10 Useful Things to Pack when Volunteering Abroad
When you book a volunteer program there are so many things going through your head, excitment, anticipation and a little trepidation. There are so many things you might want to think about and it's important you are prepared as a lot of projects are in rural locations. To help you a little we have put together a list of things you shouldn't forget to pack when volunteering abroad...
1. Plastic / Zip Lock Bags
These bags double for compressing clothes, sample bags to collect sand / shells etc. Also you can use these bags to put liquids in within your suitcase to avoid leakage. Commercially available "compression" bags are expensive and usually weigh more and take more space than ziplocks. We also recommend taking 1-2 kitchen catcher sized garbage bags which will come in useful. You can put your wet towels and clothes in after snorkelling - keeps everything else in your pack from getting wet or having to drape the sloppy wet towel on the outside of your bag getting it dirty.
2. Photos from Home
Just to help you not to miss home too much.
3. Travel Towel
We would pack a quick dry travel / camp / pack towel. These are smaller and lighter weight than normal towels and those supplied by hotels and cruise ships. These are useful especially after it gets wet it is easier to carry and pack saving you space.
4. Waterproof Backpack
Take a waterproof (or at least water resistent) small backpack. There are lots available including on of our favorites the Ultra Sil Sea 2 Summit backpack which is small, tear resistent, water resistent and packs down to nothing so when out walking or meandering you have an emergency pac just in case
Take your own shampoo / conditioner from home and also other toilettries. The key is to plan to leave any leftovers behind. It means you will always have a little extra room coming home. Also shampoo can double as laundry soap if you get stuck needing to wash your underwear in the sink for example. Sometimes some volunteering programs can be in very remote areas miles away from any shops or supermarkets.
6. Lightweight Clothing
Aim to take quick dry, travel specific clothes which are lightweight, wrinkle resitant, stain resistant and multi use. Our fave: Columbia dresses and skirts and convertible pants which are easy to wash, work for day and evening wear (more important for double duty on trips like cruises). Convertible pants are great because you can stick your "legs" in your pack and you will never be turned down to enter that church or temple and when travelling to/from extreme temp climates you lighten the load of necessary clothes you have to carry in your hand luggage.
7. Braided Wire Rope / A Good Lock
If you are visiting places where you fear for pickpocketing - buy very small gauge stainless braided wire rope - cabling actually. Most home depot shops sell it cheaply. Put a loop in each end (one slightly larger than the other so you can pass one loop through the other). Then you can slip it through camera handle and fasten to your belt loop. You could make it long enough that you can pull a camera out of your pocket and use it without disconnecting. You should also take a lock which might help prevent people stealing your belongings.
8. Travel Insurance & Copies of Documents
Take specific documents and copies with you .e.g passport and travel insurance policy. We recommend taking at least two copies, you might travel with your original passport on you but you should also have copies in addition to that. You could keep a copy on electronically in your email or in a cloud somewhere (laptops and tablets can be stolen so you need it "virtually" somewhere). Keep a hard copy in the bottom of a rucksack / suitcase and leave a copy at home - easy for family or friends to find in an emergency.
9. Phone/Tablet/Computer + Spare Batteries & a Good Charger
These will come in very useful, even in rural areas you will usually be able to find wifi and it is good to keep connected. You'll be suprised how often your batteries run out at important times and so its always good to take a back up. Also a charger either with a universal / international plug adapter or a solar powered charger to keep your phone, ipod and important electricals charged.
10. Something To Keep You Entertained
Take a book, ipad, ipod, laptop or something to keep you entertained. You could keep a diary or just have things with you for when you are travelling long distances or when you have lots of free time, this will prevent you from getting bored.