Being able to fit your life in two carrier bags is pitiful – at least that’s what the song “Streets of London” suggests. But what about two suitcases? Within the last two years, I have moved from my student town in Southern Germany to Leeds for five months, then back home, then to Berlin, most recently to Hamburg. Each time, it took me two suitcases to pack up my life. Moving with them was a pain, especially for a five-foot-something woman without any unsuspected vigour. First of all, I had a small journey to master, stumbling through airports, train stations and eventually the tube or bus to get to my new place, which not seldom made me swear half the way.

The hardest part, however, was letting go of possessions. Moving with two suitcases and living from them for a while gave me the tiniest glimpse of nomad life – and as with every new perspective, I learned more than I lost.


1) How to fit a medicine ball into a matchbox

The lighter stuff goes in the bigger suitcase (so you can still carry both), socks and undies fill every gap, breakables need to be wrapped (ideally in something that you need anyway), et cetera. Those are the obvious things that made me a logistics pro by the third time I moved. Two suitcases are not a lot once you’ve packed your computer, an all-weather-jacket, a small apothecary and three pairs of shoes, so every inch of those suitcases counts! Oh, and they absolutely need four wheels or you are going to die.

2) There are nice people everywhere

Talking about dying, I’m not sure if you’ve ever realized – because I didn’t – there are tube stations that do not have elevators or escalators. It would have been smart to get information on such things beforehand – but I do like living on the edge. However, one of the perks of travelling solo is that help will always jump to your side once you’re standing in front of the next big staircase, looking something in between helpless and completely deranged. It usually happens. Even in Berlin!


3) Digital is the new paper

From trip to trip, I gradually had to let go of the nostalgic romance that books imply. Taking books was unmanageable. Buying them later was easy – until I stood at a post office counter with a four kilo parcel and the British clerk requested 30 pounds to send it back to Germany. Awkward moment, really. Pragmatically speaking, the only paper you need is a copy of your most important documents to put in one (or each) of your suitcases. Everything else can go on a computer – backups go on flash drives, as regular hard drives are too sensitive for travelling. Pragmatics aside, get your dose of nostalgia second-hand and pass it on once you’re leaving.

4) All a girl needs are eyeliner and lipstick

When fitting my whole life in two suitcases, I seriously had to narrow down the list of girly accessories: I waved a teary goodbye to heaps of fancy clothes, boxes of glittery makeup and cupboards of high-heeled shoes. Clearly, form has to follow function when you leave for a winter in England or a whole new life in Germany’s rainy north. But there are ways: if you wear either lipstick or eyeliner and a smile, you are going to be okay even in your raincoat and boots. I swear!

5) A fresh start works best with little stuff

From a very young age, I always collected things – magazines, figurines, nail polish. My room was always crammed. It came as a complete surprise to me that living with little actually felt… relieving. Travelling to a new place with a bare minimum gave me the feeling that I was at liberty to pack and get out anytime I wanted. Move on until I’ve found a place to settle down for a while, treating myself to a few possessions outside of my suitcases, starting fresh – which I am doing now. Visiting my parents’ house and seeing everything that still lives in my old room usually has me sorting through shelves and throwing out 30% or so, wondering how I could ever imagine needing all this stuff.


Ultimately, living from two suitcases is not something I would have wanted to do forever. But it gave me a very good idea of what I really need or want and what is only an accumulation of unnecessary possessions.

Have you ever moved from place to place with a big suitcase or two? How did it feel? We’d love to hear your stories!

This is a guest post by Sabine Appel.


Sabine is a Hamburg-based creative who has also lived in Tübingen, Berlin and Leeds. She works in advertising and recently started her new blog project A HUNGRY MIND. While still including her key topics travel and food, her blog is about first time experiences only.