Ultimate Peace Corps Packing List

Packing for two years of service can be nerve-racking. How do you decide what to bring for the next 27 months of your life? How do you pack everything you need to live halfway around the world into two 50-pound bags, a carry-on, and a personal item?

When preparing for the Peace Corps, I found several packing lists from Peace Corps Headquarters, on Reddit, and personal blogs. Many of the lists and recommendations I found were good, but they all fell short on the level of detail I wanted. This packing list aims to fix that.

Before we get to the actual packing list, I want to cover a few Peace Corps packing tips.

Five Peace Corps Packing Tips

1. Peace Corps Provides

You’re not going to parachute into a remote location and live unassisted for two years. Peace Corps supports you along the way, both financially and with basic supplies to ensure your health and safety.

There is no need to pack a year supply of pepto. Peace Corps provides you with a fully stocked medical kit containing essential medications and first aid supplies. During your service, Peace Corps will resupply you with medications at your request, either when you make trips to the main office or by sending them to your site or a regional office. You need to, however, pack a three-month supply of any prescription medications, which Peace Corps will refill during your service.

In addition to medications, Peace Corps provides other in-country essentials such as water filters, mosquito nets, bug spray, and sunscreen. Depending on the climate and conditions of your country of service, the items Peace Corps provides will differ.

Ladies, while the Peace Corps may supply tampons or other feminine hygiene products, they may not always be the size you want and there is no guarantee. There are a few options to consider for feminine hygiene products, which are detailed below and informed by female volunteers.

The last way that the Peace Corps provides is through a move-in allowance. Depending on your living situation and if you are replacing a current volunteer, Peace Corps will give you a small allowance to buy what you need to turn your house into a home. I used my money to buy a cot, pots and cooking utensils, buckets for bathing and washing my clothes, and a wooden table that a local carpenter made.

You don’t need to pack a house into your bags. I have some recommendations below on household items that are either difficult to find or likely of poor quality, but you’ll be able to find most of what you need in your local market or in the city.

Disclaimer/Recommendation: What Peace Corps provides varies by country, availability, and is subject to change. Try to ask a current volunteer about the status of availability of what Peace Corps in your country of service actually provides.

2. You’re not living in the remote wilderness for two years

Preparing for your service can be stressful. I get it. I was once where you are.

But, remember that people live where you’re going—it’s not camping in the remote wilderness. Your host country likely won’t have your favorite kind of toothpaste or favorite snack food, but they have all the important things.

I recommend that you pack essentials and what you need for the first three months of training. There isn’t a need to pack a bunch of clothing. Your day to day life will be simple and a complete American wardrobe will be excessive.

You’re going to be living in your host country for two years and over those two years your clothing will wear out, which will be expedited by the abrasive nature of hand washing clothes. This gives you the perfect opportunity to shop for “new” clothes and to better integrate into your community!

“I wasted my space in my luggage with too many clothes – I ended up getting so many made in Mali.” – Jennifer Bangoura, Mali 2008-2012

I loved shopping in my local market for clothes, either sifting through the piles of secondhand clothes shipped from more developed nations or buying soccer jerseys made in China. And then, there were the amazing local tailors and seamstresses. If you have access to locally made clothes, take advantage.

But, I have to mention something that a recent returned volunteer pointed out to me:

I always wish I could have found one blog that talked about being “plus size” in the peace corps. Although for most volunteer clothing wasn’t as important to pack because you can get them in country, for me it was ESSENTIAL. Even though I lost 70 pounds early on in service I still only fit into a very small percentage of clothing in Peru. Luckily I could get packages easily so my family were able to mail me items I needed. I do think this list will apply to 95% of volunteers but it also may be helpful to include exceptions you can think of like plus size, bigger size shoes, if you’re tall etc. – Lali Mai, Peru

3. No list is perfect

No one list is the perfect packing list. As of writing, Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 141 different countries, with 65 different countries currently hosting volunteers. Given the number of volunteer positions around the globe, I think it goes without saying that a volunteer invited to serve in Ukraine should pack differently than someone serving in Fiji.

But, no matter where you are going to serve, this list will work for you. I cover basic recommendations as well as specific considerations to keep in mind.

Volunteers serve in varied climates and in countries with varying levels of development. Maybe your future country of service has summer temperatures in the 100’s or winter temperatures that plummet deep into the negatives. Maybe your future house will be a modern apartment with running water, electricity, and even air conditioning. Or, you’re going to spend two years living in an idyllic mud hut with thatched roof, disconnected from modern conveniences.

Even with all the possibilities of living conditions and situations, most of my recommendations are the same for everyone.

With that being said, you should seek out a country or region-specific packing list for other ideas or inspiration. Ask people who served or are serving in your country, which is made easy given the many current and returned volunteer Facebook groups.

4. You do you

Each volunteer is a unique individual. If you really like knitting or want to learn, bring some yarn, needles, and knitting patterns. If you love soccer, bring a soccer ball and shoes. I don’t know what you like to do in your free time, but I encourage you to pack things that make you happy. You’re going to spend two years abroad, but you’re still going to be you.

Many volunteers will keep their clothing style simple or adopt styles of their host country, but if you have a love of fashion or self-expression through your clothing, I don’t want to tell you to stop. Be mindful of the culture and traditions of the country you serve in, especially any concerning conservative, modest, or gender-specific dress, but if packing four different sun hats or six different colorful pairs of TOMS shoes will make you happy and feel more like yourself, pack ‘em.

While I am a big proponent of packing light when traveling, you should not think of Peace Corps-like packing for a trip. Don’t bring a bunch of crap you won’t use, like the down sleeping bag I packed for a country that only saw lows of mid-50s, but make good use of the two 50-pound bags afforded to you.

When packing for my service, I was so proud of the fact that my carefully honed packing list was only 65-pounds. I was trying for one bag, but I just couldn’t make it work. I was stupid. I gave up 35 precious pounds. I could have packed a mandolin or, better yet, 35 pounds of peanut M&Ms (I’m only partially joking here).

Pack what you need first, which isn’t a lot. Then, pack what you want. Maybe you only want to pack the essentials and love the idea of having everything in one large hiking backpack. That’s awesome! But, if you want to pack a suitcase of audiovisual equipment or peanut M&Ms, you do you.

5. Don’t Spend a Fortune!

Packing for Peace Corps shouldn’t break the bank. You likely already own much of what you’ll need.

Please don’t think you need to go on a massive shopping spree to prepare for the Peace Corps. Be kind to your wallet and the environment by packing things you already own or can find second-hand from thrift stores. Be aware that Peace Corps is hard, not only on the volunteer but the things you own, and investing a bunch of money in things that could get wrecked seems silly to me.

At the end of two years, you don’t want to be dragging back a bunch of what you brought with you, you’ll want room for souvenirs, keepsakes, and gifts. Bring things that you like, but will be willing to leave behind—if not already destroyed.

Below, I provide suggestions for things that will hold up and a few tips on how to care for sensitive electronics, but there is good potential for everything you bring to Peace Corps to bite the dust over the two years. Weather extremes, humidity, transportation, and general life in Peace Corps countries has a particular knack for destroying clothing and electronics.

In addition to using what you already own and buying second hand, you can save money through Peace Corps discounts. Yes, several companies give discounts to invited and current volunteers! Here are two lists of great discounts, but not all of the discounts may be up to date:

In the packing list below, I outline the items you should consider when packing as well as provide specific suggestions. Each of these suggestions are from personal use and ownership of the product, unless otherwise stated, and based on my experience and research. I provide links to the products, some of which are affiliate links (meaning that I get a small percentage of the sale if you choose to buy something, at no added cost to you). These links help me pay for the site, but I stand by every recommendation I make.

If you have added suggestions to this list, please reach out and let me know. I want this list to be the most complete list of Peace Corps packing considerations and suggestions, and welcome your help.

Ultimate Peace Corps Packing List

Clothing – Basics

T-Shirts

Who doesn’t love a nice soft t-shirt? Depending on your country of service and volunteer sector, you could get away with wearing mainly t-shirts for two years. Bring some basic color tees that will hold up well to the environment, like Patagonia Capilene® Daily T-Shirts or REI’s Sahara T-Shirt. These two suggestions, however, are a little pricey. As with every suggestion made on this list, I’m not saying that you need buy everything on the list brand new (or at all). Making use of what you already have or finding secondhand items is better for your wallet and the environment.

As a general rule, darker colors will hold up better to the sun and the riggers of hand washing than light or pastel colors, while performance fabrics will hold up better than cotton overall, in addition to being sweat-wicking and quick-drying.

Also, be sure to pack your favorite t-shirts for lounging around your house and a few printed tees that highlight who you are, such as t-shirts from your university or college, hometown, favorite sports teams, or organizations.

Suggested Number: 6 to 8

Quick-dry Polo Shirts

These were my favorite thing to wear in Peace Corps because they looked professional while being light and easy to care for. After two years of hand washing, they still looked good, unlike my cotton shirts that were turned to rags.

I’d recommend this kind of polo shirt for any Peace Corps sector from agriculture to education, as long as they didn’t have a lot of athletic-style detailing. I bought my polos for PC at Goodwill and other thrift stores, but have also purchased and loved brand new ones from Columbia (Men’s or Women’s) and Patagonia. Amazon now even has their own brand of quick-drying polo shirts at a great price with several colors to choose from, but I haven’t worn this brand and they only have men’s.

Suggested Number: 3 to 5

Pants

You’re going to need some pants. I think nearly ever volunteer in my group had a pair of hiking pants from REI that they wore the majority of the time. Post-Peace Corps, I’ve been wearing Prana and Columbia pants when traveling or hiking and they would work well for any volunteer serving in a warmer climate. I recently wore these Prana pants for two weeks while exploring Thailand, which included dinner at the 7th best restaurant in the world.

Volunteers serving in colder climates are going to want warmer pants, also known as normal every-day pants. I’d recommend packing what you already own or buying some nice looking pants from a thrift store.

I brought a pair of hiking pants, three pairs of canvas chinos (Goodwill purchase), and a pair of jeans.

Fair warning, your weight is likely to change during Peace Corps. Men tend to lose weight and many women gain weight (not all!). I lost 30 lbs in my first few months of service. Given the potential to drop weight, make sure to pack a belt.

Suggested Number: 3 to 4

Shorts

I had two pairs of non-athletic shorts in Peace Corps, which I never wore because it was not seen as appropriate for grown men to wear shorts unless engaging in a sport. The same was expected for women, who were expected to wear pants or long skirts. That said, I know that the culture of Pacific Island and East Asian countries is much more accepting of shorts.

Suggested Number: Depends

Skirts and dresses

I recommend bringing skirts and dresses for a number of reasons: not only are they generally lightweight and easy-to-pack, but they can also be dressed up or dressed down depending on your situation. If you’re comfortable in these clothing items, they’re really wonderful to travel in. Be sure that the skirts and dresses you bring fall below the knee, because you always want to be respectful of your environment (and you don’t want a pesky gust of wind to lead to an embarrassing story). – Janina Yates, Botswana 2012-2014, El Salvador 2014-2015

Suggested Number: Depends

Underwear

There are two ways volunteers approach underwear: standard underpants or pricy, performance underwear. I was of the latter, but have since then made the switch to these underwear when traveling.

“I’m glad I spent the money on good underwear. The tropics do not treat elastic well. Those $25 REI pairs are still doing great.” – Kelly Anderson, Tanzania 2014-2017

Suggest Number: Depends

Protip: Pack a few pairs of brand new underwear and place them in a ziplock bag. Write, “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL AFTER ONE YEAR.” You’ll thank me.

Bras

Regardless of your projected level of activity, I would recommend bringing at least two different sports bras and four “regular” bras. In hand-washing, these may get stretched out, but you’ll never regret having two clean while two dry on the line. –Janina Yates, Botswana 2012-2014, El Salvador 2014-2015

Suggest Number: 6+

Socks

Your socks will be heavily dependent on climate and shoe choices. I primarily wore either Teva’s or cheap sandals for two years, but I did occasionally wear a pair of secondhand dress shoes I purchased locally, usually when going out dancing in the city. I think I packed 7 pairs of socks—5 pairs too many.

If you’re going to be in a cooler climate requiring socks, here is a good place to spend some money. Your feet will be a primary form of transportation and you should be kind to them.

Suggest Number: Depends

Fleece jacket, sweater, or hoodie

Even in the hottest climates get cold, relatively, during the year. The temperature in Burkina Faso never dropped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but after becoming climatized, I wore a fleece jacket, on top of a sweater, with a scarf when setting outside with my family in January. When you get used to high 90’s, 60’s are cold.

Suggested Number: 1 or 2

Bathing suit

Even if you are going to live in a desert or high in the mountains, still bring a bathing suit for times when in big cities with volunteers or on vacation. Remember, many countries where volunteers serve are very modest and may look unfavorably on skimpy swimsuits. Women, bring a one piece. Men, board shorts or the like.

Suggested Number: 1 or 2

Hat

Bring a hat you will wear.

Suggested Number: 1

Rain jacket

I almost never used my rain jacket because when it rained in Burkina Faso, you stayed inside. But, I’m still glad I had it for when staying inside wasn’t an option, like traveling back to my site.

Suggested Number: 1

Belt

As I said above, your weight is likely to go all over the place while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Changes in diet, climate, and stress will manifest themselves in weight gain or loss. Once I ran out of holes on the best I brought with me, I had to buy a belt at my local market, which lasted only a few months given the poor quality of the belt. If I had a web belt like this one, which my fellow volunteer Andy wore, I could have kept cutting the belt to match my shrinking waistline.

Suggested Number: 1

Nice outfits

I’m not talking about a full suit and tie but something for ceremonial occasions. If you are going to a be a teacher or in a more professional environment, pack a few more nice items. But, remember, there will be stores there and tailors to make you local clothing.

Suggested Number: 1 or 2

Shoes

Other than flipflops, shoes are one of the hardest things to find in country (in my experience). Even properly fitting flipflops were hard for me to find, given the size 14 flippers I have for feet. This is one area where you want to buy new shoes, to last the two+ years. But, remember that they’ll end up getting destroyed — and that’s ok.

  • One pair of comfortable dress shoes
  • One pair of sandals for general use (e.g., Tevas or Chacos) and another pair for work

“…I hate to admit it, because I’m not a fan of them in the states, but Chacos.” – Rachel Micklas

  • One pair of running/athletic shoes
  • One good-quality pair of work or hiking boots (especially for Agriculture Volunteers)
  • Semi-related: Leukotape. Make sure you break in your shoes before leaving for Peace Corps. But, in the event that you get a blister, Leukotape is one of the best things for blisters. Long distance hikers swear by this stuff, and it’s saved my feet more than once.

Clothing – Cold Climate Considerations

  • Winter Jacket
  • Scarfs
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Thick wool socks (my favorite)
  • Thermal underwear
  • Sweat Pants
  • House slippers – No one likes cold floors in the dead of winter

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

A three-month supply of all prescription drugs you are currently taking, enough to last through pre-service training and a copy of all prescriptions.

Two pairs of prescription eyeglasses (if you wear them) and repair kit. Contacts are not recommended in most countries due to elevated rates of eye infections and contact solution is hard to find.

Sunglasses

Hair clips and ties

Initial supply of toiletries

Hair-cutting scissors

Facial sunscreen – Peace Corps will give you sunscreen, but remember that this is government issued sunscreen—it will work but it will be thick and greasy. If you have skin that will react poorly to this, bring some facial sunscreen to complement your hat.

Any favorite nonprescription medical supplies or supplements (those provided by the Peace Corps may not be your favorite brands, e.g., Nyquil or Zicam)

A supply of feminine hygiene products (or menstrual cup) to last throughout pre-service training. If you bring a menstrual cup, bring two. Things happen, like dropping your Diva cup into the latrine, so it’s nice to have a backup. Another suggestion from a Redditor was reusable washable cloth menstrual pads, which some volunteers actually teach girls to make during their service.

These were not difficult to come by but there was little variety and options. I found oftentimes that pads were readily available throughout certain communities but tampons were oftentimes a large component of my care packages. Many volunteers started using “Diva Cups”, and those who were closer to the capital were able to purchase tampons more frequently. This depends on your location and personal preference, but be sure to pack a box, just to be sure. – Janina Yates, Botswana 2012-2014, El Salvador 2014-2015

Small supply of cosmetics, lotion, hair-care items

Quick-drying towel

Hand sanitizer/wet wipes

Safety Razor

Nail clippers

Small Mirror – I used this tiny little mirror for two years when shaving and to check and see if my hair was an acceptable amount of messy.

Condoms – Peace Corps supplies you with condoms in your medical kit. But, like the sunscreen, these are government issued condoms. I’ve heard stories of them breaking or being generally horrible. If there is the slightest chance of you being sexually active and needing condoms, pack a box.

Vibrator – Peace Corps can be lonely.

Electronics

iPod / MP3 player with spare headphones

I owe much of my sanity in Peace Corps to my 2nd Gen iPod Nano. Filled with music and podcasts, I could rely on my iPod to get me through bumpy, 8-hour bus rides. On weekends when I cleaned my house and did laundry, I listened to favorite music from back home and new episodes of shows that I downloaded when I had internet access in the city. I fell in love with podcasts during my service, which eventually led to the creation of My Peace Corps Story.

“[The best item I brought with me was], without a doubt, music. I had a Discman and CDs with me (the iPod had come out in 2001, but that was a bit out of my price range when I was getting ready to leave) that proved to be an important companion on my long walks to get into and out of my village, or the long bus rides that got me around on trips inside the country. It was a great way to always have a piece of myself with me, no matter how far away I ever felt.” – Greg Emerson, Morocco 2003, Peru 2003-2005

Back in the US, I listen to music and podcast on my phone but if I were to serve again I would still use an iPod and keep my phone separate. While not necessary, I like the idea of having my phone safely tucked away when traveling. Small electronics are easy targets for pickpockets and iPhones are more expensive to replace than iPods.

Whether or not you bring a separate music player, I highly recommend bringing a few spare pairs of headphones. You can buy cheap headphones in your country of service, but they are likely going to of horrible quality and stop working in a few days. Two extra pairs of Panasonic In-Ear Stereo Earphones ($9 each and my favorite cheap headphones) are well worth the cost and packing space.

Laptop

Peace Corps doesn’t require that you bring a laptop and I still think that many official packing lists don’t include it. This is stupid. During Peace Corps, even if you are a rural agriculture volunteer like I was, you will need to complete quarterly volunteer reports and you’ll want to use a computer from time to time to stay in touch with friends. The Peace Corps office in country will likely have a few computers for volunteers, but they’ll be slow and in high demand.

“My computer was essential for keeping track of my PC reports (oh the VFR!), calling home, and teaching the kids in my host family how to type.” – Helen Schafer, Nicaragua 2012-2014

Do not buy a brand new expensive laptop for Peace Corps. Countless volunteers that I served with had hard drives crash, motherboards fry, or laptops stolen. Save buying a new MacBook Pro for after your service and bring what you own, buy a cheaper PC, or find a reputable refurbished dealer.

“Laptop for sure. Although we didn’t have internet, I spent countless hours on my computer writing, listening to music, looking at pictures, etc to pass the time and boredom, or the times when you just wanted to stay inside and not have to go out and talk to people/have social interactions. Its funny looking back though, I brought as much as I possibly could with me, but I would have been just fine with the basics.” – Adam Rhoads, Jamaica 2003-2007

To help your laptop survive two years of service, keep it safely stored in a padded case, ideally in a dry bag, when not in use. Dry bags are a lifesaver for electronics. Not only do they keep things dry, they also keep out dust.

External hard drive

“External hard-drive. I fit an entire blockbuster store in a box the size of a deck of cards. Gotta love technology.” – Sheev Davé, Botswana 2013-2015

Fill with music, TV shows, and movies.

Kindle

Get a basic Kindle, not a Kindle Fire, because you want something with the longest battery life possible. I kept my Kindle in a clear ziplock back, which really didn’t hamper my reading, for the entirety of my service (other than when charging). Because of this, it survived the dust and rain of West Africa and is still working 7 years later.

Also, I have heard of volunteers downloading large libraries of pirated Kindle books, but that’d be illegal.

Rechargeable batteries and battery charger

Watch

You may not wear a watch now, given that our cellphones have a clock, but your community may not have electricity. Even if you do continue to use your phone as a clock, a durable, water-resistant, and inexpensive watch is worth bringing. I had a watch like this, that I bought at Kmart and lasted years until finally giving up during my final week of service when visiting a swimming pool in the capital.

Headlamp

While you may look like a dork wearing a headlamp, a handheld flashlight has nothing on a good headlamp. I swear by Petzl headlamps. They are reasonably priced and very bright. Oh, and get one with a red light mode. Red light preserves night vision and doesn’t blind people when you shine it in their eyes. Also, lots of nocturnal bugs are attracted to white light.

Cellphone

“iPhone. This was my connection to the world. The wifi capabilities and apps allowed me access to my friends and family back home while passing time in coffee shops. And, after my point-and-shoot camera broke, my iPhone was my primary pocket camera. My aunt sent me an OtterBox, so, I often let local people scroll thru my pictures and practice taking photos. The photos were a great conversation piece when I met new people.” – Cindy Handle, Uganda 2014-16

Camera

No matter if you are a shutterbug or not, you’ll want to capture your Peace Corps service. I love cameras and will write a longer post of my recommended camera gear later. For now, simply remember that the best camera is the one you have with you. Be it an iPhone (maybe combined with a Moment lens) or a Canon 80D (the best prosumer camera on the market, in my opinion), bring a camera to capture one of the biggest adventures of your life.

Portable Charger

Even if you have electricity in your community, a portable charger is great to have as a backup if the power goes out (hopefully its charged) or when traveling. Anker is my go-to brand for portable chargers. When buying a portable charger, however, keep in mind the FAA and international restrictions on these when flying (FAA info).

Solar Panel

Depending on where you serve, you may not need a solar panel. If you do want one, I recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel combined with the Guide 10 Plus Recharger. This setup will allow you to charge batteries and your portable charger, and not require that your electronics be attached to the panel to charge (to help prevent theft, a little). I still have my Goal Zero and it works great, after years of abuse. Also consider bringing a solar light (like this one) if you’ll likely be without electricity during your service. I could buy cheap battery and solar powered lamps in my market, but I was lucky if they lasted more than a month before breaking.

Kitchen and Home

Measuring cups and spoons

Can Opener – I clearly remember fighting with the cheap can opener I bought in country, struggling for more than 5 minutes to open a can of tomato sauce or tuna fish and then eventually resolving to pry open the jagged lid of a half-opened can. Yet, I completely forgot to include it on this list! Thankfully, someone reached out to me with the suggestion. My personal recommendation is the OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener (I love everything OXO makes).

“I am scheduled to leave for South Africa to serve as an HIV/AIDS Community Outreach Coordinator in January. I have been talking to current and returned volunteers. One of the packing list items that came up was very interesting. A good can opener that does not leave sharp edges.” – Tamarah Rosenberg, Peace Corps South Africa Invitee

Plastic storage containers and zip-top-style bags of assorted sizes

Good kitchen knife and knife sharpener

“I took the advice from PCVs to bring a good kitchen knife and peeler, items that proved very useful.” – Ven Anderson, Tanzania 2014-2017

Favorite spices

French Press

“The most important luxury item I brought from home was a French Press. Georgia does mostly instant coffee or Turkish coffee, so having that French Press (and lots of coffee sent to me) was very much needed.” – Scott Skinner, Republic of Georgia 2012-2014

Miscellaneous

Water bottle

Journals

“I wrote nearly every day, and it is amazing to see the ups and the downs of my service in such a raw way. I still laugh at some of the things I wrote.” – Megan Riethmiller, Uganda 2015-2016

Knife, Multitool, or Both

“Swiss Army knife” – Liz Fanning, Morocco 1993-95

“The most important thing that I brought with me has surprisingly been a fanny pack. I bought the fanny pack after I studied abroad in Spain in 2014 and never used it in America. They’re really fashionable here and quite usefully for running, traveling, and going for long walks with friends.” – Katherine Fitch, Ukraine 2016-2018

Photos

“The most important item I brought to Peace Corps was pictures. I decorated my whole house and it really did make it feel like home. My friends and family didn’t feel as far away when I could look at them everyday.” – Lisa Curtis, Niger

Card games or travel sized games such as Yahtzee, Scrabble, Bananagrams, Uno, and playing cards. I fondly remember playing Uno with my fellow invited volunteers as we sat in the airport in New York, waiting for our flight to Burkina Faso.

Books

“Mao: The Unknown Story — in part for its contents, but not least because I (for some forgotten reason) stashed 200 USD in its middle pages, and those beautiful green banknotes came tumbling out of the book and onto my apartment floor on an evening when my Bank of China account was at a precariously low ebb.” – Keith Petit, China 2009-11

A favorite writing utensil, with replacements or refills

Dry bags – I kept most of what I owned stored in dry bags. You never know when a freak storm is going to rip your roof off.

Stationery

Weekend-sized backpack

Bandannas

Sleeping bag

Eye mask – For those of you who don’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Earplugs – Village can be noisy! Below is an excerpt of my book, where I discribe the sounds of early morning in my village:

Villages wake up in stages. Before the first rays of sunshine are visible, animals preemptively begin to stir. It is not the iconic crow of a rooster that announces the coming of a new day, but rather the deep, throaty and seemingly uncontrollable, manic hee-haw of a donkey—a true ass among animals. Following the donkey’s bugle, the chattering of guinea fowl fills the air. The footsteps of the guinea, West Africa’s native chicken, are more rousing than the chattering as they run back and forth across the thin metal roof above your head.

After the animals, the women of the village rose. From the moment their eyes cracked open at dawn until finally closing at night, the women of Burkina Faso worked. They began by stoking the faint embers of yesterday’s fire, coaxing them back to life with fresh tinder.

Metal pots and pans clanked and reverberated against one another as they were put in place for a day of cooking. Water glugged out from large plastic jugs and into a pot to be heated for breakfast. Drops of water that missed or escaped the pot hissed with an evaporative puff as they landed on the red-hot coals below. For a brief moment, before the rest of the house awoke, women could be seen seated next to the hearth, pausing silently in a meditative trance, reveling in the solitude of the morning. – Service Disrupted

Duct tape

Combination padlocks

Portable umbrella

Shower Bag – “The best thing I brought with me to Peace Corps was a shower bag that let me take showers. Thank you so much, Charles Wallace, for the gift!” – Julie Brown

Blank notecards for making flashcards when learning a new language

Comfort food

Cash – While USD likely won’t be the currency were you serve, having some extra cash with you can come in handy when your funds are running low or an unexpected emergency happens. Consider bringing a couple hundred dollars in crisp 20 dollar bills, stashed away for a rainy day.

Reusable grocery bags

Anything that will make you happy

“I realized all the things you see as a necessity in America are definitely just luxury items. The only thing that was truly important to me was my teddy bear, her name is AK. She is named after my late Aunt Karen, Aunt Karen was buried with a replica of AK as well.” – Taylor Faiella, Fiji 2015-2017

 

Do you have something to add to this packing list? Let me know in a comment below!

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