What Do I Pack for Four Months at Sea?

Shantel Dickerson in her cabin on Peace Boat. Shantel Dickerson

Preparing for five continents and 23 countries is no easy feat. 

After leaving Japan at the end of July and visiting friends and family across the United States, I arrived at my childhood home. I had just two weeks to unpack my two-year adventure in Japan and re-pack for the adventure to come: Peace Boat.

I’ve grown so comfortable with packing up my basic needs and comforts that with each trip I allow myself less and less time to get everything together. Packing for Peace Boat was no exception. I gave myself two hours from the time I opened my luggage to the time I zipped them up.

My poor parents. They have watched me wait until the last minute on countless occasions. It was no surprise to them that I was literally running around the house looking for the sarong I hadn’t worn in almost three years. Trying to help me find it, my mom frantically dug through old boxes that had been sitting in my closet for the past two years I was in Japan. (I needed the sarong, as I will be teaching a hula dance class as part of the "self-organized events" volunteers are expected to facilitate onboard. Lucky for me, she found it.)

As we sail, the seasons will change and I will need clothes ready for every type of weather—from beach wear for the Maldives and Jamaica, to heavy winter gear for Iceland.

But what does one pack for three and half months at sea? We are to visit 23 countries across five continents during our trip around the world. As we head west from Japan, the seasons will change and I will need clothes ready for every type of weather—from beach wear for the Maldives and Jamaica, to heavy winter gear for Iceland.

Of course, on the ship, I will be expected to dress formally every day in my position as a volunteer English teacher. This includes special suits and dresses for fancy dinners and ceremonies. Since Peace Boat is a Japanese NGO, the expectations for how to dress and present oneself are also very Japanese. At most Peace Boat-organized events, it is common for women to wear suit pants or skirts, accompanied by a blouse and jacket. For men, they are expected to wear a full suit and tie. Aesthetically speaking, most Japanese do not often wear bright colours in professional settings and tend to stick to various shades of black, grey, white and sometimes blue.

We are also expected to wear closed-toe shoes with our heels covered. Wearing such footwear enables us to move about the ship safely and easily if we are experiencing rough seas, increased wind speeds, or emergencies. Volunteers are expected to assist in these emergency events, so it is necessary that we uphold these standards.

A couple of days ago, I arrived to my onboard cabin and realized there were a few more items I needed to procure for the voyage. Confined to quite close quarters, smell can become a critical issue. I don’t want my roommate—who is a volunteer interpreter of Japanese, Spanish and English—to start spreading rumours around the ship about how much my shoes stink, so I bought a shoe deodorizer. It has already worked wonders. In the same vein, I bought some fabric deodorizer and a room freshener. My roommate and I will be doing most of our laundry by hand in our bathroom, so we also got some laundry detergent.

Aside from clothes, I made sure to bring the toiletries that I am comfortable with. For example, Japanese deodorant is typically very weak compared to American deodorant, and Japanese toothpaste does not typically contain fluoride, so I made sure to bring extra supplies of these from the United States.

For the time being, I feel all set. I was able to pack all my belongings into one checked baggage, one carry-on, and one daypack. Hopefully there will be enough space for all the souvenirs I will pick up from around the world!

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Shantel Dickerson

Shantel Dickerson is a Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) participant who is teaching English to high school students in Beppu, Japan. Shantel will join Peace Boat for four months as a volunteer English teacher and travel to 23 countries.

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