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Packing Advice from Overseas Volunteers

By  July 23, 2012

Our "From the Field" bloggers tell us what they wish they had packed—and what they can't live without.

Our editorial blog has been on a temporary hiatus over the last couple of months while we put the finishing touches on our Fall 2012 issue. (Don’t worry—it’s not too late to subscribe before it hits the printers. Or, if you’re in Toronto, Montréal or Vancouver this fall, be sure to drop by the Go Global Expo to grab a copy.)

But Verge has regularly been delivering new content, thanks to our new From the Field blog, which is written by interns and volunteers who are currently working, studying and living overseas around the globe. As a way of introducing you to some of our new bloggers, we decided to ask them for their top packing advice—including what they can’t live without and what they wish they had packed.

Here’s what they answered:

Camaro West, Ghana

Can’t Live Without: A well-stocked medical kit. My thermometer has come in handy a few times and it's been nice not to have to make my way to a pharmacy when I'm sick for the basics like cold medicine.

Want: More small comforts from home, like pictures of friends and family.

Other Tips: Bring at least one fancy outfit and pair of shoes. You never know when you will be invited to a formal event at the last minute. I've been to several.

Read more from Camaro about her internship in Ghana with Youth Challenge International.

Noa Glow, Indonesia

Can’t Live Without: Work gloves. When you're moving cinder blocks, hauling concrete and hammering doorframes, you need a good pair of gloves to protect your paws.

Want: More energy bars! Building homes isn't easy—it's physically demanding work that takes a lot of juice!

Other Tips: Packing light is always a plus, but if you can fit in some extra donate-able goodies (ask the organization you're volunteering with what items are most needed by people in the area you'll be working), do.

Read more from Noa about her volunteer placement with Habitat for Humanity in Bali.

Charity Yoro, Madagascar

Can’t Live Without: A good camera. I invested in a nice Lumix GF1, which has perfectly suits my lifestyle abroad. It’s not as bulky as a SLR, but it still takes amazing photos and has a great video feature as well. Capture your experiences on film. You won't regret the investment.

Want: A Kindle. I live in a rural village in an isolated Francophone country without access to electricity or running water, and much less, to a good selection of English books. At night by candlelight sometimes, all I want to do was cuddle up to a good classic.

Other Advice: As far as clothes go, if you don't wear it at home, chances are you won't wear it in a developing country! I was told to pack expensive outdoor/hiking shoes, of which I bought several pairs and ended up passing off to local friends.

Read more from Charity about her long-term volunteer placement in Madagascar.

Genevieve Julliet, India

Can’t Live Without: My flashlight. It helps out a lot during the nights when the power goes out and allows me to read late at night without disturbing my roommates.

Want: Clothes for going out. I thought that I wouldn't need any nice clothes for going out to restaurants or clubs or other nightlife, but the truth is that most of the interns end up going out almost every night of the week. I ended up buying a few dresses and heels to wear in the evenings.

Other Tips: Check the voltage on your electronics such as hair dryers before you go and see if they are compatible with the plugs in the country you are visiting. I nearly started a fire trying to blow-dry my hair in India with my dryer from home!

Read more from Genevieve about her internship in India with AIESEC.

Carly Vandergriendt, India

Can’t Live Without: My laptop. It helps me stay connected with friends and family members through social networking sites, Skype, email and my own blog. And now, instead of loathing the time I spend on Facebook like I did at home, I am happy to use it to stay in touch with the people I miss and share my life here with them.

Want: Cheese! I know that you can't "pack it" per se, but I wish I had an endless supply of cheese because it's expensive and not so widely available in India.

Other Tips: Don't pack too lightly and try to bring a few "indulgent" items—ones that you don't necessarily need but want. When I came to India I really didn't know what to expect and I brought the absolute minimum of stuff—I barely even brought any nice clothes. After living here for a while, I realized that I still wanted to dress up every now and then and I wished I had little things like nail polish to pamper myself.

Read more from Carly about her AIESEC internship in India.

Andrew O’Dea, Guyana

Can’t Live Without: A personal water filtration pump and mini speakers to play our music on.

Want: Nicer clothes for dressier occasions. I also wish I had packed spices and seasonings from home for when I'm cooking here.

Other Tips: Try not to make concessions in packing too early on. Try to overpack your bag initially; you'd be surprised by how much you can fit in! Then, if you need to, you can take some of the duplicated items, or less important items out.

Read more from Andrew about his volunteer placement with Youth Challenge International in Guyana.

Rudayna Bahubeshi, Ecuador

Can't Live Without: English novels. Appointments and meetings aren't on quite as stringent of a schedule as back home. It's not unusual for people to be very late, so it helps to carry reading material.

Want: My winter jacket. I know. It sounds like a joke. While I knew that Quito was at a relatively high altitude before moving, I didn't anticipate quite how cold it gets.

Other Tips: Pack a couple of nice outfits. As a seasoned backpacker, now in a professional environment, I'm glad that I brought clothes outside of jeans and shorts this time around. I have noticed that many of the volunteers we work with bring very casual clothes, which is fine, but if they are invited to a party or a more formal occasion they feel under dressed or end up splurging on clothes for a single evening that they won't end up wearing back home.

Read more from Rudayna about her work placement with BaseCamp International Centers in Ecuador.


Are you interested in writing for Verge's From the Field blog? We're always looking for more bloggers to join the team; particularly students who are spending a semester overseas and individuals or expats who are currently working abroad. To find more information about how to apply, check out our contribution guidelines.

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Jessica Lockhart

Contributing Editor

Although Jessica has travelled to more than 30 countries, her favorite place to throw down her bag is still her hometown of Cold Lake, Alberta. A freelance journalist, Jess has worked for international development organizations and tour operators. She’s conducted workshops in Vanuatu, perfected the use of a satellite phone in the jungles of Guyana and supervised teenage pool parties in the Dominican Republic. Although she's based in Toronto, Jess works remotely from all around the world.

Website: www.jesslockhart.com

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