Here at Indelible International we tend to group interning, volunteering, and studying abroad together which works out just find for some things and is the completely wrong approach for others. If you’re volunteering for a big organization in a major city then out other packing guides will serve you well. If, on the other hand, you’ll be heading to a remote location or on an “alternative” program then this is the packing list for you:
Solid shampoo. Shampoo in bar form can seem weird but it’s actually an amazing product because it doesn’t take up much space in your bag and is easy to use with out running water. If you buy one of these solid shampoos from Lush you’ll end up with a very high quality shampoo at a great price that is also natural and biodegradable. This comes in handy as it guarantees that you will not harm your volunteering community. Lush also makes solid conditioner and a 2 in 1 bar depending on your shampoo needs.
Baby wipes. These are great for cleaning your hands before you grab a quick bite to eat or as an alternative for your body when a shower isn’t an option. They’re not going to make you feel first date clean but they can be quite refreshing. (On a different sort of practical level, baby wipes can come in handy if you come down with food poisoning or any other digestive ailment). We suggest you go with biodegradable/compostable options like these, these, or these.
Sunscreen. Sunscreen is important no matter where you are or what kind of program you’re on but it’s especially important if you’ll be volunteering in a remote area.
Extra supplies of all of your toiletries including plenty of floss and an extra toothbrush. I always put these on my packing lists, just do it. While you’re at it, don’t forget deodorant and plenty of chapstick.
A Traveling medicine cabinet. We’ve already talked about how to pack one here. Remember to include any emergency prescriptions from your travel doctor and copies of the original (just in case your medication winds up being of questionable legality in your new home).
Solar charger. Confession, I’ve never actually used one of these but they get excellent reviews and seem like a brilliant way to justify brining an ipod or kindle on this kind of trip so I added it to the list.
Books or fully charged E-reading device. Don’t forget to make space for something to read in your bag. If you really want to go the extra mile you could coordinate reading material with your fellow volunteers ahead of time and make plans to swap books during the trip to avoid having to carry too many of your own.
A journal (or paper) and lots of pens. You never know when you’ll need to take down a note or thoughts or when you’ll be SOL electricity wise.
Emergency outfit. You should have at least 1 emergency outfit (shoes included). For me, this is usually the outfit I travel in. I wear it on the flight there and then (hopefully) don’t wear it again until the way back. If no “emergency” comes up then I have something fresh for the plane and if one does then I’m prepared (and not naked).
Extra socks. I know I just talked about a whole extra outfit, but really, you can never have too many socks.
Something for the rain. Do your research on this one, but if there’s even a remote chance it will rain on your trip then bring along some gear. Head here for inspiration.
A flashlight, a miniature lantern or both. You need to bring a flashlight of some sort. One of my favorite travel companions is a mini lantern like this one because it easily lights up a whole tent or room (something that is much more difficult to accomplish with a flashlight).
Some snacks. Think nuts, nutrition bars, something small and with protein that you can dig into if you really get desperate.
Condoms. Better safe than sorry.
Ladies: get a diva cup. If you have a healthy, functioning uterus and your trip lasts longer than three weeks this is an issue you’re going to have to deal with. Grow up. Get a diva cup. They’re really easy to use, not gross at all, and way better for the environment and your body than the products women usually use. For a fantastically informative review of using the Diva Cup for travel, go here.
Just in case you couldn’t tell, the theme of this list is back-ups. These are not the only items you should plan on bringing and I’m definitely not saying you should fill your luggage with multiples of everything. Just be mindful of the fact that it might not be easy for you to get a new toothbrush if you drop yours in the dirt. Happy packing and have a fantastic adventure!