The Things They Didn’t Bring
Whenever we get a chance to travel abroad, the excitement and anticipation can nearly overwhelm us. There is so much to plan for as we read through numerous websites, talk to friends, and seek out advice to get an idea of what to bring. The choices and limitations can be daunting. We often only bring a suitcase or two, so we must think very carefully about the items we choose to pack. Do we bring that winter jacket that is so stylish and comfortable? It’s also very big and will take a lot of space. Should I bring a few of my favorite snacks? What if they don’t sell them in that far-off country? Would it be good to bring something to give to the people I meet there? What would be a nice gift for them?
In the end, you must make your own choices and set your own priorities for what to bring. Only you will know what is most important to you. However, in an effort to help you make better decisions, we recently asked some of our students (who traveled from places like China, Japan, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia) in Academic English Studies (AES) about what they regret not bringing. Perhaps their answers will enlighten you.
One of the most common answers was food. A student from Saudi Arabia knew that she would want to have some of the dates that she enjoys so much in her home country. She thought she had brought enough for her and her friend to enjoy until they returned home again, but she didn’t foresee that she would give these dates away to people she met because they are a great traditional snack in her country. When she talked to neighbors and friends about Saudi Arabia, she couldn’t help but offer them some of her favorite food. Thus, even though she brought the right food, she wishes she had brought more.
Another student regrets not bringing rice from her home country of Japan. While she can find some rice here, the type and quality is not the same. When she goes to Asian markets in Portland and tries the rice they have there, she can still note the difference, and she doesn’t like paying a high price for rice that just isn’t as good as it is back home. While a big bag of rice is heavy, she thinks it would still be a good choice to find some room in her suitcase for some of her favorite food from back home.
While Portland is known for its high-quality coffee, the taste and price still don’t appeal to some of the international students in AES. One student, from Rwanda, states that though she tried the coffee here, it was so different that she decided it wasn’t good enough and stopped drinking it altogether. Her major regret was bringing too many sandals instead. Because of the rainy weather in Portland, she is often angry at herself for packing so much footwear she can’t use and not packing the right kind of coffee in its place. Each time a friend visits from back home, her request is “Bring coffee!”
Another student likes the coffee in Portland, but he regrets not bringing his own little coffee maker. Living on campus has a lot of perks, but a disadvantage for this student is to leave the dorm in search of that warm cup of invigorating coffee each morning. It would be much easier (and less expensive) to be able to brew the coffee right in his own dorm room. Besides, he could stay in his pajamas a bit longer before heading out for the day!
Those little things that we love and that bring us so much joy can really enhance an experience abroad. They can remind of us of who we are and immediately connect us back to our roots in our home country. For one student, it was her music that she misses. She had thought to bring her iPod Nano because it is so small and light, but she thought that with her phone, she didn’t need another device to carry music. What she didn’t plan for was her phone’s battery dying on her. As soon as she arrived, she found her phone dying rapidly each day and taking a long time to charge, so she couldn’t listen to her music as often as she did back home. Kicking herself for the omission, she wonders why on earth she didn’t pack such a small, light device – even if it wasn’t needed.
Our favorite pastimes can remind us of our childhood, our family, or our home culture. They connect us over time and space, and one student from Japan regrets not bringing his baseball glove. He knew that baseball was popular in the US, but he didn’t imagine that he would have access to a large field in his free time. When he came to Lewis & Clark, he saw many open spaces to play catch or hit a ball and wondered why he hadn’t brought at least his glove (if not even a bat and some shoes). After he asked someone about the baseball field on the Lewis & Clark campus, he was told he could play on it if there was no practice scheduled!
To sum up, if you are planning to travel abroad, you have a lot to consider. But as you pack, keep in mind the regrets of these students, and let them be a lesson to you as you prepare your suitcases.
What will you bring? Tell us in the comment section.
Here are things that Lewis & Clark students suggest. Watch the video.
It is interesting to see the things that people miss from their countries when they travel. It is hard to have enough of a comfort food for a year or more! I remember when I was younger and living abroad, the food I missed was peanut butter (so American!). One thing I like about Portland and other big cities is that you can usually find a variety of foods in restaurants and specialty markets. I like to tell our students about http://www.worldfoodsportland.com/foods.html
David, I really enjoyed this post! It reminds me of when I worked abroad. I used to take gifts for people in the host country, focusing on small, light items that they could not get there. Examples included canceled stamps, postcards with pictures of my home state, and coins. (I didn’t take many of those, though. Their weight adds up fast!)