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Do This Before You Leave on Long-Term Travel!

Morella, Spain

The striking mountain village of Morella, Spain

You do not realize how much you will forget.

I returned from nine months around the world with a giant grin and a million hugs for loved ones… and then proceeded to not be able to find a thing.

When you are getting ready to leave the country, you assume you will be able to find your favorite shoes multiple months and a head full of Asia, Africa, and Europe later. Trust me: you will not be able to.

Here are some glimpses of how this looks, with lessons attached:

Thursday (one day after returning from Around the World): Gleefully about to leave the house to meet a friend in Harvard Square for burritos when I realize: “Where the heck are my keys?” Thirty minutes later I found them, blessedly hanging by the door.

Lesson 1: Leave your most important stuff in extremely obvious or well-labeled places, or you will freak out! I repeat: You do not realize how much you will forget.

Morella, Spain

The view of Morella, Spain as you drive in!

Thursday to the Present: “I know I had two fully loaded train cards and two fully full bottles of face lotion. But where oh where are they? Am I going crazy? I’ve looked everywhere!”

Lesson 2: Some things you will never find. Maybe you stored them in a place so “safe” that it’s also safe from your new brain, or maybe some well-meaning person thought the items needed a new owner. Either way, move on and buy a new set. If you really wanted to keep the thingies, you should have labeled ’em clearly and put them in a logical place! Now I know.

Friday: “I HAVE NO PANTS OR SHOES!” Then, after three hours of ruffling through every nook and cranny, I finally had the bright idea to climb up to the attic. Oh, smart self! Before I flew out in August, I had apparently carefully folded all my pants and stacked all my shoes into two boxes, each of which was labeled with a paper stating the exact specifications and colors of the contents! Yay! Clarity!

Morella, Spain

The winding Medieval roads of Morella, Spain

Lesson 3: It seems stupid now to label what you leave in ridiculous detail, but you will love yourself for it when you return!

Sunday: “I don’t remember half of these trashy shirts. Did I raid a dumpster before I left? I knew I was unfashionable, but this is ridiculous.”

Lesson 4: Since you won’t remember your clothes when you return home, the month before you leave is the perfect time to donate the majority of your ratty wardrobe. It’s much more pleasant to come home to very little and be forced to do some fun shopping (or clothing swapping) with friends than to realize that the clothes in your musty backpack are classier than what’s left in your drawers.

To summarize: After traveling around the world, your mind will be full of Asian temples and African sun and European pastries and the crazy people you met and the ridiculous things you did… not with your left-behind material possessions.

Hence, before you leave, label things dumbly well, put them in obvious places (maybe even make a master list of where everything is!), know that some stuff WILL disappear before you return, and make the mediocre stuff disappear yourself, before you leave!

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