You’re about to go on the trip of a lifetime, but your empty suitcase waiting to be packed is giving you anxiety.
Packing for a volunteer trip differs quite a bit from your average family vacation. You have to be prepared for any situation that could arise. Whether that be simply bringing extra bug spray to packing a full on first aid kit, packing for any trip can be overwhelming.
1. Write it all down.
Bringing a journal on any type of volunteer trip is essential. Things happen so quickly that it’s important to jot down daily thoughts and memories before you forget.
This is especially important for students who have assignments stemming from their volunteer experience. You may not have the opportunity to take photos of everything, so journaling can help hold the memories that you might want to revisit down the road.
2. Protect yourself from the elements.
Hats are easy to come by in most places, but sunglasses and sunscreen are not. It’s important to bring some form of skin and eye protection, especially if you are volunteering outdoors.
Leave your fancy sunglasses at home — they run the risk of being lost or broken. Instead, buy a few cheap pairs, so you have some backups. There are also sunscreen lotions specific to your travel needs (eco-friendly, easy to open, etc.) so find out which kind is right for you and stock up on a few bottles.
3. Covering up is key.
Even though you might be volunteering in a very hot region, it’s important to pack one pair of long pants and a light jacket, or long-sleeved shirt, in case of inclement weather or evenings that drastically cool down.
It is important to wear long pants in areas that have tall grass, dense forests, or humid climates to avoid bug or snake bites. Bring shirts that have breathable fabrics and that are moisture wicking and light-colored to stay cool and to keep the pesky insects away.
4. Cure any ailment.
Volunteering abroad can wear your body down if you’re not used to it. Bringing a few different over-the-counter medicines can help you be as comfortable as possible during your trip.
Over-the-counter pain medications can ease tired muscles after a long day of hard work. Motion sickness medications and antacids can fend off upset stomachs that arise from being in a very hot environment or traveling constantly.
Your upset stomach may also result from new foods (and drinking water) you’re consuming, so you’ll thank yourself if you have some antidiarrheal medicine handy. Antifungal and antibacterial creams are vital as well, as it’s possible that you may encounter a fungal infection in your new environment.
5. Say thank you.
Many times, it’s customary to bring small gifts to offer your host families. Things like travel-size containers of soap, body sprays or lotions go a long way to make your host families feel respected.
Try giving a gift that is unique to your home country so they always have something to remember you by. If you feel like you want to do a little extra, consider asking them if there are any programs they care about that you could donate to.
They will be appreciative that you care to contribute something so meaningful to them. Giving a gift also serves as a great ice breaker for your first meeting.