Thursday, December 17, 2009

Eight Good Things For Writers To Bring Abroad, Part One

Let’s face it. There are certain things that still make being a writer abroad harder than being a writer at home. Unfulfilled cravings for Kraft Mac & Cheese. Foreign keyboards where typing the “@” key turns into an all-day affair. Not to mention those pesky magazines back home that still request that queries be sent by mail.

But. There are ways to guard against all of these pitfalls. It’s called being prepared. So before you move abroad, or on your next visit home, here are some of the necessities you should consider bringing back with you: 

  1. A laptop. Yes, you can buy a laptop anywhere, but no, they are not all considered equal. (And I’m not talking Mac or PC here, although my husband might want to argue about that again soon). To make things easier (and most likely cheaper—at least if you’re from the U.S.), buy a laptop before you leave home. Then you can avoid things like umlaut keys and a Microsoft Office that speaks a language other than yours. Just make sure to disguise your new purchase going through the airport (i.e. don’t walk through customs with your laptop in a shiny shopping bag boxed in its original packaging.)
  2. Stamps from your home country. While it is almost 2010, some magazines, editors and agents are still requesting stuff by snail mail à la 1985. So you can either avoid these publications and people, or you can make your life easier by buying a set of stamps for those pesky SASE envelopes. The best bet, at least in the U.S., is to buy a set of FOREVER stamps. These don’t have a price printed on them, so when the rate for a stamp increases, these are still good. Thank God. Because I’ve been using my roll now for over three years.
  3. A home-country based phone number. Before you go abroad, make your life (and your current clients’ lives) easier by establishing a phone number where they can reach you without having to dial a scary “+” (moms like this too). Go to and for about $30 a year, you can have a number with an area code (and country) of your choosing. With a 212 area code, for example, you can live in Switzerland but still never seem far away from your New York clients. By setting up Skype forwarding, your client can make a “local” call, and your phone halfway around the world will ring.
  4. Current magazines. If you write for magazines or newspapers, you’ll want to keep current with the latest. But depending on where you live, the magazines may be difficult to find and also extremely expensive (think $14 for one copy of Travel and Leisure at the local Kiosk in Switzerland). While subscribing to a few magazines is an option, international subscriptions can be pricey. So when I’m home, I visit my favorite half-price bookstore, and stock up on various magazines where they’re sold for $1-2 each.
Stay tuned for Part Two next week. But in the meantime, if you're a writer abroad, what things do you find necessary to bring back from your home country?


  1. Great post, Chantal!

    I'm an American writer living in Shanghai, China, where access to the Internet is controlled by the government. Therefore, having a reliable VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a must.

    I also bring my favorite pens from the U.S. Yes, there are lots of pens for sale in China, but not my favorites. (You know how we writers are about our pens...)

  2. Thanks, Kristin. Yes, I've heard of the Internet issues in China. Does VPN allow you to access everything?

    Pens is a good one. I guess I'm not picky about pens since I type almost everything I write, but I can see where they would be important!

  3. Great blog! I'm an aspiring travel writer but these tips are cool.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. Some of these could definitely apply to travel writers as well.

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