7 Things You “Need” Before You Move Overseas

by Laura Parker on July 9, 2014

I don’t know what it is about me (or us?), but every time I gear up to go live or travel to a different country for an extended period of time, I start scouring Amazon Prime. It doesn’t matter if the place I’m going to serve is a third world country, I somehow feel like I need to spend the price of the plane ticket on “supplies” before I ship out.

After mortgaging the house to make said expenditures, the real fun begins.  I then have to cram all those, er, essentials, into two suitcases and one carry- on per person. And then I have to lug all that crap through airports and customs, while my husband pulls his back out heaving those 49.8 (under 50 pounds! Under 50!) suitcases  off those conveyor belts my kids can’t help but almost get their fingers stuck in.

We Westerners and our stuff. 

These are the freakishly huge stuffed animals that we've paid to fly around the world and back again TWICE now.

These are the freakishly huge stuffed animals that we’ve paid to fly around the world and back again TWICE now.

Perhaps I could write about the tendency towards owning things philosophically, but I definitely won’t. I’ll leave that to smarter people, not as dangerously close to burn out as I am. Instead, I’ll indulge our culturally-driven materialism, and I’ll give you my list of must-have items for life overseas. This is fresh for me, as I’ve just relocated (again!) back to SE Asia.

And yes, yes, I did bring thirteen large suitcases and five carry-ons when we came, thankyouverymuch.

And yes, yes, my husband did throw out his back in the process. Par for the course, friends.

“Must-Have” Items for Life Overseas

1. Chacos. They are the most expensive flip flop you’ll probably every purchase, but the things never. wear. out. I have two pairs, and I wear them daily, and I love them. Like, really. I also have a pair of the double strapped sandals. I don’t wear them that much because I can’t figure out how to tighten them to be comfortable (I know, that’s a bit moronic), but I’ve heard the single strap ones are off-the-hook, as well.

2. Juice Plus Vitamins. Where we live it’s hard to get fresh vegetables that are not cooked to death in a stir fry. What am I talking about, it’s just hard to get vegetables . . . in my children. As in, they hate them. But, that’s okay, because I am sneaky, and perhaps passive aggressive. I take the juice plus vitamin capsules, open them and put them in my kids’ smoothies every day (because they gag when they try to swallow the capsules whole). I also have the juice plus plant-based protein powder, which I put in the smoothies, as well. There’s all kinds of research about the benefits of juice plus, and I’ll spare you the details, but I feel less like a loser mom when I slip them to my kids. And less like a loser-person when I eat them myself. Whether you are into juice plus or another product, definitely save room in the suitcase for quality vitamins.

3. Games. There’s something about living overseas that suddenly makes board games more appealing. We have a few family favorites: Settlers of Cattan, Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, Cards (Kemps, Spoons, etc.), Pictionary, Chess, Cranium, etc. I’ve found that quality family games are easier found on Amazon than the local market. And that’s why I buy ’em and lug ’em.  Of course, favorite toys and books fit into this category. As, would, um, the Xbox.

4. Family Pictures. I made a huge mistake in one of our moves overseas when I didn’t bring many family photos. I figured I could just get frames and print photos out when I got there. Wrong. Getting simple things like water induced a near panic attack at first, so hunting down frames and a print shop seem a mountain I just couldn’t climb. And, so, we spent two years with mostly bare walls. #MomFail. This recent move I did it differently. I went to Prinstagram and ordered about 50 instagram photos to be printed off my instagram feed. I think ordered a few hangers (think twine and clothespins) from Amazon, along with magnets for fridge, and our house was instantly homey. And the prints didn’t weigh much (compared to lots of pictures in frames). #MomWin.

5. External Battery Chargers. These prove essential as you are charging i-pads and phones and whatnot during your journey ’round the world. When you kid is melting down in China during a five hour layover and there are no charging stations in site and the iPad with the movie on it starts blinking that red low battery light . . . you’ll wish you had one. Or two. Or five.

6. Daily Burn. I love this workout app. It’s $10/month, but it has loads of different workout videos that you can watch from any device (iPad, android, iPhone, any smart device), including yoga, cardio, strength training, and an insane section of circuit training routines that I only survived 13 minutes of yesterday. You choose level, time, and type, and then it’s like a gym at home. I know for me, exercise is essential to mental sanity (and fighting depression) and this app has been a lifesaver this go-around. And, nothing says beast like a mom doing knee-pushups and kick-squats in the living room, while her kids watch from over their bowls of breakfast cereal.

7. Kindle. No explanation required.

So that’s my quick list, friends. The, ah-hem, bare necessities for a life overseas.

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How about you? What’s your must-have item(s), worthy of lugging across the world? Share links, if you can! 

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About Laura Parker

Living on three continents and moving 15 times in 15 years of marriage, Laura is no stranger to transition. Recently living in SE Asia with her family, Laura now serves as the VP of a counter-trafficking organization which her husband began, The Exodus Road. Laura is the co-founder and editor here at A Life Overseas and writes at her blog, http://www.LauraParkerWrites.com.

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