When preparing to travel, many of us often forget to consider the “small” objects that occupy so much room in a suitcase. If you’re taking your SUV on a long road trip, your time can be spent on more important thoughts such as not forgetting those small objects; after all, you could fit a small department store in that vehicle. However, this time of year sees many students (and a few others) preparing to spend a summer or maybe even a year or more in a foreign country.
Let’s assume that you’ve lined up a one-year job in France starting in a month. You’re putting all of your furniture into storage because it’s too expensive to ship and you suddenly reach the inevitable realization: I can only bring three suitcases (or fewer if you can’t carry three on your own) and these three suitcases must contain the necessities for twelve months.
And so you ask yourself what you need to buy before embarking on your adventure. Your destination’s climate is different and your clothing choices should reflect that. That brings you to the stores and you inevitably make the ultimate impulse buy: socks. Big beautiful fluffy white socks that will make your feet feel so good as you walk and walk and walk and walk around a country where it didn’t pay to bring your car. Did I mention you’ll be walking a lot?
Anyway, you bring your loot home and soon it’s time to pack. Suitcase, meet socks. Socks, meet suitcase.
And guess what. Those socks take up a ton of room that could be used for other things.
And with that in mind, I would like to share a few packing tips. As I am not an expert on women’s clothing, my examples will come from the men’s side of the department store. Nevertheless, most of my recommendations should also apply to the ladies.
Rule #1: They sell socks in France. Actually, they sell socks in most countries and you won’t go broke if you buy them over there. Once your travels end, they’ll be well-worn (read: more compact) and easier to ship home. You only need to pack enough socks to last you until you can go shopping. In some European countries, you can wear the same socks for a month (or so it seems) without anyone noticing the odor… so I wouldn’t worry too much about bringing a lot of socks. Just sit back and appreciate the water conservation efforts. Seriously. If you’re lucky, you’ll stop noticing the smell just like the natives did.
Rule #2: You will be shipping a lot of stuff home unless you only pack two of the three suitcases you bring. Besides souvenirs, you’ll pile up a ton of new stuff you’ll use while you’re there. Of course, the empty suitcase trick only works well if you’re spending a couple of months with a host family that already has dishes and other household necessities for you to
Rule #3: Some items aren’t worth bringing. Unless you’re wearing it on the plane, skip the sweaters, leather jackets, and blue jeans. Compared to fleece and khakis, they take up a ton of room and your first goal is to not be naked and still fit your TSA-approved travel-size toothpaste into a suitcase. With a few exceptions, you should choose the clothing that takes up the least space. After all, your most snazzy clothes may not appear too snazzy in a foreign context.
Rule #4: Underwear is ambiguous. When traveling, especially if you’ll end up sharing a hotel or hostel room, you’re probably going to be undressing in front of people… unless you always utilize the bathroom for this purpose. That silk banana hammock thong is probably going to freak people out even if you’ve all seen enough penises to start an Oscar Mayer factory. And you probably will see that much nudity but you’ll get used to it quicker than you’d expect. You don’t necessarily have to go with the bulky flannel boxers but you should plan to show some courtesy towards your roommates.
Rule #5: Bring an international size conversion chart because each country uses a different set of numbers. Oh, and “extra large” can resemble a U.S. medium at times. Also assume that your chart will usually be wrong, so be prepared to try everything on before buying it. Except of course for that nice big fluffy 6-pack of socks in plastic wrapping…