What are the essentials?

After I wrote the post about How to make a home while living abroad, I began to notice the things in my life that have stayed with me no matter where I am. I lovingly refer to them as my essentials for living abroad. They are the things I always bring with me wherever I go. They provide me with a sense of comfort and stability and help me to feel grounded.

My essentials can be an activity, hobby, staple wardrobe pieces, a piece of technology I just can’t live without. Click To Tweet You get the idea.  My list of essentials for living abroad are not too long as there is only so much I can pack up! But you get the drift….things that come with me or can be done easily no matter where I go.

Why intentional living is so important when living abroad

As the years go by, and I realize that I have the potential to be working anywhere over the next 5 to 10 years…with a family! I have started to realize the importance of being more intentional with my lifestyle choices. I make focused and deliberate decisions that support me and minimize the stresses of traveling and moving. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t have it all figured out. Not even close! But I am definitely trying to make life, in general, a little more comfortable and simpler. These things help keep me grounded in a more minimalist view of what I really need and what is important to me. It has required a bit of organization and research to help me keep things in check.

The time spent on consistently keeping my life to just the essentials has saved me stress and aggravation when traveling or moving. Click To Tweet

How to stick to the essentials for living abroad

When you have to think about eventually packing everything in a suitcase or are traveling often it sort of forces you to live with the essentials and adopt a minimalist lifestyle for your sanity! I focus on the experience, feeling, and function of something. I think about what is most important to me and what makes me feel good and get rid of the rest. I also think about things that I can do anywhere.

I have these essentials to keep me sane, happy and to streamline my life to make it more effective for traveling and moving around. Click To Tweet

My Essentials

I think I’ve made you wait long enough…. so without further ado, here is a list of my essentials (drum roll please!)


All you need is a good supportive pair of running shoes and sports bra (of course!), headphones and music. Running, walking and hiking has always been my go to no matter where I am. It is easy to bring with me and always helps to clear my head and keep me grounded.

A Bicycle

Okay, I know what you’re thinking and goes a little something like this. “What??? A bicycle??? You can’t pack that up and take it with you anywhere!” And yes, I would have to agree with you. But, a part of my lifestyle has always been to cycle to work and pretty much anywhere else. I love cycling to get around and would prefer it to anything else. So for me, buying a bicycle is essential because it keeps me in touch with what is important to me and what supports my lifestyle. It keeps me connected to my “normal”. So yes it is considered an essential. It is usually a nice second-hand cruiser bike with a basket on the front.


I decided to take up knitting this year as a hobby. It was the best thing I ever did! It helps to relax and focus me, while also doing something productive! All you need is a couple sets of knitting needles, yarn and a free knitting pattern. Check out my Pinterest page if your interested in knitting and also sign up Ravelry. It is free to sign up and there are tons of great free knitting patterns! I’ve also found that knitting is a great way to pass the time on long flights. Plus it’s productive!

A cuppa

A hot cup of tea or coffee; hot water, a coffee press (my preference), a wee spot of milk and viola instant relaxation and comfort! I have also become a big fan of herbal teas that I usually order online because they are super expensive in the local shops here. These and most of my health products are purchased on iherb (use the code ZDT363 to get 5% of your next purchase as a new or returning customer!)

A good book 

 I just got my first e-reader this year and I couldn’t be happier with it! I can download books quickly and easily. I don’t have to worry about packing up a stack of books or selling them when we leave. Here is a great link to amazon.com where you can browse the kindle products: Everything Kindle


With a simple Bluetooth speaker and iTunes you can bring your favourite songs and artists anywhere! I never thought of a Bluetooth speaker but with the amount of travel me and my hubby-to-be do, having a Bluetooth speaker that we can easily pack up and bring anywhere has been amazing! We use it as tv speakers at home and take it with us to play music when we travel.

Portable back up drive

This is another must-have item for storing all your favourite movies, music, television shows and important pictures and documents. I have gone through many computers living abroad that have since died and taken all my good stuff with them! I have learned my lesson and invested in a portable back up drive where I store all my must-have items and take it easily with me wherever I go. Make sure it has enough storage for all your big files.

USB disk

I usually keep smaller files on this to transfer easily between devices when needed.

Journal/ Dairy 

I realize that we live in the tech era of everything done online or through an app, but I am still old school and prefer a paper planner to write things down. I love the feeling of checking off or striking through something that I have done. Again, small and portable is my jam. If it doesn’t fit in my purse, it’s too big!

A light laptop computer

I currently have a MacBook pro and it has served me well for a number of years. However, my next purchase will be a computer that is much lighter than that. Having a lighter one will be helpful for transporting it more comfortably. (I’m still doing my research on this so I will let you know what I buy next!)

An obscenely large travel purse

Preferably over the shoulder (zipper closed if possible) with an additional long strap for the option of putting it across the body. This is a must-have for me while traveling anywhere! (The airport or even to and from work). Now I may be getting a little picky here with all the straps, zippers and such. But let me explain!

A bigger bag allows you to have access to your most important items easily. When it is over the shoulder you can just unzip it and get the items you need. I personally like ones with a couple compartments as it keeps me a little more organized. Also, a zipper is important for safety purposes. Keep it zipped up to keep everything safe! The strap attachment is ideal so you have an option to wear your bag in two different ways. I like to switch it up to an across the body strap if I’m walking a lot and don’t need access to anything in my bag.  I loooove bags so I’m always on the lookout for bags that are fashionable but functional.

UGG Boots

Okay, I may be getting a little extravagant here, but I always have a pair of Ugg boots. They are my favourite boots to wear in the colder weather…….. and sometimes when it’s cool in the summer. They are fluffy and comfy and warm. Need I say more?

These are the ugg boots I’m currently in love with grey uggs

Big comfy sweater

Honestly, I just like to be cozy and comfortable and having an oversized sweater that I can wrap around and cuddle into is just perfect.

Leather jacket 

(Not real leather, just the illusion of leather) easy to layer and goes with everything!

Yoga pants or black tights

They are versatile you can dress them up or down, and are super comfy for flying (with UGG boots and a leather jacket #airport style!)


THe Essential List for moving abroad - Pin image

That’s it folks……for now….

That pretty much does it for my list of essentials. Of course, this list is subject to change with the seasons and paths of my life…… but not to worry, I’ll probably blog about it.

So I encourage you to take some time and really consider what is important to you. Try to find ways to make your life intentional and make your list of essentials that you can bring anywhere!

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Comment below and let me know what your essentials are and why they are important to you!!

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Welcome to the Unconventional Life Blog! I'm Eliza a professional English Langauge teacher living an international life. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about teaching English, working and living abroad.


  1. Totally handy. Hoping to go overseas with my family next year so need all the tips I can get! Thank you xo

  2. great tips!! I am currently looking to travel more and possibly live abroad for a month so these are very helpful! I just splurged on the Henri Bendel Jetsetter bag and I’m Obsessed!! It fits my laptop and can be worn three different ways !! Anyways, thanks so much for sharing xo

    • Hi Megan! I will definietly have to check that bag out! As I continue to travel I just keep realizing what works for me and what doesn’t but it has definitely taken time! I would love to hear about your travel experiences and what works fot you! Totally looking up that bag right now! xx

  3. Rocio Cadena

    I love your article! May use it for inspiration to write my own down the road 🙂 I’m a firm believer that habits are the architecture of our lives and so it makes perfect sense to abide by them wherever we are in the world, given that there’s time for them, of course. For example, when I travel or go on vacation, I make sure to journal and meditate for at least 5 minutes each day. These two things are the only ones I usually stick to from my larger routine. I find that they are enough to keep me grounded.

  4. This is a great list – wish I would’ve read it before we moved to Korea a few years ago. Can definitely relate to the large travel purse haha! Great tips and recommendations.

    • Thanks Rosie! I wish I would have written before then too! I’ve learned a lot over the years of living abroad. But what I am really realizing now is the importance of simplicity! I’m trying to really keep yo the essentials and realize what is important for me! I’m glad it helped! PLease share with anyone you think would benefit from it!

  5. Awesome list! So many of these are essentials for me too. I agree that when you’re abroad or traveling, you really need to simplify your life and keep only the things that you really need. Great piece!