to lighten your load, but how to pack everything you need into a single carry-on-size bag. You can apply these strategies to any trip, whether you are travelling for a week or a year, to hot or cold climates, alone or with kids.

By travelling carry-on only, you’ll save time at airports, avoid wasting money on checked luggage fees (which are increasingly common), and reduce the stress of hauling bulky bags.

How to Pack for Any Trip (Lonely Planet)
by Lonely Planet (Author), Sarah Barrell (Author), Kate Simon (Author)
3.7 stars / 13 reviews
Paperback $9.39

Lonely Planet is an outstanding authority on travel, and this book is good as a planning resources for new travelers.

From the authors:

No matter what type of traveller you are or what kind of trip you’re planning, the various tailored packing lists, tips, techniques and advice in this book will help you unleash the packing pro within and keep your luggage light and organised.


  • comprehensive packing lists
  • tried-and-tested packing methods
  • advice for choosing luggage
  • how-to illustrations
  • kit ideas for every type of trip