PACKING TIPS – BRING NORMAL CLOTHES!
The time has come to start the packing process. You do not want to look like the poor traveler in this photo. You can refer to the Course Preparation Manual for guidance, but we have a few tips from our own experience that we thought we would share with you.
Many of these are suggestions, not requirements. We think these things will make your trip/transition easier. But on the flip side, many travelers and locals live without any of the stuff listed here. It’s not going to be the “stuff” that makes your trip, so judge for yourself. Important note: Pack light! When in doubt, either ask us via the Yak Board or don’t bring it. The lighter your pack is, the more flexible, adventurous, and comfortable we’ll be.
<<<<<<<< ESSENTIAL THINGS TO BRING >>>>>>>>
2 COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT
Any personal prescription MEDICATIONS that you regularly take (and printed information on side effects and contraindications).
WATCH AND ALARM CLOCK: Students are responsible for waking up in the morning and meeting ON TIME throughout the day. Each student needs to bring an inexpensive watch and/or travel-size alarm clock that fits in a pocket or daypack.
BRING NORMAL CLOTHES!: We can’t emphasize enough how nice it will be to have some normal jeans, t shirts and stuff you would wear back home. Although we will be doing some trekking, the majority of this journey is not an outback safari — not everything needs to be quick dry.
Be sure to bring COMFORTABLE PANTS AND/OR A COMFORTABLE DRESS (that covers the shoulders and goes down to the knees). This is useful for when we are living in one community for an extended time. You will want some clothing that helps you to feel relaxed.
PROBIOTICS: Traveling abroad almost always brings stomach issues. Bring a bottle of probiotic pills with you to try and stay healthy. In fact, is helpful to start taking probiotics now (and eating yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc regularly) to build up good gut flora and help protect from bacterial infections.
GIFTS: You may want something for individuals who make your course special, such as ISP mentors and homestay families. We have multiple home stays during our course, so it’s probably best to bring at least 5 separate gifts. There’s no need to bring anything elaborate. Think about a couple of small gifts that anyone would appreciate. Some ideas are: postcards or pictures from home with a message on the back, games that you enjoy, small tokens of where you’re from (magnets, a local treat, etc.). There is no expectation that you bring gifts, so simplicity is best for this!
CAMERA: You will not be able to rely on your cell phone to take photos. We will keep your cell phones with us for the duration of the course.
USB STICK: for saving photos, documents for independent study projects, yaks, etc.
The BIG PACK TOWEL: again the small ones are nice and do the job, but the big one will make you happy for the duration of the 3 months..
HAND SANITIZER: in a small bottle for all those times when there is no soap in the public bathroom.
FLIP FLOPS: are great for hostel showers and informal settings.
EARPLUGS: as there will be all sorts of new noises (think roosters and car honks RIGHT outside your window).
Something to do as a GROUP– you will have many moments together as a group, it is nice to have games (ideas are cards, Uno, banana grams) and BOOKS that you can trade off.
Bring MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: if you play and are so inclined to share music with the group (ukuleles, small guitars, etc.)
EXTRA DUFFEL BAG: for forwarding your extra stuff to our final destination for the treks. We don’t carry everything we own on our backs while hiking, so having a safe place to store what you leave behind can be helpful. A simple and affordable bag for this purpose can also be purchased in-country.
A HEADLAMP: A recommendation is the Black Diamond Storm headlamp, it’s a nice one because it has all the dim settings to conserve battery life, a red light setting for night vision and the best part is a lock mode so that the headlamp doesn’t accidentally turn on, wasting valuable battery life. Also rechargeable AAA batteries for the headlamp. Petzl also makes good headlamps.
You need to bring TWO WATER BOTTLES: 1 quart each or 1 camel back type water container + one bottle works well too.
NATURAL TOILETRIES help decrease our footprint. Check your local grocery or health food store. Dr. Bronner’s is great and multi-purpose. LUSH (www.lush.com) has a great selection of solid shampoos that you can buy in a tin. They are small, all natural, will last you the whole trip, and best of all, they don’t spill!
A GOOD PACK COVER for both your large pack and day pack.
A GOOD RAIN JACKET is essential. Some students opt to leave their good rain gear behind and bring stuff that they are comfortable with damaging. Keep in mind that the rainy season in both Nicaragua and Guatemala can be extended until late November.
A PAIR OF COMFORTABLE TENNIS SHOES: to walk around communities and small cities and A PAIR OF HIKING BOOTS: we will do many walks to natural beautiful places and two large treks where you will need supportive boots to be comfortable with rocky, muddy and hilly landscapes.
<<<<<<<< Optional, NOT ESSENTIAL Things to bring >>>>>>>>
One plastic TUPPERWARE container. In REI or on Amazon.com a great one is the GSI Outdoor Fairshare Mug. This should hold 1L – 1.5L and be very sturdy. While on the treks, we often pack lunches and our “tuppers” could help us to not use plastic bags. They need to seal tight.
Camping CUTLERY. This can be as simple as a spoon from home, or bring a wooden set or “spork” purchasable from an outdoor store.
ZIPLOCK BAGS of small and large size. For keeping electronics and other things dry.
MAILING ADDRESSES of family and friends. You’ll have the opportunity to connect old-school this summer by writing letters and sending postcards to family and friends.
<<<<<<<< THINGS TO LEAVE AT HOME >>>>>>>>
YOU DO NOT NEED A SLEEPING PAD AND SLEEPING BAG. We won’t need these items on our treks because we’ll be spending the nights in the houses of families along the way. We realize these are on the packing list in your Course Preparation Manual, but now that we have finalized the tentative itinerary we want to inform you that a sleeping pad and sleeping bag are not necessary for our particular course.
A mosquito net. If they are needed they will be provided. Anything you don’t want ruined or lost.
KINDLES and any other ELECTRONIC READING DEVICES are a risk for damage and theft, and not particularly culturally appropriate.
CELL PHONES (iPhones included) leave at home. If you do decide to bring a phone to coordinate your travel to and from Miami, please keep in mind that we will collect all phones for the duration of the course and are not responsible for loss or damage. We will address this topic at length soon, but please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for time together. You will have intermittent access to internet and call centers to contact home during the program. There will be plenty of ways to stay in contact with home, and the Yak board will be our main source of communication as a group to concerned loved ones following our journeys.
INAPPROPRIATE CLOTHING (leggings as pants, clothing that is skin tight, low-necked, more than a few inches above the knee, blazoned with inappropriate words, excessively torn, etc.) should be left at home to be enjoyed after our trip. Students with clothing deemed culturally inappropriate will be asked to change by their instructors. At times shorts and a (not overly revealing) tank top may be acceptable, but in some rural communities it will be important to dress modestly. We hope to travel as respectfully as possible through lands that aren’t ours, and this sometimes means leaving some of our personal preferences at home.
THINGS YOU CAN BUY IN-COUNTRY
Clothing (traditional, American, and souvenir), knock-off footwear, books in Spanish and English, toiletries (non-natural), notebooks and writing utensils, souvenirs, among many other things. Feminine hygiene products (pads/tampons) are available in-country if needed. It’s pretty easy to cover your basics in-country. Just remember to bring your staple items and technical gear from home.
Thanks for reading! If any of you have any suggestions for each other from your own travels, please post your own Yak! And please ask if any doubts.
Alan, Erick y Camille