Life in 4 Suitcases, 22 Kilos Each

Last night I dreamt our visa paperwork came through and when I woke in the morning packing panic woke too.

Imagine with me: You have to figure out how to fit your family’s current and 1.5years of future life into 4 suitcases, 22kilos each.

Why don’t we just buy what we need when we get there? Because in our overseas home men’s shoe sizes stop at a 10 and my husband is an 11.5 and never mind trying to find trousers to fit his long legs. I may be a medium in the US, but there I’m a XXL and there just isn’t much XXL on the island of petite and slender. They don’t sell kid underwear. Or English books. Or chocolate chips. Or body lotion without added bleaching agent. Or allergy medicine.

Daunting, isn’t it? I’ve become an obsessive list maker.

I’d like to think I’m naturally organized, but more likely the lists came about as a coping mechanism, my little bit of felt control when life shifts continents.

I’ve got lists for…

Kid clothes – Not just what fits now, but several pairs in graduating sizes because if they are comfortable now we can reasonably trust they’ll be comfortable in the next size up.

School supplies – Chose curriculum that doesn’t require a lot of printing or anything beyond basic science supplies. (Red cabbage juice is not basic. Neither are Styrofoam balls, masking tape, or lemons)

Groceries – Tea. Gum. Taco seasoning. Pepperoni. Vanilla. Chocolate. Dried fruit. Pecans if at all possible.

Birthday decor – Black Panther napkins for the 7 year old and something with rainbows for the 3 year old. If there’s room add themed plates and maybe even a table cloth.

Clothes for grownups or at least new underwear
Christmas and birthday presents
Flea and tick meds for the dogs and cats
Can I fit a bread machine this time?
What about an ice cream bowl for the kitchenaid?
Vitamins: (1 vitamin/day x 4 people) x 548 days = 2,192 chewables
How heavy are pizza pans? Google light weight pizza pan.

The lists are alive with items added, erased, and prioritized over and over in the lead up to leaving. Still, no matter how thorough and specific the list making, I will inevitably unpack overseas and think, Dang. Sure wish I’d remembered to bring roach killer… or some other essential thing.

A wise expat friend told me, “I try to be content. If I can’t bring it or find it here then I don’t really need it.”

She’s right. I can be content even if everything on my list doesn’t make it. I’ll be sad if I forget the chocolate chips or have to scratch the bread machine off the packing list, but I guess I don’t really need them. A couple new bread pans from town may not be my favorite, but would do just fine. Sugar cookies will work too, even if I’d rather have chocolate chip.

Hands down the attitude I bring wins over any number of essential items I may forget or not be able to bring. I can pack up contentment right alongside everything else.

(And hopefully that bread machine will fit too.)

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Anisha Hopkinson

Anisha was born to Chilean and Texan parents, first tasted missions in Mexico, fell in love with an Englishman in Africa, and now lives in Indonesia. She journals about cross-cultural life, helping people, and loving Jesus on

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