What should I bring? Everything and nothing... bring yourself!
I recently received this comment:
I have a request
Can you please make a post...
a list of things that you should bring to Libya ( from electronics to food ) If you've lived In the US or Europe your whole life, but decide to live in Libya. I'm getting ready for my trip now...seems like a never ending list ....help please.. Thank You
This is something I get asked quite often. And I'd have asked the same thing before I came here (but there wasn't internet in 1989). The result for me was that I brought all kinds of things that I didn't need and left behind things that would have been useful.
When I arrived, life in 1980's and 90's was miserable in Libya. I came to Libya pregnant with my first child and brought nothing related to babies with me thinking that Libya was the land of big families and there was sure to be tons of everything related to babies.... wrong! There was practically nothing. Luckily, my husband had to travel to Egypt and came home with a suitcase full of baby clothes and I also had my mother send me cloth diapers from America. I had six kids in 9 years and it was a continuous struggle to clothe, diaper, and feed them simply because the shops didn't have the merchandise to buy. I never threw out any of my kids clothes as they were all handed down to child next in line. Whenever we found baby formula we would buy cases of it and stockpile because we never knew if we'd see it again. Thank God I'm past all that now. Over time things changed and products are being imported.
Nowadays you can find almost everything you need for babies here. And there is a lot of everything else too. One problem is that you may find something one day and then not find it again. This happens a lot with imported specialty foods, cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics. If I find something I like, I stock up on it.
When they first brought Doritos here my American friends and I were thrilled beyond belief. And then the supply dried up and we were all having Dorito withdrawal (yes, that really happens!). By chance one of my students was working for a grocery distribution company and I told him to be on the lookout for Doritos. When he found them I bought 14 cases - enough to completely fill my car so there was barely enough space for me to sit and drive! I shared them with friends and we were content for a while. The shops have Doritos all the time now (thank God!), but they still haven't brought Fritos.
When I came here I made the mistake of bringing small appliances with me. First problem was that the current is not the same here as it is in the US so we had to use converters and these didn't always work very well. I had bought a super duper blender mixer do everything appliance that cost a small fortune.... and then one of the parts broke. The only way to replace it was to get one when I visited 'home'. Needless to say, the part was expensive and could only be ordered and sent by mail - it arrived a day or two before I travelled. Then when I got it to Libya it worked for about two weeks and broke again. What a waste of money. I learned my lesson and buy appliances here. You can get a warranty on most appliances and they are reasonably priced. We did have to hunt to find a waffle iron which we found after a twenty-year search. We've used it about 4 times so far and probably could have lived without it, but if there's space in the cupboard we've got to fill it.
If you like to read books I recommend bringing an eBook reader. I had a Sony reader for quite a while and now I have a Galaxy Tab that works even better and I bought it here. You can get iPad and Galaxy Tab here but they are probably cheaper outside Libya. The same goes for iPods. Most small gadgets are costly here if you can find them.
Medicine is another thing. I suggest bringing enough to last for a while and when you get here look around to see if your meds are available here.
Quite honestly, I think that most ex-pats should travel light anyway. The more junk you bring with you means the more junk you have to move again in the future. We all like to surround ourselves with 'things' and pieces of 'home' - but is all that really necessary? Being a minimalist when you're travelling and living in various places is a really good idea! I cringe when I think of all the ex-pats that, at the beginning of the uprising, had to leave all their belongings behind and pack up only the absolute essentials in a carry-on bag. Most of their houses here were looted after they left and they lost everything.
If you're an ex-pat worker you're probably travelling in and out of here, and you probably have colleagues and other ex-pat friends who travel frequently and would be willing to bring you back things you needed. But if you are moving here with plans to stay for a while chances are you will eventually run out of all the things you hoarded in your suitcase or shipping container. Eventually you're going to have to learn to make do with what's available. A big part of moving to a different country is learning how to survive on what's around you. It's all part of the adventure.
What do you think? What is there that you cannot live without?