Going on any trip requires extensive planning, especially if you are volunteering abroad. Knowing what to pack can be a challenge, because what you need can change by destination.
To make packing less stressful no matter your destination, consider these three tips:
1. Create a Packing Spreadsheet
One of the simplest ways to reduce packing stress is to create a detailed list and save it to your computer. Check items off as they are packed and bring this list with you on your trip to make sure you have everything you brought before you return home. The next time you are ready to volunteer you already have a working list of important items to bring!
Bonus: Check out this trip packing list. It’s free to download.
2. Pack Culturally Appropriate Clothing
Before you go, do a little cultural background homework on your volunteer destination. Do they place importance on staying covered up? Do certain jewelry items carry cultural significance? What message is your t-shirt bringing to the community? Don’t let your clothing hinder your mission to serve.
3. Bring Things You Can Leave
If you are tight on space, consider bringing clothing you don’t mind leaving behind (this will make room for all of your souvenirs). If you are working with a charity organization, they will probably be happy to accept donations of gently used clothing items at the end of your stay. If you want to give an item to one person in particular, it is a good idea to ask the leaders of your partnering organization first.
In addition to clothes and regular hygiene items, here are three things you will be thankful to have no matter where you travel:
1. Hand Sanitizer
Use this often! The bacteria and viruses you might encounter in another country are very different from the ones at home. This is not to say they are necessarily worse; your body simply hasn’t adjusted to them. Make sure you are very discreet about using disinfectants. Don’t shake someone’s hand or hold their baby and then immediately reach for your Purell. This sends your new friends the wrong message. Wait until you are in the restroom or back on the bus to wash up.
In addition to the medications you typically take, make sure and bring a good multivitamin! Chances are good your body will be a little confused by your sudden change in diet and physical demands. Enjoy the local cuisine, but don’t forget to keep your immune system in prime condition with a little extra vitamin intake.
Pepto is a must-have item for your travel first aid kit, but if you’re into natural options, there is nothing like a little bit of ginger to settle a mildly queasy stomach. Ginger tea, candy, or capsules can be found at most grocery stores. If it gets worse than “mildly queasy”, don’t try to be brave. Tell someone immediately.
Post Cards from Home
Want to leave a special imprint no matter where you travel? Consider investing in a small stack of post cards from your home state or province. You will make many new friends by the end of your trip. They will probably be delighted to see a photo of the mountains or forests of your homeland. It is a good place to leave a small note expressing thanks and telling them what you loved about their country.