Life, Packing Lists, USA


There’s nothing like a move halfway across the world to bring out my inner shopaholic/basic b*tch. The end of summer always feels more like the beginning of a new year to me, and I guess the trend of back-to-school shopping has stuck with me well into adulthood. But in truth, though my minimalist tendencies are cringing at the number of new items that have entered my life, knowing that I’ll have to move them again soon enough, I’m trying hard to buy quality items that either contribute something to my health and well-being, or will stick with me for several years. As I was packing to leave Amman, I left behind a lot of household items that I’ll either retrieve later or use again if/when I’m living in Jordan again. I didn’t have a lot of donations, but I left behind the worn-out, low quality things that weren’t worth dragging onto three airplanes.

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Packing Lists, Travel, USA

I’ve just returned to Amman after four weeks of traveling in Germany and Turkey – mostly for grad school and work, with a few days of relaxation in between. I couldn’t wait to be unpacked and back home – and I did unpack very quickly – but now I’m continuing to pack for an eventual move back to the United States.

A few months ago I was interviewing for a job in New York that unfortunately didn’t work out. But at that time, I started getting ready to move by packing up all my winter clothes and trying to get more organized. Now I’m interviewing for two more jobs (and applying for more); I’m considering heading to the US in the near future, with or without a job, mostly due to some family concerns. So I’m again in the situation where I could be moving in three weeks, or waiting a bit longer.

Fortunately, last year I went through a major purge and got rid of probably 75 percent of my wardrobe. I’ve bought some things since then, but I expect I can fit all my clothes, shoes, bags, etc., into 1.5 large checked bags. Half of my wardrobe (winter clothes) is packed into one suitcase with room to spare. I’ve started packing up non-essentials like carpets, pillow cases, and a few decorative items that I don’t need everyday right now.

This is me with one of my best friends, loading up the car in January 2015 when I was moving from DC to Turkey. I traveled with one large Samsonite suitcase, an Osprey 65L backpack, and my carry-ons were a small blue suitcase and another smaller backpack.

Looking back, I’m not sure what all I came with, but I remember packing a fair amount of unnecessary things out of sheer panic. Almost four years later, I feel ok about moving with three checked bags – full of things I like, that have memories and will help me set up a new home – and with a carry-on suitcase with my camera gear. Going with only two bags would mean leaving behind a lot of stuff that I like, and four feels excessive. After all this time abroad, and perhaps with getting older, I feel like I have clothes that suit me in either environment (when I moved to the Middle East, I came with lots of outdoor clothes/gear that for some reason I thought I needed) and that are better quality and worth moving halfway around the world. So far, I don’t think it will be necessary or worth it to ship anything, but obviously some people choose to do that. Lots of stuff is just easier to buy once you land, especially if you’re moving to the US, where clothes and household goods are cheaper than the Middle East (I’ve brought bedsheets from the US, but I’ll never understand people who fill an entire suitcase with just a duvet). Basically, I’ll be moving with the same amount of suitcases an Emirati lady takes on a weekend trip to Beirut!

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Life, Middle East, USA

Do you ever get an idea into your head, and once it’s planted, can only act as though it’s happening, even if you haven’t got a solid plan?

About six weeks ago, for the first time, it occurred to me that it might be time for a change from living in Jordan and from the kind of work I’m doing here. At the time, I was wrapping up a consultancy where I was archiving and editing a large amount of video footage from Syria. A lot of it was either gruesome or heartbreaking to look at day after day, but I think the part that wore me down was the repetition of it – the same stories happening year after year in this stupid war. Suddenly I couldn’t even face my own fieldwork here – often filming or photographing refugees in their interminable stay in Jordan – and I couldn’t face another year in Amman.

In early March, I asked Layth what he thought about me applying for jobs in the US – to see what kind of opportunities are out there and whether my skills and background were even marketable. He thought it was a good idea, and if I got something, it would take some of the pressure off our eventual move to the US, knowing he might be waiting for a work permit or be searching for jobs for a while. So I started applying for jobs, not focused on any geographical area, but only applying for jobs I’d be genuinely excited about and willing to move halfway across the world for. To my surprise, there have been a lot of interesting video opportunities out there, and I’ve even had a few good phone interviews so far. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, since it seems too good to be true that I could find such a great job this quickly.

So now I’m in a weird place where, if I get a job, I could be moving to the US in three weeks’ time. Or I could be looking for six more months. At least I am in the luxurious position of not being in any real hurry to leave – there’s no lease or job contract ending to worry about, and since I’m 100% freelance again, I can choose how much I really want to work, and what kind of projects I want to take on. Anything I can save for a move is obviously helpful, but honestly, about three days of video work per month is enough to cover my expenses here.

If nothing else, I’m pretty organized when it comes to packing. Compression sacks are your friend.

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Packing Lists, Travel

When moving between countries, I don’t always succeed in packing light, but I kind of feel like I’ve mastered packing my under-seat carry on bag. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten something out of the overhead bin during a flight, so I always like to have these items ready to go, easy to access from my seat. Some of these are necessities for any trip, but others will make long-haul flights in coach ever so slightly more luxurious, or at least comfortable. Continue Reading

Packing Lists, Travel

I’m not the kind of person who travels 80% of the time for work, but living in Jordan and doing a master’s program in Germany, I do travel internationally several times a year. It’s great, but costs add up (which I know now, since I made a grown up budget in Excel today) – and one way to save yourself time and money and general frustration is to pack light. Says the girl who almost never succeeds at this.

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Asia, Packing Lists, Travel

So, it’s been a while, and I’m not very good at blogging unless momentous life changes are taking place, or if travel is on the horizon – and both are true at the moment.

More on the life events later, but in less than three weeks me, Layth, and our friend Mohammed will be off to Malaysia for 10 days of city sightseeing, jungle trekking, beach time, and eating all the food. And we’ll all be coming in from different places: Amman, Riyadh, and Singapore.

So naturally, my backpack is nearly ready to go already – but this isn’t totally ridiculous given the amount of shooting and editing work I have to wrap up before I jet off and leave my laptop at home. And actually, since we did make our plans a bit last minute, we just barely made the cutoff to sign up for our trekking tour.

Ta da! The lightest I have ever packed – I get to automatically shed 20 pounds just by not carrying my computer and camera gear. I also have an awesome, giant purple Osprey Aura 65L pack, but I think I am gonna go with my smaller 40L backpack from REI. This one is solidly carry-on size, will keep me from bringing too much there, and will be easier to lug around for the hiking portions.

The list:

Windbreaker jacket (will wear on the plane)
Black cardigan (for cooler weather in the highlands/ covering up for mosques and temples)
2 pair cotton pants
1 pair Columbia pants for hiking (quick dry)
1 black knee-length dress (might wear with leggings)
1 pair cotton shorts
1 pair athletic shorts (not pictured; for sleeping and/or getting wet)
2 cotton t-shirts
1 athletic shirt (quick dry)
2 tank tops
1 scarf (for covering up in mosques and temples)
1 swimsuit (not pictured)
1 Turkish hamam towel (Layth decidedly does not believe in towels, so I’m not packing one for him)
1 REI quick dry travel towel
2 Buffs (one for me, one for Layth)
1 headlamp
Bandages & basic first aid supplies
Glasses & Sunglasses (don’t want to deal with the extra liquid involved in carrying contact solution, keeping them sanitary, etc)
Umbrella (not pictured, stowed in the water bottle holder of the backpack)
4 pair socks
underthings
1 pair Merrell Tough Mudder trail running shoes (for hiking and such)
1 pair Crocs sandals (surprisingly comfy and lightweight – may look around for other sandals in KL)
Kindle Paperwhite
Fujifilm X20 camera + charger and extra battery
Small crossbody purse
Toiletries bag
Canvas tote – extra space for souvenirs on the way home (yay Trader Joe’s)

Even looking at this now, there are more odds and ends I need to bring, which might push the bag to the limit, or force me to ditch a pair of pants or the cardigan or something. Then there’s all the toiletries (planning to pick up shampoo and soap there), migraine medicine, Cipro and water purifying tablets just in case…

But considering at any given time I’ll be wearing one of these pairs of pants, a shirt, and shoes, I think this’ll be ok.

So. Excited.

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Leaving with a carpet, family photos, holy books and a tavla board. The whole fleeing-my-homeland vibe. Packing is stressful.