Packing for your volunteering experience abroad can be both exciting and scary. You want to bring all of your gadgets and favourite clothes but also feel that you need to bring the bare minimum and all waterproof, neutral clothing. The trick is a combination of the two.
1. Before you do anything else, research your country! You need to consider the weather at the time you will be in-country. Will you need layers, a thick jumper or a rain jacket? Even in hot climates like Vietnam, monsoon season means you’re going to need a durable raincoat. You must also consider their culture and whether your clothes are appropriate. As a rule of thumb, always pack on the modest side (i.e. tops that cover your shoulders, knee length skirts and long pants).
2. Bring suitable luggage. A heavy, wheeled suitcase and rural cobbled streets or dirt tracks do not mix well. Think about bringing a hiking backpack. They're easy to move around and it doesn’t matter if they get muddy, wet or thrown around a bit. You should also consider bringing a smaller backpack or bag if you are going on a day trip.
3. Carry-on bags should have emergency provisions. If, for some unfortunate reason your main bag cannot travel with you immediately, your carry on should be sufficient for you to survive for a few days. Make sure you have a change of clothes, essential (small) toiletries, some money, a snack and water. Most importantly, make sure you have all the necessary documentation with you: your passport (including visa), travel details and accommodation details.
4. Only pack what is necessary! Most destinations will have a local shop where you can buy toiletries and snacks so try not to fill your bag with big shampoo bottles and ten of your favourite chocolate bars. If you know that bedding isn’t provided, think about investing in a good quality, lightweight and compact sleeping bag.
5. Pack layers and convertible clothing. Wherever you are off to, layers will come in handy for both weather and modesty reasons. Trousers that turn into shorts and jackets with zip-out linings will be your best friend in ever-changing climates and environments! Try to pack lightweight clothing and clothing that dries quickly.
6. Roll your clothes and put them in other items. Rolling makes more room so you can pack more and it also makes it easier to identify clothes when you need them without having to tip out your whole bag.
7. Smartphones are a great alternative to loads of items but only if you have internet access, electricity and an adapter! Without these three things, your smartphone is not going to be of much use for longer than its current battery life. However, if you are lucky enough to be able to use your phone it can replace a map, a camera, a flashlight and a language translator.
Of course this is only a guide but plan ahead, pack smart and enjoy your Lattitude experience!