Don't Forget to Pack This!

Don't Forget to Pack This!

Welcome to Part Six of our Goer Essentials Series, where we’ve asked Goers to sound off on the essentials to thriving in life overseas. In today’s article, we cover packing essentials!

Goer Essentials — 10 Essentials to Thriving in Life Overseas 

For this Goer Essential series, we surveyed 25 Goers who are serving two-year global placements in 10 different countries on 4 continents.  These articles are your chance to hear directly from Goers as they share their triumphs, best practices, amusing gaffes, and deep experiences of learning to live, thrive, and make an impact while immersed in a new culture!

About the author:  David Gee served for two years in a GoCorps placement in North Africa serving refugees from across the middle east.  In this Goer Essential series, he shares his own experiences alongside the stories and lessons learned of Goers serving all over the world using their unique skillsets and training to fight injustice, serve the oppressed and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Part 6 — Don’t forget to pack... !

I packed really really terribly when I was a Goer. I think part of me was priding myself too much in moving continents with nothing but a suitcase and backpack, but by the end of the first week, I had a running list of things in my head I wished I had brought with me.

“Why didn’t I think to bring a French dictionary?! I don’t know a word of French!”

“I should have known I’d need a power adapter”

“I did not count on antiperspirant deodorant being hard to come by.”

And the list went on and on.

While mourning all the things you forgot to bring and adapting anyway is a crucial skill one learns as a Goer, we still want to save you a headache or two. This is why we reached out to our current Goers to have them share some of the essential items they recommend in every suitcase before you leave the US. Their answers involve everything from comfort items to practical necessities. See what they suggested below! 

What needs to be in your suitcase?

Something to write with. Your journey is a learning experience for you, but may also allow your church, family, and supporters to live vicariously through you. Savor the experience. 
-Seth, US

An ethernet cord! Internet access is not always great and ethernet is your best bet for a consistent connection 
- Julie, Ecuador

A mirror. Depending on your personality & placement, of course. Many places will have zero or only one mirror in the whole building so especially if you're sharing a dwelling with other people it can be useful to have a glass for shaving/doing makeup/whatever.
- Samuel, Indonesia

Good headphones – most of the time they are more expensive to buy where I work. 
-Neema, West Africa

All your devices will probably be dead after long days of traveling and the odds are it will be difficult to find adapters for your devices when you're in-country. Make sure you have enough beforehand - you will use them daily!
-Liz, North Africa

I’m going to second grabbing your extra adapters beforehand. Make sure to do some thorough research to know which devices will simply need a socket adapter (a basic adapter that matches the American prongs on one side and the host country prongs on the other so you can plug it into the wall), and which devices will need a full-on power converter. The latter is usually for items that can only run on specific voltages like hair dryers, straighteners, and coffee makers.

Fun story, I overlooked this latter tip and tried to plug in a small, American-style coffee maker using a simple outlet adapter. Sparks flew, I screamed, a week later we had to call an electrician to figure out why the plugs on one side of the room were no longer working. Lesson learned!

Here are some more less-thought-of items our Goers recommended.

Bed sheets! The first thing I wanted to do when I got to my new home was shower and take a nap - and thank goodness I brought bedsheets.
-Liz, North Africa

Good shoes. This probably doesn't apply as much if your placement is in Europe or if you're on the smaller side of average (but not small) for the United States, but in my experience shoes that fit tall people or very small people can be hard to find abroad.
-Samuel, Indonesia

However, you’ll also find that packing certain items is less about pragmatically adapting, and more about managing healthy emotions and rhythms that are needed to navigate homesickness and tough transitions overseas.

Pack things to make temporary space home. Even if it is for a short time, having homey things that are light and easy to carry is really helpful as you settle into the new place. Pictures are my go-to item!
-Neema, North Africa

Something that smells good and reminds you of home or a special memory (essential oils, a candle, a lotion, etc.) It will help you feel closer to home when you're homesick and integrate your new positive memories with the smell.
-Hannah, Mexico

I also packed a few of my favorite Christmas ornaments for when the holidays come and I’m not home with my family. If there are things in your routines that you do now, try and bring as many of those things as you can to your placement. If you work out every day, pack a couple of resistance bands. If you have a blanket that you snuggle on the couch with, pack it. Do you have a special tea you drink every morning? Put some in your bag. They might seem unimportant at first, but you will want little things to remind you of home.
-Hannah, Zambia


And there you have it! It’s virtually impossible to pack everything you’ll need to make the move flawless, but we hope this advice from our Goers can get you pretty close. Packing with your needs in mind and by thinking through what will help you navigate the transitions well both physically and emotionally are the best places to start when making your packing list.

Key Takeaways

  • Adapters and power converters, you’ll need them!
  • Think through footwear and other wear in your host country, it might be worth bringing some from home.
  • Items that remind you of home can be huge in the holidays and when navigating homesickness. 

Dive Deeper

Check out other blogs in this series here.

David Gee

David is fluent in both Texan and Arabic, and likes to write about everything he has learned from those two worlds colliding. He’s a Goer alum that spent two years in the Middle East learning Arabic and working with Yemeni refugees, and continues to minister to immigrants in his community today. Catch him drinking coffee, riding a skateboard, or doing both at the same time.