What If You Could Take Just 1 Suitcase?

Faced with an imposed restriction of 1 checked bag per passenger, I desperately tried to ship my 2 additional bags air-freight to Guatemala. No such luck! Availability had been booked solid until October. Apparently, luggage restrictions are common during periods of high demand for cargo space to Central America — which just so happens to coincide with the start of my school year. It was time to reevaluate what to take with me to the other side of the world.

Paring down my belongings to 1 checked bag proved a far less formidable task than anticipated. Books & CDs were moved to my Kindle & laptop. Reams of lesson plans & student handouts were saved for download at my new location. A web search revealed that prescriptions, toiletries & clothing in my size/style were easily available in Central America. Had my destination been Thailand, getting clothes & shoes to fit would have been nearly impossible, but in Guatemala it looked like I could get anything I might need.

As my suitcase began to fill I got a ‘warm fuzzy feeling,’ realizing I was bringing possessions that would make my destination feel like my new home. A favorite fry pan, pot & kitchen knife,  my well-worn/comfy walking shoes, an alarm clock that greeted me each morning with its soothing chimes,  a tranquil night light that greeted me before even the coffee cup & my goose-neck reading lamp were all must-bring items. My favorite space-age, insulated jacket (just perfect for planned hikes up volcanoes), a Swiss army knife given to me by my dad & thick woolen socks were all packed. Still there was room for more! So in went a portable water-purifying bottle, light-weight rain gear, some favorite spices & of course, my 2 favorite books for studying Spanish & touring the country.

With my checked bag packed to the brim, Egyptian cotton sheets, a small down pillow & as much to-teach-in clothing as I could cram into my carry-on completed the packing project–after all, I would need a teaching wardrobe upon arrival. With my laptop around my neck & cap on my head, I was ready. Or was I?

ISR asks: If you could just take 1 checked suitcase to
your next overseas location, what would you pack?

8 thoughts on “What If You Could Take Just 1 Suitcase?

  1. If I could only take 1 suitcase I probably wouldn’t go. We are moving cou tires this year and have about 350 square feet. (There are 3 of us now.) I’m sure we could do with a hole lot less but I think it is unsustainable to buy and sell everything very time I move. Not much has sentimental value but it just a waste of money and creates so much waste. So at this point in my life, I need a shipping container. If the school doesn’t offer shipping, I will find one that does.


  2. Having taught in 2 international schools in sub Saharan Africa, I can safely say, PLEASE pack head-lice shampoo & combs! I truly never expected to experience this again, after leaving Europe, but my kids picked it up at the schools frequently, as did other kids & teachers! No head-lice shampoo or combs were available in either country, so we resorted to short back n sides frequently, which helped, but didn’t prevent it!
    The other things we couldn’t live without were solar powered lanterns/torches & solar powered phone charger! If I could find a solar charged mini kettle, I would bring that too!!!!!


  3. I have also found that avoiding the US airlines I can avoid luggage problems. It appears the US based airlines have little regard for their passengers. I try to avoid them as the experience usually turns out frustrating.

    I have worked for schools that offered us a 20ft container round trip. That is the way to go. Instead of completely buying a house-hold of stuff and then selling them all and loosing money when you leave you just bring it all with you.

    I am okay with the suitcase shipping allowance so long as the school provides a furnished house with all the amenities. Why should I buy them and then sell them two years later. Making me do such is just a way schools have found to safe money and skimp on their responsibility to teachers.

    What would I bring if I could only bring one suitcase? That’s a tough one. If I were 22 again and not 55 I would take my sleeping bag and a few camp-type cooking items with me.

    The poster above talks about the director saying he was new and didn’t know that there was a yearly embargo. This speaks volumes to a schools lack of concern for their teachers. Is there no board or no manual or information available once signing? It seems international schools have no collective history. One director leaves and all is forgotten — or thrown out.


  4. These sorts of non jobs sound geared for hobby 20 year olds with a fixed location to go back to and not 40 year olds who need security and adult possessions. This is not a profession.


  5. At this very moment I have luggage in two distant countries and it is only barely worth the value of the good to go there to fetch it! This is always happening to me. Usually I take far, far too much with me. However, there are some things that are too valuable to put in the suitcase – cameras, hard drives etc. Hand luggage is the greatest struggle for me.


  6. Your medical records and 3-months of any prescriptions; your good-conduct or police clearance records from every country you have taught/lived in; certified copies of your teaching and educational credentials & letters of reference; any tech you will need such as flash drives, media, laptop/tablet and an empty sand-alone hard drive; all your chargers in plastic bags & labeled; converter plugs (look online for the types); a good toothbrush, toothpaste and clean underwear! It’s a good excuse to buy everything else when you arrive!


  7. One solution is to avoid US airlines. Several years ago I, too, flew to Guatemala for a job. At the time, the U.S airlines flying to Guatemala also had a ban on extra luggage. However, I flew with TACA and was able to take two bags and send additional bags for $100 each. They arrived within a week. More recently, when returning from the Middle East, I flew with Qatar and was again permitted two large bags. Expand your repertoire of airlines, and you may be able to do much better than with U.S. carriers.


  8. I had this exact experience. This was before we could take large amounts of data with us in a digital format. It was a bad year for me without my teaching materials. You would think that these schools would warn teachers that this could be a possibility and to ship there stuff early or arrange for someone to ship it later. The director had the excuse that he was new. Great communication from one director to the next. What a disappointment! Why do international schools always seem like the wheel is being invented over and over again?


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