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How To Move Across The World

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I only move at least 3,000 miles at a time, or not at all. Drama queen by nature, I thrive on new beginnings and reinventing myself whenever I touch down in a new place. This is my third major move in the last two years. In May 2013, I had to move my entire life from Boston College back to Los Angeles to my parents’ house. I was able to cut the last 4 years of my life into three large suitcases and then I shipped a few boxes home. Then I moved to Beijing, China a few months later with two large suitcases, one carry on, a backpack, and a yoga mat. Now I just moved to London, UK with two medium suitcases, a carry on, two backpacks, and a yoga mat. Damn you Lulu Lemon and your impeccable mat quality!

The struggle was real.

However, there’s a certain sense of achievement that comes with moving around the world multiple times. My nomadic lifestyle confirmed that I owned things, but they did not own me back. I did not need anything, but I won’t deny that certain objects did make life easier.

So how do you even begin to move across the world? Here are 6 helpful tips about packing and what you should leave behind versus smuggle across enemy lines!

1. All you need is food, water, and shelter to survive.

So before you jump continents, be sure that these three things have been locked into place. Check out or for some cheap places to crash land into. You can stay there for a few weeks on a relatively reasonable budget until you get on your feet.

2. Make medication a priority.

I have a tendency to land in hospitals when I travel (world tour!) so I’ve made it a habit to pack emergency supplies and medication, in bulk. Wearing dirty clothing isn’t going to kill you. Finding out that you’re seriously allergic to something in the Philippines while your trapped on an island due to a monsoon might. Google what you’re going to be up against according to your destination and use some common sense when packing. While in the tropics, you’re going to want to make bug spray and allergy medication a priority; but when you’re hiking the snowy mountains of Tibet in the winter, you’re going to give socks and heating pads the most attention.

You should ALWAYS bring contraception when you travel, even if you’re doctor has already prescribed you something or you don’t plan on doing the dirty. I’ve often helped out friends or strangers, which then leads to good travel karma, and allows the party to continue effortlessly without pregnancy or STD scares. #humblebrag

3. Pack things that can’t be purchased again.

Most of my luggage is filled with expensive work outfits, bag, or winter clothes because I can’t afford to repurchase these big-ticket items again on my own. Most of these things I’ve had for years and were gifts from my parents or paycheck when I was working corporate. I plan on getting a normal 9-5 in England in Sales so I’ll need these beautiful things to put my best foot forward.

4. Bring only as much as you can carry on your own.

 You’re going to be traveling alone at some point so be sure that you only bring so much that you can lug around yourself. For me, I always put what I can’t live without in my GoRuck backpack so if I get into trouble, I can drop everything (but the backpack) and take off running.

5. Pack like you’re in the military.

Roll your clothing into tiny burritos and stuff them in every crevice you can find. I put my athletic clothing into my shoes, my work clothing into my purses, and my phone in my bra (ha… but actually). Wear all of your heaviest clothing on the plane to save space and kgs for the weighing-in nightmare at the desk.

Disclaimer: My iPhone actually experienced water damage from sweating so much when I was in Hong Kong. If it’s humid, find a necklace-type bag for your phone so it’s easily accessible for photos and to report crime.

 6. Don’t stock up on your favorite products.

Chances are the changes in the weather and water will completely change the way your hair and skin reacts. Suddenly, my oily skin dried out with the Beijing pollution and the humidity of London is crushing my blowout routine. You’ll learn what works as you become accustom to the new environment and it’s important for you to become familiar with local products, as imports are often expensive.

7. Use the rule of 8.

For those who are moving and not just traveling, I use the rule of 8: 8 shirts, 8 pants, 8 socks, 8 dresses, and 8 panties. This way, I have enough clothing to get through a whole week and one extra outfit for laundry day! If you have more space, feel to throw in more outfits and pieces, but only pack as much as you can realistically take.

And then cut that in half.

 8. Things are things are things. 

Anything and everything can be bought again; unlike memories.


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The world is a big scary place. There will never be a “perfect plan.” Accept it, relish in the mystery, and then, wander onwards.

  • jule

    How do you go about making a drastic move to London with no job lined up or guaranteed place you’ll be able to rent?

  • Did I read correctly that your minor was in Studio Art? Do you carry any art supplies with you? or do you do everything on the computer? I think I may be old-fashioned, shlepping art supplies with me (got really excited when I found a glue stick to buy in Montevideo, Uruguay).

    • Vanessa Elizabeth

      Hey Carolyn,

      I don’t really have the space to carry around art supplies :[ I was a big time spray paint nerd in school, but I gave that hobby up quickly because I would get super high off of the fumes despite using a mask, a fan, and spraying outdoors.

      Such is life.


  • “If you have more space, feel to throw in more outfits and pieces, but only pack as much as you can realistically take.

    And then cut that in half.”

    That really made me laugh. So true!

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