So you want to take a Gap Year: Step 3

So now you’re at the point where your departure date is approaching and you want to start packing. How do you start?

I won’t lie, I was nervous about that because I’ve always been a light packer and couldn’t see myself packing light for such a big long trip. The good news is you don’t really need to pack light unless you’ll be carrying everything with you at all times…but this wasn’t the case for me.

I ended up packing one small suitcase full of summer clothes, my bathing suit and flip-flops, one carry-on case with the small extra stuff like chargers and my camera, one large suitcase full of winter coats, boots, hats and gloves, and other non-clothing items I might want, like a few picture frames, some books (bad idea!) and an umbrella.

So in total I only had two suitcases and one bag (my mom later brought me a large backpack when she came to visit me so I could use it for side-trips. I also gave her my carry-on case to bring back because it was heavy and I didn’t need it).

I also left some room in case I would bring back more items. You always end up leaving with more stuff than when you arrived! I ended up bringing back two pairs of shoes, a bright yellow electric teapot with flowers on it (don’t ask), a new handbag and some gifts. However I also trashed a few pairs of shoes and boots plus a coat because they were very worn, so it all sort of evened out.

Of course what you pack depends on what you’re doing. Are you backpacking? Will you be camping along the way? Do you need a tent, sleeping bag, mat, and hiking poles? Boots? Or are you biking around a country and will be carrying a lot on your back the whole time? Are you going on a service trip where some things may be provided and others not such as towels or sheets? Are you staying for a few months or the whole year? In one place or moving around? How about the climate?

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These are all things to take into consideration, but also remember that you may end up purchasing what you missed once you get there. For example, I wasn’t going to bring shampoo, soap, detergent or a hairdryer (yeah I ended up buying one but then just left it in the room I rented for the next person to use). Also consider what will be provided for you anyway.

So here’s my advice:

  1. You don’t need to pack light, but pack intelligently. If you anticipate having laundry access, no need to pack 6 bras. 2 or 3 will do!
  2. Pack clothes you know you will wear. I had a few skirts and dresses that remained untouched at the bottom of my suitcase.
  3. Only pack what you know you need, the rest you may be able to find once you arrive.
  4. Anticipate changing climates and bring appropriate coats and footwear.
  5. Keep track of what you arrived with, because this may change. I arrived with two suitcases and a heavy carry-on case, but left with the two suitcases, a backpack and a different, smaller carry-on bag.
  6. Remember you may not some back with everything you left with either (i.e. my other coat and few pairs of shoes).
  7. Keep in mind if you move around, you may not want to bring everything you came with. When I went to Barcelona, I didn’t take the larger suitcase and carry-on case. I left it with a friend and just took the small suitcase and the backpack.
  8. Make sure to keep your important documents (passports, visas, medical/emergency info) someplace safe that you know you won’t lose or forget. I used a plastic binder sleeve so that I could see inside and also keep the papers flat and neat.
  9. I used another plastic binder sleeve for medications; Ibuprofen, Antacids, Alka-Seltzers, stuff to treat gas and bloating (very useful!) etc.
  10. Pack a book or two if you wish, but I regret bringing mine because once I finished them they were basically dead weight. However do bring a journal!!!

Hopefully you found this helpful in packing for your adventure! Remember not to stress out too much. Packing can be annoying but it’s all for you. Once you’re finished, you can be proud of yourself for getting the hardest part out of the way!

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