Maybe you’ve finally booked that dream volunteer vacation to an exotic country. Before you can start connecting with people and making a difference, though, there are a few important things to do — and packing is one of them!
You’ve got to account for a myriad of factors like climate, personal comfort, and your daily activities. Gah! Sounds stressful — especially if you’ve never set foot in a developing country before.
Don’t worry; we’re here to help. We’ve traveled with all kinds of people (to all kinds of places!) and have put together a basic list of what to pack to volunteer abroad:
What to Pack for Volunteering Abroad
1. Layers, layers, layers!
Don’t end up shivering on those Peruvian mountain nights, or sweating profusely during the hot Costa Rican afternoons. Though we take the time to get to know a single location (no drive-by volunteering for our travelers!), you’ll likely still encounter a variety of temperatures on your trip.
Our tip: Bring clothes you can layer — like t-shirts, thin sweaters, and a light fleece jacket. Many outdoor stores sell versatile pants that can be worn as shorts by unzipping them above the knee. Scarves also function well as a wrap for your shoulders, neck, or head.
2. Comfortable items
Our itineraries are active; they involve walking, meeting people, and visiting important sites. Make sure that your shoes are comfortable and have a decent tread.
Our tip: Try a hybrid hiking shoe, sold by companies like Merrell or Keen; these shoes have a firm sole grip and arch support for extended walking. You can also soften your feet with vaseline or a skin oil to ward off blisters. As for the rest of your wardrobe, consider packing older clothes — that way, if they get torn or stained, you have nothing to worry about!
3. A journal & camera
Of course you want to share images of your volunteer vacation with your friends and family, so don’t forget your camera. Instead of constantly updating social media, however, we encourage you to unplug while volunteering abroad. Writing in a journal each day is a wonderful way to record and reflect upon your experiences — and you can share your photos once you’re back!
Our tip: Moleskine makes beautiful notebooks that are durable enough to withstand the elements. Don’t forget to bring some pens!
4. An open mind
Though sometimes overlooked, this is the most important thing on the list. On your volunteer vacation, you’ll encounter languages, foods, and customs that are foreign to you. Our itineraries focus on people-to-people interactions and immersion in the local culture — in other words, you’re in for an adventure! Keeping an open mind is absolutely essential.
Our tip: We encourage you to embrace these new experiences with gusto! Who knows? Your outlook could be changed forever. To help prepare yourself, research your destination by reading guidebooks, watching movies, and studying a few words of the local language.
Quick Packing List
Besides the major points we highlighted, here are some more items you shouldn’t forget:
- Flip flops or hiking sandals
- Medication and glasses/contacts/contact solution
- Personal toiletries
- Watch or small alarm clock
- Small backpack
- Refillable water bottle
- Waterproof windbreaker or raincoat
What’s the one thing you ALWAYS bring on vacation?