1. Dig Out Your Suitcase
No one likes living out of a suitcase. When you fumble through asking your host parents where you may have put that huge bag (honestly, where could it have gone in a house this size?), set it on the floor of your bedroom and open that sucker up.
2. Regret Choices Made by a Stressed Out, Eight-Month-Younger Version of You
Seriously, why did you think you needed four full, gallon bags of feminine products? You still have a bag and a half left. And why did you bring three sweatshirts to Brazil when you knew you would be there during the summer? How come you didn’t bring more mosquito spray? August you was an idiot.
3. Pay Respects to Your Fallen Comrades
Oh, trusty tennis shoes. How they served you well before completely falling apart. Goodbye, jacket you left at that coffee shop across town. Farewell, cool wallet your host family got you in Argentina. My brethren, you will be missed.
4. Go Through Everything You Own at This Present Moment and Start Piles
You will be disgusted at the amount of paper you have accumulated. Begin with that quarter of the Amazon and sort it into three piles: Keep, Give Away, Return to Owner, and Garbage. Use this same technique for everything on your desk/bedside table and forward into clothes and miscellaneous.
5. Pause for Existential Crisis about Your Materialistic Habits and How Much Overweight Baggage Costs
Oh God, how do you have so much stuff? How do you live this way when there are children just down the street who don’t have anything? You’re a monster!
6. Resume Sorting
7. Deal with Your Piles
You might need some help with your garbage pile. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Next, write out your plan for returning everything you stole from your apprenticeship/host family/friends. Seriously, write it out. You’re going to forget. As far as your “Give Away” pile, you can decide what to do with the things you cannot stomach (or literally, afford) to bring back with you. Host siblings are always excellent candidates. Then, deal with your keep pile.
8. Plan Out Your Outfits and Necessary Items
Plan your laundry day out in advance. You almost definitely will not have clothes drier, so plan for that as well. Avoid bringing damp clothes back, but if you must, do not forget a plastic bag to put them in.
9. Start Packing Your Suitcase(s)
Start with a completely empty suitcase. Wrap anything breakable–
10. OH GOD, YOU FORGOT A PRESENT FOR YOUR GRANDMA
“SÓ PRECISO UM MINUTO, MÃE, EU VOU VOLTAR EM BREVE. SIM, EU POSSO COMPRAR LEITE.”
11. Continue Packing Suitcase
Anyway, wrap anything breakable in clothes. A fuller suitcase is your friend for once, as your knick-knacks are less likely to move around a lot and break. Then, layer in clothes. Fold them in half and roll them up. They’ll take up less room.
12. Existential Crisis Part Two
Why did I buy so many books?? Why did I buy DVDs when I know they don’t play on US DVD players? This is so much unnecessary weight AhhhhhhHHHHHHHH
13. Just Sorta Throw All Your Miscelaneous Stuff on Top
It’ll be fineeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
14. Liquids and Electronics in Plastic Bags
Separately, preferably. Just kidding, that’s a requirement. Don’t put that shampoo bottle with your extra chargers.
15. Think About Your Carry-On
What do you want on that 10 hour flight? Computer? A Book? If you forget your headphones, you can bet your sorry-ass you’re not even going to get on that flight. You’d rather live in this airport for the rest of your– Oh. Airlines have headphones. They suck, but they have them. Don’t stress about it too much.
16. Prepare Emotionally for TSA
They are aggressive. Be ready for that. The good ol’ US of A isn’t so lenient on liquids and plastic bags.
17. Pack Your Other Bag
The one inside. The culture shock is real. You will miss your comfort food in country and you are sure as hell going to miss your host family whether you had a great relationship or not. Not much changed while you were gone. It will be like a wormhole where the space you skipped to get to the other point was your time abroad. Write down what you don’t want to lose about yourself and establish a means of contact with your new loved ones early. They’re going to miss you too.
18. Expect the Unexpected
You will be shocked by anything and everything with your travel plans, arriving at a foreign airport, at English, or by something as simple as flushing toilet paper down the toilet. Be ready for it. After this year, you can do anything.