It’s a tough thing to do, deciding what to pack for your new life abroad. You’ve only got so much space, your bags can’t be too heavy and there are so many essentials that absolutely have to go into your suitcase.
There are bound to be moments where you hold a beloved teddy bear in one hand and a pair of your favourite shoes in the other, agonizing over which of the two you will have to do without.Of course, some things will be obvious choices; anyone heading to Alaska can leave out the flip-flops to make room for warm socks.
Sometimes though, there are items we didn’t realise we needed. Must-have miracles we didn’t know we wanted. Items that make life so much easier, solving problems we didn’t know we’d need to solve.
It could be simple things like not having a tin opener when cooking your first home-warming meal in your new flat. It could be as horrible and complicated as losing all your documents just as your landlord or new boss demand a copy.
Whatever does happen when you arrive in your new country, these indispensible gadgets can make settling in and setting up a much easier process.
© Craig Sunter
They may talk about ‘pack up your troubles in your old kit bag’, but that ratty old holdall hiding at the back of the wardrobe has seen better days. Having all your prized possessions in one bag means you want it to be sturdy enough not to burst open, scattering your underwear across the airport.
Like most things with moving abroad, luggage is more complicated than it first seems to be. You want something big enough to pack a lot into, yet something you can actually move with you. Then you don’t want to be stuck with having to dig through a cavernous case every time you need something. Lastly, you don’t want to buy smaller bags and cases because your titanic travelling trunk is far too big for weekend trips.
Shop around, but look for travel bags designed for backpackers. Many of these have been cunningly engineered to give you the capacity of a giant suitcase, but also with the ability to nimbly wheel your luggage through crowds.
Many of these clever cases also feature backpack straps and waist belts, making it possible to take your luggage off-road on more adventurous trips.
The best of these bags have pockets and internal organisers, which mean that your vital possessions aren’t buried at the bottom when you need them. Some will also have padded sections to protect delicate electronics and these may even zip off to become conveniently sized rucksacks or laptop bags.
Remember also to invest in padlocks to keep sneaky hands out of your precious cargo.
© Alan Levine
You land in this new, strange country feeling run down and out of energy. Just wanting to get to your new home, you try to open up the directions you saved on your phone. Annoyingly, the phone is as exhausted as you are and now you’re stuck at the airport until you can recharge it.
Now you face another challenge, finding a plug socket and trying to work out if the adapter you bought fits properly. In some countries the electrical outlets will all be the same; in parts of Asia, Africa and South America there may be several styles of plug within the same city or even in the one building.
Make sure you never get stuck with a handful of useless adapters and a dead phone again. A pocket-sized solar panel gives a free, reliable source of electricity for your most essential electronic device.
There are solar chargers on the market that can also power up an external battery, meaning that you can recharge a phone even when the panel itself can’t.
© Julien GONG Min
There’s a lot of paperwork involved in moving abroad. As well as the visas, insurance policies, tickets and contracts you’ll be filing before you leave, there will be power companies, gym memberships, shipping receipts and tax documents once you arrive.
This mountain of paperwork can get overwhelming and confusing, especially when it’s time to return home or go elsewhere, and another round of documents comes your way.
It’s always a good idea to keep electronic copies of all documents, so that they can be kept safe and secure in case anything gets lost in the move. Storing important documents on a laptop is one way to do this; even better is online with cloud storage.
With your documents accessible stored safely in cyberspace you can access them at any time, anywhere with an internet connection, making it easy to email information around the world.
The only way to get your piles of paperwork into an easy electronic format is to scan them. Thankfully a new generation of portable scanners is on the market: light and compact, they are easy to use and essential to pack.
© Jason Ilagan
So, you’ve got all your documents in one handy online store, with a little help from your portable scanner. Which is a helpful because you just can’t find that essential contract in your filing system.
Time to break out that portable printer; almost as compact as the scanner, you can quickly roll off another copy of that missing document.
Portable printers can be pricey, but are well worth it as you will constantly be needing to print off one document or another to set up bank accounts or utilities suppliers.
© Patrik Theander
Chances are your new adventure is going to start with a long plane ride. You don’t want to arrive shattered and confused, but it’s not always easy to get a restful sleep with the roar of engine noise and the grumblings of your fellow passengers.
Thankfully you can block all that out with the help of noise cancelling headphones. These high-tech hearing savers were originally invented to protect wearers from loud noises whilst still letting them hear conversation.
The more common variety blocks out any background noise, allowing you to enjoy music without any unwelcome sounds intruding. This style also allows the wearer to enjoy the rarest of sounds, utter silence.
As well as proving useful on flights, noise-cancelling headphones are essential equipment for anyone heading to a big city. Block out the noise of the streets, turn down the volume on that rattling air conditioner and switch off the constant natter of large crowds.
As great as it is to be immersed in a new culture, sometimes we need to take a break and find a bit of piece and quiet. With noise-cancelling headphones you can quickly create a serene, quiet little bubble to escape to when things get a bit much.
© James Case
There are lots of big brands of military-grade anodised metal wonders, fully equipped with lockable blades and high-tech tools for specialist jobs. Which are all great, but sometimes you just need to open a beer or tighten a screw.
Expats have enough luggage to lug around the world without needing to add a full tool kit or a complete workshop into their bags. A trusty penknife can step up to the mark and complete just about any job that needs doing.
Combine the tool with duct tape, string and a little ingenuity and you will be able to conquer just about any DIY that comes your way. With a trusty tool and a sense of daring, it’s possible to temporarily fix most broken furniture or amenities until a professional can come and take a look.
Make sure you buy a multi-tool that packs pliers, large and small screwdrivers, a sizable knife and a small saw. It’s worth spending a bit of cash on a well made, tough tool which will stay useful for years to come.
Of course, as will any bladed item there may be local laws about where you can carry the multi-tool, and be careful never to take on a job that could cause injury.
© Sean Sharifi
Living abroad is all about new experiences and making new memories, and what better way to capture these than with photographs.
There are a wide variety of cameras available, from expensive professional kits to simple disposables. But the average expat wants something in between: simple enough to use yet good enough to record memories in sharp pictures and quality video. Expats also need to worry about space, weight and having a camera sturdy enough to survive the adventure.
Thankfully there is a growing sector of the camera market that produces exactly this style of device. Originally aimed at extreme sports fanatics, indestructible cameras smaller than a smartphone are easy to use and can produce amazing results.
The cameras are designed to be simple to use, with big chunky buttons that can be operated by the gloved hands of a daring snowboarder or the pondering thumbs of a confused technophobe.
Some of the models out these look like spaceships or deep-sea diving vessels, but their bizarre styling is what makes them so sturdy. The average expat would struggle to destroy a camera that can be blown up, eaten by a bear or dropped out of a plane.
© Franklin Heijnen
Many expats have dreamed of moving to their new country for years, hungrily bookworming their way through anything published about their desired destination. So it’s heartbreaking to think that whilst packing for this much-planned adventure, the books that inspired it will have be left behind.
But fear not! Even though the paperback might be heading to a charity shop, the words themselves can join you on your epic adventure. The majority of bestsellers are available in digital formats, ready to be downloaded and enjoyed in electronic form.
Now a piece of plastic the size of a novel can hold an entire library’s worth of books. There are dozens of models on the market, some big and packed with gadgets, others simple and straightforward, and some that are even waterproof.
An e-reader will let you revisit your old favourites easily and introduce you to a whole range of new titles, without ever having to get up from your favourite chair.
There’s a lot more to move than just objects: you’ll need to bring any pictures, music, films and documents with you. Even with a laptop there’s a lot of digital material that you might want to take ‘just in case’.
As well as documents relating to this adventure, some employers may want to see copies of dissertations that accompany your academic qualifications. There’s a chance you may find yourself quite literally half a world away from suddenly-important files.
An easy solution is an external hard drive. As well as backing up any data on your laptop, another storage device means you can have a place to keep anything that may, one day, become important.
As mentioned earlier, there are ways to store files online but these often have limited space; an external drive will handle almost anything you throw at it.
© Jon Fingas
Nowadays every phone seems to be a Swiss Army knife that does dozens of tasks.
As well as making calls, apps like Whatsapp and Skype can allow the average smartphone to make calls around the world for free. And it can help you communicate with your new neighbours too, with translators and language learning apps available to help you make yourself understood.
Even if you can’t ask for directions yet, maps and guides can be installed to help you navigate. And if you can’t find the shop you’re after, there’s probably an app to order what you wanted direct to your door.
As useful as a smartphone can be, make sure it is tool to help explore the world, not a distraction from it!
Article by Andy Scofield, Expat Focus International Features Writer