Packing is rarely a fun-filled activity. For me its frantically stuffing random items I might need into a suitcase, duffel bag, plastic bag, or ziplock bag. Sometimes I get lucky. Other times I have to improvise.
It's no small feat to try and pack for the next 2 years of your life. By this time last year I had already started to put away a few items I thought I would need for Peace Corps. And I didn't have the slightest idea what country I would be sent to for my service. Thus, my packing ultimately lasted about 7 months since I stayed up until the wee hours on my last night at home repacking and reassuring myself that I had as much as I though I would need. In retrospect, I wish I could've found a better packing list.
This is by no means a perfect list. But here's what I probably would've packed the first time around...
Don't take more than you can carry. To reiterate that point, its REALLY important that you are able to carry everything you own without help.
Regular Backpack (like a Northface or Jansport)
Rolling Duffel Bag
DayPack/ Small Tote Bag (like a Nike or Adidas athletic tote)
Peace corps is a 24/7 job, but you probably wont be in your work clothes 24/7.
I would recommend multi-outfit clothing since you don't have much space to work with when first coming to country. However, you will want fun clothes for weekends, in-country vacations, and going out with your new PCV and local friends.
Underwear (Bring more than you think you need)
Bras (Same rule applies)
3 pairs of jeans
1 pair of khakis/ Cargos
1-2 other pair of pants (I brought a pair of black capris and long black pants)
3 skirts- of various lengths, styles
4 pairs of shorts- various lengths, styles
2-3 Button down shirts
2 "nice shirts"- These can be professional or fun depending on how I wear them
2-3 Tank tops with thicker straps
1 fleece jacket
1 formal dress for Swearing In
Numerous sundresses (Given my site placement, I find these make it easier to deal with the heat. Maybe a few inches above the knees, but conservative)
4 t-shirts in bright colors (Since I like bright colors)
PJ’s (Sleep Pants, Sleep Shorts and plain tees/tanks)
2 Sets of workout clothes (2 workout shorts, 2 quick dry shirts, 4 sports bras)
Leggings (Which are also surprisingly useful and easy to wear around my site or when I lounge in the house)
Swimsuit (I have 3, which works because I live 20 mins from the beach)
Lightweight Rain jacket/ poncho
***I've also had stuff sent from home since being in country and brought quite a few dresses and skirts from the Paca Stores (Second Hand Stores Thrift Shops) in my site.
I don't know about you, but I can always use more shoes…here's what I recommend to start:
House/ Shower flip flops
Flats (Good for walking!)
Skin colored sandals
Heels (Some girls brought them. I have mixed feelings on this. I might bring back a pair when I visit home, but right now im ok without them.)
3-6 Months supply would be good to start. Hopefully, that'll take you through training and the first couple of months in site, by which point you will know what you can and can't get in country.
Shampoo and Conditioner (Especially if you have a favorite brand)
Makeup (I brought Eyeliner, Mascara, a few basic Eye Shadows, Bronzer, and Lip gloss)
Manicure/ Pedicure Materials (Nail Kit, Foot Scrub, Pumice Stone, etc)
Hair Stuff (Gel, Pomade, Serums, whatever you need to have your hair behave in this heat!)
Lots of Tampons/ just 1 diva cup/ lots of pads- whatever fits your fancy
Other Stuff I brought:
Lip Gloss/Carmex/ Chapstick
Small Face Mirror for my room
A Compact Mirror
Nail Polish & Polish Remover
Hair Oils (grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, almond, etc)
Scented Lotion and My Favorite Perfume (Used mostly for when I dress up)
Its seems like now-a-days everyone is connected….so come prepared!
Small Extension Cord
Cell phone that is unlocked (Might save you some money in country)
Shortwave Radio (I don't really use the shortwave part as much as id like to but i def use the radio and the alarm.)
Converter (I brought mine down but haven't used it much since Nicaragua uses the same voltage)
Flashlight (Extra Batteries)
..and Completely Necessary Items
Mesh shower bag
Quick dry towels
Jewelry (Fun & Cheap Jewelry is great! BUT before you pack anything, ask yourself how you would feel if you lost it…)
Swiss army knife
Zip lock bags
2 Eyeglasses or Contact Solution
Pens and Pencils- not much
Journal/ Agenda/ Day Planner (Moleskin is a good example)
Travel Tissues Pack/ Wet Ones
Travel Pillow (Pillows here are not the same)
Deck of cards
Water Bottle (Something like a Nalgene)
…and maybe not as necessary. Depends on how much space you have left, and what you anticipate you will miss the most in country.
Small Gift for host family (Ive seen home state paraphernalia, small trinkets, small things you loved in the states. I brought down a scented lotion from my favorite beauty store. Later, I also left a photo of myself for my training host family)
Maps of the States or even better a World Map or a mini globe (good for explaining where you're from)
Mini stress ball
Exercise Materials (Jump Rope, Yoga Mat, etc)
Educational materials that relate to your sector and your interests
Random Stuff you like (I brought Juicy Fruit Gum, Dark Chocolate, Double Stuf Oreos, Trail Mix, Natures Valley Granola Bars)
Anything else that you cant live without: photos of family/friends/life back home, musical instruments, Notecards