American novelist Ira Levin once said, ‘Anyone who needs more than one suitcase is a tourist, not a traveler’.  

This has got me thinking. In January I’m moving with my husband and kids to Santiago, in Chile. We’ve just our stuff shipped last week and now we’re surviving with the basics.

It’s been a logistical nightmare sorting our stuff. A container from Nigeria, a few parcels from Spain, several boxes from the UK. It’s now all packed away in my father’s (thankfully vast) garage. Our temporary home looks rather bare, and my three year old’s room looks especially Dickensian, but we’re coping fine.

Yes, I’ve missed my huge bed. I’m looking forward to slick GHD hair. And it’ll be fun to twirl around in my ballgowns. But I’ve forgotten about lots of stuff.

I thought the experience would teach me how little I can survive with. The ultimate #KonMari. But alas I fear it’s having the opposite effect.

I’m hearing reports in Chile of outrageously priced English books, counterfeit medicine and rubbish skincare products. I’m stockpiling vitamins, Jane Austen and facial cleanser like it’s 31st December 1999.

But it’s not just Chile. I’ve done it for every expat move. Books, medicine and beauty form the holy trinity of my expat luggage list wherever I go. And the more exotic the location, the more I bulk buy.

I do the same when visiting friends too. A good Bordeaux goes down especially well in China, India and Scandinavia. Swiss chocolate for my friends in India. Indian scarves for my friends in Switzerland. I’ve even packed ‘just in case’ presents for Chile. A few luxury travel beauty sets never go amiss.

Am I the only one who does this?

I reckon not. I used to live in Luanda, Angola and it’s surely no coincidence that on the return flight to one of the most expensive cities for expats, all luggage, including cabin baggage, would be weighed at least three times at the airport – on check in, at the departure gate, and again just before boarding.

Whether you turned left or right on the plane, it didn’t make any difference. Fights would break out, combatants protected in a multilayered armour of clothing (saves on luggage space), with over-sized laundry bags their weapon of choice. One colleague would even pack chicken from Beirut (‘it just tastes so much better’). Overhead cabins in business stuffed with Vuitton branded bags: exclusivity in bulk.

Perhaps I’m no better than the recent hoards of Black Friday shoppers cashing in on the latest ‘bargain’. Or maybe I’m just wisely squirreling away essential goods that I won’t have access to when I hit Latin American soil. Or I’m paranoid – this is Santiago, not Sana’a, after all.

I figure the more I packed now, the less I’ll need later. But there’s a limit. I can’t take Yorkshire to Santiago. Nor do I want to. The more I take from the UK, the less I’ll take from Chile. And I’m talking about experiences, not just luggage.

I fear we may need a new suitcase or two for our upcoming flight. My husband thinks we can survive as we are. Perhaps he’s right. After all, we Expaters are travelers, not tourists, right?

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