A Suitcase Story

In exactly two weeks (July 22nd) I’ll be strapped into a seat, sailing across the Pacific! It still feels so surreal, and disconcerting too. But I’m more excited than nervous, I’m a good kind of anxious. When I wake up, my first thought is always Japan: each day that passes brings me one day closer to departure. But each day that passes also means there’s one less day to prepare for the trip; one less day to prepare for the next 12+ months of my life.

Preparation has not been easy, it has not been simple. Surprisingly enough, moving to a foreign country isn’t as straightforward as travel writers and YouTube vloggers make it out to be. There’s a ton of things I’ve had to sort out, things I’ve never thought about before, like what to do about my phone contract – whether to port my number or transfer it over, or release it to cyberspace – what to do with my U.S. bank account, where to store my personal belongings.

But the greatest struggle by far has been packing. Packing well – packing light – is much harder than I’d imagined. I decided to only bring one suitcase, one flimsy duffle bag, one backpack, and a little pouch to hold my passport.

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My passport holder.

That means I have to fit my entire life into three pieces of luggage!

I’ve been to Japan before, so luckily I know what I will and (probably) will not need. But the list of things I’ll need to bring over to Japan is much longer than the things I won’t. With every item I add to the list, I grow more and more worried that all of the items I’ve deemed as “essential” won’t be able to fit – not to mention stay under 50 pounds if I do manage to pack them snuggly inside my suitcase.

Japan is very different from what I’m accustomed to – different resources, different customs, different lifestyles, which means that I have to prepare certain objects/resource in advance in case they aren’t available in Japan: three-pronged outlets, Advil, anti-perspirant clothing for the humid summer, shoes to fit my abnormally large feet, Yen, even deodorant! And on top of the essentials – travel-sized toiletries, business attire, omiyage, indoor shoes – I have to bring materials for my students too, like maps and photos and trinkets that “represent my home country.”

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My (pink!) indoor shoes.

In order to make room, to maximize what little space I’ll have, there’s a lot I know I’ll have to give up – a lot that I really don’t want to give up. I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to the things I’ve grown to cherish – like old journals I’ve written in throughout college, my favorite paperbacks, the ceramic cow my grandma sent two years ago as decor for my first apartment. To me they’re more than just “things” – they’re snippets of memories, reminders of places I’ve been to and of people I love. I have to leave nearly every object I own behind for the first time, and it’s hard. Fitting my life into 50 pounds or less is a challenge that I never thought I’d face.

But, though this task hasn’t been a simple one, I do have to admit that packing has helped me appreciate what I’ve accumulated here, in the U.S. I know that what I leave behind will be waiting for me when I return home. And it’s encouraging to know that I will always have something to return to.

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