I am many things, but I am most certainly not organized. And, that’s putting it lightly. Ask anyone who’s had the
misfortune pleasure of living with me. Actually, don’t. I’m not proud. However, somehow, maybe by dumb luck, I have survived 24 years without any semblance of organizational skills. I’m bringing this up because now, just 31 days prior to Peace Corps staging, I have begun to pack. (I have already shared my favorite advice on packing in a previous post.)
Packing for Peace Corps service is difficult for a host of reasons. First, there’s the packing limits. I am allowed 1 carry-on, 1 personal item, and 2 checked bags not exceeding 100 lbs (or 107 inches) total. Theoretically, this should be plenty of room for everything I need. However, it really puts things into perspective. These 4 bags will hold basically all of my possessions for 27 months.
Next, there’s the uncertainty. Although I know the overall climate (a billion degrees, brutally sunny, and sopping wet), a lot is up in the air. I may be placed in an office setting where professional dress is mandatory or I maybe outside/on the water practically everyday. Unfortunately, if I don’t pack well, although I’m a fairly average sized American, I think I’m somewhere around an XXL Filipino. So, getting clothing there might not be a great option.
And it’s not just about clothing. I certainly need my snorkel gear, but what about camping? Should I bring a tent and a sleeping bag? Or a camping hammock with a bug net and a rain fly? How about reference books? Jewelry? Then, how many dry bags are too many dry bags? Should I bring my cellphone? How about a waterproof watch? Will my 3-year-old laptop last my whole 27 month service? Shampoo? Towels? Exercise gear? There is no end.
Packing for this amount of time isn’t just about what I bring, but also what I leave behind. Since going away to college, I have always been under two hours away from my parents, with the ability to come back and forth every few months. This comfort has always lessened the stresses of packing and repacking. Over the past 7 years, ~6 dorm rooms, and 3 houses, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Most of this stuff fits in the category of, “someday this might come in handy”. Now, it seems most of these things will have to be re-categorized to “donation” or “garbage”.
Fortunately, preparing for Peace Corps service is likely much easier than it used to be. Not only have I been provided a PC Philippines specific packing list, I have been put in contact with a large number of current Philippines volunteers, ready give advice and to answer any question I might come up with. (FYI: Apparently Hydroflasks are the best things that have happened to water containment.)