How 53 Years of My Life Fit In Two Suitcases

The journey to freedom

I had dreamed about it for years. Winters in warmer climates. What would it be like. I envied all those people who would pack up in October and come back in May. Ok, I’ll be honest. I was downright fucking jealous of them.

Man oh man how I wish I could do that. It was always just a cloud bubble over my head.

I would declare to everyone “One of these days I’ll be spending my winters somewhere warm, mark my words!!” I thought I was joking, to be honest. “Iva, be realistic, that’s never gonna happen” I would whisper to myself.

Until one day

This happened. It was the dead of winter in Northern Ontario and the thermometer hit -50 C. I was so done. It got me thinking. Could I really pull this off? Can I pack up some shit and move south for the winter?

I was about to find out.

I started sniffing out travel websites. I started reading blogs about how to work online. I did whatever the hell I could do to see if I could make it work.

And I did. Not without working my ass off to make it happen but by April of 2015, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, I was not going to see winter of 2015/2016.

I started looking for a small room to rent and start the daunting task of downsizing. Time to get rid of my shit. Furniture, kitchen stuff, clothes, books, you name it, it went. It all either got sold, trashed or donated.

The car was the very last thing to go and that literally drove me to the airport on October 2015 and the man who was ‘supposed’ to take care of the car deal, drove it back to Sudbury (more on that maybe another time).

I found a room and continued to downsize until the week before I was to leave.

Becoming a minimalist isn’t as easy as you think

I had two suitcases to fill my things. That’s it, that’s all. I wasn’t going to bring any more stuff with me. I had no idea how long I was going to stay. I definitely needed at least 6 months worth of my things because I knew for certain that’s how long I would be gone for.

It was time to sift and sort through my ‘stuff’ to see what could stay and what was coming with me. All 53 years of it.

First came the jewelry. Rings, watches, bracelets, some have meaning, others have nothing. I decided to bring only two watches (neither of them I ended up ever wearing anyway), a ring that I’m wearing that my mom bought me when I was 14 years old and one necklace that was a gift from my best friend.

I seriously had enough jewelry to open a store, and I left it all behind. Gave it all away.

Next up, clothes. All I needed were shorts, a couple of pairs of jeans, a sweater, light jacket, and the standard socks and undies. The rest went to charity and friends who liked them. A full walk in closet full of clothes, gone. Boots, hats, mitts, scarves, tights, 2 full length winter leather coats. All of it. Gone.

Then came the things close to my heart. The things my kid made in school, pictures of him, family photos, books, salt lamps, wall hangings. This part was the hardest. You have to choose wisely. It can’t all come.

My heart was torn apart. What do I bring? What if I make the wrong choices? What if after 3 months I regret not bringing a certain item? I spent days going through things and looking at them. Crying.

Will my son care if I didn’t bring the cute little rock art he made me of a blow-dryer and scissors? Will he be mad if I left behind some of his pictures? Should I bring this trinket that a dear friend bought me when I was recovering from major surgery?

I have to choose wisely as I may never see many of these things ever again. How much do they matter? How badly do I want them? If I never come back will I miss them?

So many questions.

It’s extremely difficult to have to go through your things and decide what you really want, what matters, and what you think you can live without.

It’s extremely difficult to leave 53 years of your life behind, mostly given away to strangers.

It’s extremely difficult to part with things you’ve had forever. These ‘things’ don’t define you, but it’s part of your history. There’s a story behind each and every thing you just left behind.

After much thought and one week of downsizing, I packed up what I held near and dear to my heart. One suitcase had only clothes in it, the other one had only trinkets, books and other things.

53 years of my life packed up in two suitcases.

3 years later

I can look back now and realized I stressed too much over little things. I’ve spent the last 3 years not really missing anything that I had to part with. Life has a funny way of showing you that all the stuff you have or want, at the end of the day, doesn’t really mean much anyway.

I have all the things I want and though I wasn’t sure if I chose the right things at the time, I know now, I most certainly did. The rest of the things I left behind were just that, ‘things’.

I have become less attached to ‘things’ and have discovered, the real things that matter the most are in my heart. Love and kindness. Life and peace. Friendships and blessings.

You can’t buy any of those and keep them on a shelf. You don’t have to pack them in a suitcase. You don’t have to decide which one to leave and which one gets to come along for the ride.

They are always with you, no matter where you go.

I realize my life has become so much simpler without all those ‘things’. Though I have acquired a few more ‘things’ in the last 3 years, I now know that I will have no problem leaving them behind if and when I leave Guatemala for my next country.

Wherever that is.

I love you ❤

Peace and Love

xo iva xo

Self help Guru|Expat|Website: mini self help eBook series here:

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