Volunteer Abroad

Packing like a pro for your volunteer placement!

To pack, or not to pack it … that is the question.
 
Packing for an overseas volunteer placement can sometimes be the hardest part of getting ready for your trip as those yes, maybe and no packing piles – and a feeling of overall confusion – continue to grow as your departure date gets closer and closer.
 
Well, the good news is that you will receive a suggested packing list from us as part as your orientation guide. And secondly, we are always on hand via email and phone to answer any questions you may have.

To help you out even more, we have put together this list of things to consider when packing, as well as some of our staff’s personal must-haves when travelling!
 
Avoid over packing
We have all over packed at some point in our life, especially on that first overseas trip where you felt like you absolutely needed a big beach towel and 20 pairs of underwear. To help avoid over packing, think over every item you plan on bringing and whether you will actually use it enough to justify its place in your bag. These days there are also plenty of travel-sized options for things such as toiletries, so take advantage of this where you can. And remember that you can buy most of the essentials in other countries as you can at home so you don’t need to pack literally everything you will need for you whole trip!
 
Bring things you are happy to get dirty
This is a big one, as at all of our projects there is a good chance that you are going to get dirty, especially if you will be working with animals. Some volunteers prefer having one set of volunteer clothing that they wear during the week, and wash on the weekends.
 
Consider a backpack
A backpack is often easier to travel with than a suitcase, especially if you are going to a project in a rural area where you may need to walk through slippery and muddy paths to get to your accommodation. With either a suitcase or backpack, only bring one that you can easily carry and travel around with.
 
Leave non-essential valuables at home
If you can’t imagine living without your Rolex watch, or your great grandmother’s old engagement ring, it is best not to bring it. Not only is there a potential of theft, but being on the move increases your chance of losing things along the way too.
 
Pack quick drying and versatile clothing
Try to bring clothes that are quick drying so when you get caught in that monsoonal rain, or when you need wash by hand, you won’t be stuck with wet clothes. It is also best to pack clothes that are versatile, such as clothing with neutral colours, sarongs, and bandanas.
 
Staff recommendations
We asked some of our staff for their own personal must-haves when travelling, and here is what they told us.
 
Jen – scarf
Great for cold airports and planes, but also for covering shoulders when visiting temples and to be culturally respectful.  You can also use it as a sarong when at the beach. Very multipurpose!
 
Simon – wax ear plugs
You can get them from most pharmacies. They mould to the shape of your ear so that they work much better than the spongy ones that you get on long haul flights. They are excellent as one thing most people will notice when travelling in areas such as Asia and Latin America is an increase in noise, especially in towns. Traffic, dogs, roosters, street celebrations of all kinds they have their appeal but not when you are trying to sleep. The wax earplugs are also a lifesaver on planes and can reduce cabin noise to a dull hum making it much easier to sleep!
 
Rebecca – coconut oil
Coconut oil is super handy for a range of different uses and climates, from cold mountains to the sunny beach. I never travel without it.
 
Jeanette – small notepad
Maybe more appropriate for those of us who are less technologically inclined, but I never travel without a small notepad and pen. In this I can put in old tickets and stickers, and write any recommendations from other travellers, language phrases, directions, stories, email addresses and phone numbers – everything! It’s something nice to look back through after your trip too.