Secrets and a packing list! Updated 9 months into service.
1. Packing light.
As we nest in one place we easily accumulate things. So many things. Now imagine carrying all those things around rural Africa. The shorter your packing list, the happier your travels will be. A light load confers freedom and independence. Who needs a big strong man or woman when you can easily carry everything yourself? (To be fair I did a lot of push ups)
Carrying everything yourself is not practical when you have to move everything, but think light and you will ease the transition a lot.
All at once, go through everything. Although I figured this out on my own, it is also inspired by the feng shui book on the NY Times bestseller list (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo). Before you leave look at each thing you have and ask yourself, is it really worth storing for two years? Will I really be happy to see this when I get back?
Throw out your plastic 5k medals, all those things in that drawer you never open, and that business card from that guy. Donate t-shirts and clothes you barely wear to younger siblings, friends, and the goodwill. Broken? Give yourself a day to fix it then throw it out if you don’t.
3. Start early.
There once was a girl who waited till the night before. She packed and she packed till she could fit no more. The morning had come, she had to be done, and she left a bunch of things behind.
Start at least two weeks before so you can get a sense of what you still need to order online, and can arrange to store whatever won’t make it through the practice pack. Packing and repacking makes you know where everything is.
Packing List: Peace Corps Namibia 2015 – 2017
Was advised not to put a list of anything valuable that I have until I’m almost done because of cyber stalking. If you’re really curious feel free to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Country staff told us to bring business clothes and I’m glad I did. You are definitely judged on your appearance, and I feel like I get more respect because of that.
- Watch (or two) that has alarm clock function.
- Multiple headlamps. (one will probably break)
- Sleeping bag for when you go traveling.
- Two week supply of shower + clean body things.
- Water bottle or two. Make it two. (I love my camelbak because its huge and I need lots of water, but you need at least one nalgene)
- Lots of underwear (no immediate opportunities for laundry)
- Dried mango (or other favorite snack)
- Yoga mat if you think you might like to take part. Very uncomfortable without one, and very hard to find in Windhoek.
- Leatherman or other pocket knife/multi tool. I use this all the time.
- Pictures/other decorations. Just a few things to make you happy, but I didn’t have to tell you that one.
I packed about 40 pounds of clothes. This was more than enough, maybe just ever so slightly too much. But then again I’ve vowed not to buy any clothing while I’m here, unless it is traditional.
- Mostly conservative business casual (dresses w/ cardigans, skirts with blouses, dress pants with collared shirts) to layer in winter. Some workout clothes and shoes for all occasions. Don’t forget a pair of closed toed business shoes.
GLAD I BROUGHT, BUT NOT ESSENTIAL
- Sheets. I really like jersey fabric sheets and I brought queen size which was perfect. It comforted me to sleep in familiar sheets while I switched around from one unfamiliar bed to another. Also saved on my settling-in allowance to spring for a wooden cutting board.
- Too many toiletries. You can buy absolutely anything here. Except maybe Tom’s of Maine and Dr. Bronners, but who has the room in their suitcase to stock up on that for two years?
In the end (read 9 months in), you make do with what you have and forget all those things you couldn’t live without in the States. I ended up over packing because it’s hard to let go of your life in the U.S., and you want to bring it all with you, family, friends, everything. To you I say, be bold! Throw out your packing list. Leave those extra socks behind, and start anew.