Starting to Pack Up One Life to Start Again in the Middle East

Suitcases

Blue Suitcase pic by Drew Coffman 

Today I’m thinking about packing up my apartment here in Venezuela, selling things, and moving to Bahrain (a tiny island country in the Middle East). I’m accustomed to living/working in a country where it is difficult to buy literally everything because everything has to be imported and businesses struggle to find/afford the dollars to import things. Venezuela is also a very outgoing culture where “dressing modestly” can mean wearing a full coverage bra under your translucent top… not very similar to the Middle Eastern cultures I’ve been reading about. Obviously, I am trying to read as much as possible and plan accordingly.

Pairing Down: Right now I have five years of stuff that I’ve accumulated in Venezuela and I’m trying to decide what to take and what to leave behind. It is tradition to post pictures and prices of things into a Google doc and sell things to incoming teachers or that handful of teachers who are staying.   I don’t really like selling things, but because I plan on backpacking throughout Central America this summer, selling a ten-dollar item can mean one night at my hostel in almost any CA country.

Middle East Expats- Help Please! I would LOVE to hear from expats who are currently living in the Middle East. What are the things that you wish you had left behind and what do you wish you had brought with you to the Middle East? Is there stuff missing on my list? Things I should take off my list? How many checked bags are you allowed to bring with you in August (in Venezuela there is always an airline embargo in July/August so I can’t even pay for more than two checked bags total)? Can I bring ANY of my favorite Venezuelan rum in my checked suitcases? Do Amazon and iHerb ship to Bahrain? What shipping company is the best for shipping to Bahrain?

Normally I only bring 2 suitcases with me plus my backpack, but I’ve been living overseas in Venezuela for five years (where I’ve accumulated a lot of things) and I plan on living in Bahrain for another five + years so I’m considering bringing as much as I can from what I already have. Is that more hassle than it’s worth?!

Here is what I am thinking of bringing with me:

Packing List for the Middle East- Checked Luggage

Note to self– Remember to make sure that you pack only dresses, shirts, skirts that cover shoulders and knees.

Shoes

Birkenstock sandals

Chaco sandals for adventuring

Nice sandals for going out at night

Vionic flats for teaching in all day

Salsa heels

Dance Sneakers

Flip flops for beach and pool

Bottoms

2 pairs of lightweight linen pants

2 pairs of jeans

2 maxi skirts

1 below the knee skirt

1 form-fitting skirt for going out

Dresses

2 Maxi Dress

1 knee length LBD

1 cocktail dress for fancier events

1 formal gown for very fancy events?

Underclothes

3 bras

1 strapless bra

Lots of underwear

5 pairs of socks

Loungewear

2 pairs of lounge pants

3 pajama tops/shirts

Tops

1 Blazer for work conferences

1 black cardigan for covering shoulders

2 scarves for covering up and adding color to outfits

1 colorful cardigan

3 short sleeve shirts

5 work shirts

2 tops for going out

1 long sleeve Icebreaker sweater for traveling

Technology

Macbook Pro

Macbook Air

Router

Ipad

Canon T2i DSLR and lenses

External hard drive

Projector

Portable bluetooth speakers (I have a Mini Jambox that I don’t love)

Cables and chargers for all of it

Iphone

Food

These are the things that make me feel at home wherever I am:

Peanut butter

Sriracha hot sauce

Quinoa

Miso paste

Aged cheddar

Green tea

Emergen-C vitamin powder

1 package of good coffee

Kitchen

I love to cook/bake and I have so many things already; I hate to just get rid of everything and buy again… but maybe I should?

French press- I don’t go anywhere without it

Good kitchen knives (If I didn’t have room for all the kitchen stuff I would ship the others but good knives are non-negotiable)

2 Contigo Travel mugs for taking coffee to work

Pampered Chef measuring cup for liquid/solids

Silpat baking mat

Measuring spoons

2 Silicone cake molds

Silicone muffin cups

Wine opener

Vegetable peeler

Can opener

1 whisk

Cast Iron pan- it is so heavy but so awesome!!

Household Stuff

2 sets of good sheets

1 duvet cover

1 or 2 really good pillows

1 water bottle

Some wall art/pictures

Sticky putty to hang up wall art

Workout

2 pairs of workout pants

3 workout tops

1 pair of gym shoes

Other

Passport

Important documents for work

2 bathing suits

1 pair of long pants and old t-shirt to swim in on public beaches

1 good pair of UV-protected sunglasses

1 packable raincoat

Many adaptors

Some hangers to get started

Over the door hooks

2 cross-body purses (one for going out, one for everyday use)

2 Reusable Shopping bags

1 pack of reusable bags for fruits and vegetables

Entertainment

These are games I have and like to play; maybe they should go in the second shipment?

Cards Against Humanity + Expansions

Settlers of Catan

NERTS

Phase 10

Normal playing Cards

Bathroom Stuff

Electric toothbrush with extra heads

Travel towels

Chewable Pepto Bismol

Nyquil/Dayquil

Diva cup

Cosmetics

Sunscreen

Hair ties

Essential oils

Mosquito Spray

Air or Boat Shipment

Instant Pot– Will it work with an adaptor in Bahrain or will it die because of the non-US voltage?

Framed pictures/ prints/decorative items to make my house feel like home

Books– I try to mostly read e-books but I never quite manage to get rid of all of my physical book copies

Kitchen stuff – other baking pans, chopping boards, Tupperware, mixing bowls

Extra Bedding: blankets, another set of sheets for the guest bed

Pet toys/beds/collars/crate?- I plan on getting a Golden Retriever. Is pet stuff easy to find there?

Yoga mat (I would like to bring this in my checked bags if there is room)

Work files/books/classroom stuff: I have a ton of books, bulletin board borders, posters, and paper copies of things. I seriously need to pare down!

Holiday stuff: Halloween costume, Santa hat, cat in the hat gear, bunny ears

Extra Shoes: I’m a girl, what can I say? I probably have at least twenty pairs of shoes!

Extra Clothing: I expect my suitcases to be full of teacher work clothes and the shipment to have more casual clothes

All Advice Welcome!

I’ve been reading blogs and posts from expats in the Middle East, but I’ve been unable to find a good teacher packing list (other than this one). If you have any links or advice to share with me I would be very grateful!

Please post your comments below!

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24 responses to “Starting to Pack Up One Life to Start Again in the Middle East

  1. I can’t offer any advise. I can only say that I think you will be fine. I base this on all that I know about you from just this one slice and your list of what you are planning to pack. What a list. You are a planner!! You will do fine! Personally, I’d struggle because I love books too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I am a planner after being an expat in Mexico, China, and especially Venezuela. I realize that in the Middle East I will be able to find more things, but it is always a balancing act on the best use of your luggage space!

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    • I think I have too much stuff here in Venezuela and I need to figure out what I can leave behind. This list is what I think I need based off on what I already own, but I’m afraid that I won’t have luggage space to get it all over to Bahrain. This is the classic expat challenge!

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  2. First, what a cool freaking life!!!! Second, I am overwhelmed by the thought of having to pack up to move from one country to a whole new country with a completely different set of rules and norms. I cannot help you, but I can wish you the absolute best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I always say that I’m living my dreams and doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life. I feel so blessed. This is probably the biggest and most challenging move that I’ve ever made though!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy. Cow.

    I’m curious what brought to this “Teaching Wanderlust”? As I’ve read through some of your posts and your Instagram page, have you written a book on your experiences?

    Thank you for sharing this slice today! It’s inspired me to seek some places here in the US to visit, and to get my dang passport information done! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. exciting adventures! I cannot even begin to imagine what to take and what to leave behind, but it sounds like you’ve got a great plan going!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It is such a process when you have to pack up your whole life into a few bags and boxes and move to the other side of the world. Haha I wouldn’t have it any other way though!

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    • They have a very basic list and have essentially said that I can find everything there, but they say nothing of the cost and quality of the stuff you can find in Bahrain. I think I will have to email teacher there directly, but I hate to bother anyone if they don’t already have the list prepared. Haha this post alone took me several hours to write!

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    • Yep, I’ve been an expat teacher at various international schools for the past 7 years! I love my job! It is not part of any program specifically. All you need is a master’s degree, a teaching license, and (preferably) two years of teaching experience to get started with international teaching. Then you either apply directly to adds in TIEOnline.com for the international school you are interested in or through a recruiter like Search Associates.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a great list! We just got our first international positions in Western Europe and leave in July. Hubby and I are trying to get rid of most of our things and sell our house. Do you have any other packing list sites you’ve used before that you found helpful? Trying to take everything with us on the plane and only send a box or two of work supplies via book rate mail. Two adults and two young kids – hoping for 12 suitcases plus car seats. Some days I think I’m crazy. 🙂 Appreciate your blog for the logistical help! Good luck getting info for Bahrain – sorry I can’t help there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Katie. What country will you be heading to in Europe? I would like to head there eventually after I’ve satiated a bit more of my wanderlust (I’m still hoping to teach in SE Asia and South Africa before I head to Europe). I’m a lifer!

      What I usually do before moving countries is to Google “international teacher blog in ____” or “expat blog in ___” and find a few packing lists that way. Sadly, this is not proving to be a very fruitful method when it comes to the tiny country of Bahrain! I’ve had the best luck with expatwomen.com.

      Everywhere I’ve looked advises to do as you have planned: take as much as you can on the plane as checked luggage. I’m hoping for a larger luggage allowance this time around. I guess as a single person I need to just plan on paying someone to help me when transferring luggage… I have anxiety about this after working here in Venezuela where we are strictly advised NOT do this!

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  6. When I was in Peace Corps, one of our members wrote a song called “A Hundred Pounds of Home,” based on our weight limit for baggage. Sounds like you have a great system and are very aware of all the considerations involved. Bon Voyage!

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  7. I love that you included your list of items!
    I have moved many times over the past 3 years although not overseas or between countries – just cities. I just keep what I truly love and let go of the rest. I found I am much happier with less stuff – books seem to be the item I have the most trouble to get rid of however. The kindle helps with it being digital.
    Good luck!

    https://tammysreadinglife.wordpress.com/

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    • I agree that books are difficult to get rid of! I have so many books on my ipad and kindle, and yet I still feel sad whenever I have to leave behind physical copies of books.

      Like I said in my post, I usually get rid of everything and only bring two or three suitcases with me, but now I have even more things- especially for my classroom. I think I might be using Marie Kondo’s methods for tidying to help me choose what to keep.

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  8. I live in Kuwait, and in my experience almost anything I can find in Canada/the US I’ve been able to find here. Same brands and everything. Leave all the food stuff at home, you’ll find it here. The only thing I really can’t find are bookstores (ok, I found one good one in Dubai, but other than that my Kindle is my saviour). What I would say though is to check the temperatures. I don’t know about Bahrain, but Kuwait gets cold in the winter. Like down to freezing, no heat, no insulation cold so I’ve had to buy winter clothes here, which again anything I can find in North America I can find here. I’d bring more than one cardigan for covering up, most teachers at my school have a good supply of light sweaters for two reasons: They like to crank the AC up to arctic temperatures, and finding nice shirts with sleeves is not necessarily easy. I have several longer cardigans that cover my butt as well. Also be warned that because of the dust, your shoes will be worn out much more quickly. Formal wear in the Middle East is very conservative, if you go to a wedding you can wear anything when you’re with the women, but if men are present you will need to cover up in an abaya. Dubai is the one exception. Definitely bring the games, because MENA countries can be dull. Bahrain is Vegas for Saudis so I know people who will fly/drive from Kuwait to Bahrain just to drink alcohol, but from what they’ve told me that’s all you can really do there that we can’t do here. Prices… sometimes things are more expensive than they would be in North America, sometimes they’re the same. The advice I was given when I moved here was not to make conversions in my head because it will drive you crazy. That being said, people who stay in Kuwait are usually trying to save money and pay off loans, so saving is definitely possible here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all of the fantastic advice! It looks like I will be replacing the food I was planning on bringing with warmer clothing! Well, I will probably still bring coffee just so I can wake up when I first arrive and already have it. It will be such a welcome change after living in Venezuela where you can’t find so many things (my friend just told me that she asked her mom to mail her toilet paper because we haven’t seen it in the stores all year)! I’m pretty sure that everything will seem more expensive though. Thanks again!

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  9. I’m also living in Kuwait just like Melissa. I echo her advice about the food and the sweaters. It seems strange, but we wear sweaters all year long here because of AC in the hot months and the cold winter weather. Just be mindful that it might take some searching in the beginning to find stores that carry the kinds of foods you like. I suggest asking someone at your new school about the electric pot. You probably don’t need to bring that with you considering the voltage. Also be sure to bring a good converter if you have a curling iron or hair tool that you just love. You can probably find something similar in Bahrain, but you know how we girls love our hair products. Compare the cost of shipping those kitchen items to the cost of buying new. I bet you could find all of those items there(although not pampered chef). I’ll remind you that the top pasttime in Middle Eastern countries is shopping. They have the we want, although it may take some searching. I strongly suggest that you ask your future coworkers or mentor teacher about the pet supplies. I don’t find that pet ownership is popular here in Kuwait and neither are pet stores. My friends who have adopted cats have a really hard time arranging pet care when they travel. Finally, I love my photos as a touch to make my place feel like home. To reduce the bulk of picture frames, I made poster sized collages of my favorite photos and had them printed at Walmart. I found frames for them at Ikea in Kuwait. That worked out really well for me.

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