Packing for your Peace Corps service can be stressful. You may go slightly crazy trying to decide what to bring and what to leave behind, especially not knowing where you will be placed, and if your site will be boiling hot, freezing cold, or somewhere in between.
I’ve been putting together a list thought my past year and a half of service, reflecting on some smart, and not so smart packing choices.
While packing for my Peace Corps service, rather than trying to pack 27 months of clothes, I just packed for the first 3 months of training, which in our case was in Chaclacayo, about an hour from Lima. I checked the weather for Chaclacayo beforehand and discovered that it was in the 70s during the day and 50s at night, so I made sure to pack layers.
I packed 3 weeks worth of clothes, and just re wore them throughout my service. You can also get pretty much everything in Lima, but being tall with big feet, I had trouble finding things such as shoes and jeans.
- Basic, plain clothes – Think H&M GAP basics
- Plenty of underwear
- Sports bras
- Over the shoulder purse
- Favorite shows/movies on hard drive
- Shoes – Especially If you have “big” feet (I’m a 9.5), it’s a good idea to bring most of your footwear with you, because even in Lima you may have trouble finding shoes you like in your size.
- Comfortable sandals – Havaianas, Chacos, Rainbow, Hush Puppies…
- Athletic clothes– name brands such as Nike are expensive!!
- Good lotion (Cera Ve) –You can get lotion here but the sun can be very strong in some sites and the good stuff is cheaper in the states.
- VITAMINS. Hair & nail vitamins, multivitamin.
- Good pair of running shoes
- Favorite chap sticks
- Aluminum water bottle
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts – These are great to protect you from the sun.
- Polos and lightweight button up shirts for work
- Manicure/pedicure set
- Protein bars – Buy in bulk at Cosco.
- Gifts for host family – Keepsake/trinket from where you are from. I gave my host family a snow globe of Washington, DC., a small statue of the Lincoln Memorial, and a picture book about Washington, DC.
Top things I’m glad I brought:
- Laptop – Essential for work, doing reports, and everything else.
- I phone– Has been great for staying in contact with friends and family via Whatsapp, taking pictures, music, etc.
- Running shoes
- Athletic clothes
- Good water bottle
- Sunglasses – I athletic pair, and one everyday pair.
- Travel pillow – Great for long bus and car rides
Things I wish I had brought:
- Extra IPhone/IPod – It’s a hassle getting them shipped and will end up jumping through hoops and paying a large fee to get a “communications device” into the country
- Extra computer charger – they are much more expensive in Peru, you never know when your computer might crap out on you.
- Good day backpack – I ended up having one sent to me (Deuter) and I use it all the time.
- Hiking Pants -Would’ve been nice, but I survived without them.
Things I could’ve done without:
- I Pad– I brought this as a backup in case something happened to my computer but I’ve really never used the thing.
- Maxi dresses and skirts-I had envisioned wearing these to work, in my site people are more professional. Most people wear dress pants and shirts, but you can get away with jeans and a button up shirt or polo.
Preparing to depart for your Peace Corps service will bring with it some level of stress, guaranteed, but the experience is only as stressful as you make it. Perhaps the best piece of advice I was given was from another volunteer to “bring your favorite things”, and I’ve found that to hold true. If you like to wear heels, bring them. You never know when you may end up salsa dancing in Lima. If you are a fitness fanatic, bring some good workout clothes and running shoes. Whatever you love, or feel you could not do without, BRING IT.
*Note: What you use and wear in site will depend largly on your program and site.