Preparation Can Be Exciting: My Guide To Practice Packing and My Top Five Essentials for Travel!

This summer, I’m going to Carhuaz, Peru and will be developing my Quechua skills and conducting pre-dissertation research on partner and family violence to help guide the development of my dissertation proposal this fall. Although I’ve traveled to and lived in Peru previously, I always start preparing early. And, in all honesty, preparing early builds excitement and also a sense of readiness! One of my favorite preparation activities is to ‘practice pack,’ which entails putting everything I think I might need for the trip in a big pile.


Of course, I started this pile a couple weeks ago, and I have gradually added and subtracted some things as a I mentally prepare myself… like, “Do I really need this many t-shirts?” “Will I actually hand-wash my jeans?” “You can never have too much clean underwear!” But, there are also always a few key essentials that I always make sure to pack (other than clean underwear and socks, of course!)

  • A headlamp—these are invaluable, particularly in rural areas where there may be blackouts or limited electricity, but they are also helpful in everyday life, like if you have a 5 am flight and don’t want to wake up your roommates with the overhead light.
  • A pack towel (or sarong)—a pack towel is light and super absorbent. Some hostels may provide you with a towel or your host family may have some for you, but if you are doing some backpacking, hiking, or outdoor water activities, having a pack towel is convenient and easy to pack!
  • A notebook—these days we use electronics for most things, but I always find it helpful to keep a small notebook with me as I travel. I don’t have to depend on electricity to access it, and no one stares when I pull it out to jot down the restaurant someone recommended or the glacial lake I want to hike to. Plus, it’s a good place to write down your thoughts, your experiences, and your emotions. Traveling abroad, for the first time or the millionth time, impacts you and your behavior, thoughts, and development and having an outlet to think about these things is a good coping strategy for culture shock and a good practice in general.
  • Copies of all my important documents—Pack these separate from where you keep your documents, like your passport, insurance information, etc. I like to keep a set of spare copies with me and also leave them with a friend back home. It’s a good safety net in case anything happens.
  • Reusable water bottle—Alright, most places you can’t drink the tap water and will probably be buying and/or boiling water for drinking. The water bottle serves an obvious purpose if you are boiling your water, but if you are buying water, you may not think it’s necessary. But what’s happens to all those little water bottles you dispose of? It’s more economically and environmentally friendly to buy a giant water bottle (they come in 7 and 20 liters in Peru) and refill your reusable water bottle. Then I always have water with me when I’m on the go, and I always come home to plenty of potable water too.

And of course, the general rule is pack light!

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