We can imagine you are all anxious about our upcoming adventure. Your i-team is eagerly waiting to meet you and begin this journey with you. One of the most stressful things prior to departure is packing, so we want to make this process a little easier for you all and we are within reach via the Yak Board or by e-mail if after reading this you have questions. Be assured that everything will be ok and that at the end of the day the most important thing to pack is YOURSELF (and your passport…). The rest can definitely be worked around and found in Guatemala as the course unfolds. Also: pack as light as you can! Students tell as again and again that they brought too much stuff, so please try to stick to the essentials.
Having said that, we want to encourage you to plan ahead and make sure that you consider bringing some key things with you. By now, you may have already read the Course Preparation Manual (CPM) and if not, please make sure to give it a read at least once within the next couple of weeks as you plan for your trip. Beginning on page 34, you will find a packing list with more details on what to bring and what not to bring.
Based on this list, we want to highlight some key things to pay extra attention to.
THINGS TO BRING:
YOUR REGULAR CLOTHING – Although some of our time together will include trekking and some constant travel from place to place, there will also be some sedentary periods of staying in communities. For these times, it will be nice for you to have clothing that you feel comfortable with and that fits into the guidelines of the program (no revealing, super fancy or super expensive clothing, for example). Generally, at least a week’s worth of socks and underwear are a good idea to have, given that access to washing facilities may be difficult during our weeks of constant travel.
WORK CLOTHES – At some or various points we may be supporting the work that some of the groups and communities we visit are working on. This may include doing land-based work such as helping out with gardens or harvests or processing. Whatever it may be, it will be a good idea to pack a change of clothing to get you ready to get your hands in the soil and get a little dirty.
TREKKING CLOTHES/GEAR – We will be doing some amazing treks throughout the course, so anything to make this part of the journey easier and more comfy will come in handy. Despite the fact that Guatemala has various bio-climates with very stark contrasts, some things will be useful no matter where we are. These things in particular will be useful:
SLEEPING BAG & PAD – We will not necessarily be carrying around our sleeping bags and pads everywhere we go, but they will be useful to us on at least a couple of occasions, especially during treks. So if you have these, please make sure to bring them! When we are not using them we will try and find safe places to store them. Because Guatemala can have very diverse climates, a sleeping bag down to 20 degrees fahrenheit is prefered.
BACKPACK(s) – To carry all your belongings it is recommended that you bring a 50-65 liters backpack. Please remember that the lighter you pack, the easier it will be for you to get around. In addition to your larger backpack, it will also be helpful to have a small day backpack that you can use on trek or for small outings. Please resist the temptation to fill this one up, too. Everything should fit into the large backpack, including the small one! A rain protector for both packs is also always a plus.
PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT – Traveling can bring with it various types of health issues. Although we will have a team medical kit and be within reach of medical facilities at most times, it is never a bad idea to carry a SMALL personal first aid kit to help you get over the splinter in your toe, or put a bandaid over a paper cut. For other sores and malaise we will have everything you need for the occasional flu, stomach upsetness, headache, and so on. So no need to worry about bringing this stuff with you. In fact, we encourage you not to, as we want to minimize carrying extra weight. Only bring medicines that are prescription and that you know you need to take for chronic and ongoing health issues.
GIFTS – One of the most rewarding things of travelling right is making friends and building positive relations along the way. It is always useful to bring with you a few special gifts that you can offer as a sign of gratitude to those around you. Whether it’s for members of a homestay family, a community member or one of your team members, everyone loves receiving a nice tokens of gratitude and appreciation every now and then. Usually, things that remind people of who you are and where you are coming from make great gifts. There is no expectation that you gift anything, but again, who doesn’t like getting little gifts? Some ideas for gifts include things you’ve made, souvenirs from your town, fotos of you and/or your family (these are also always great to connect with homestay families!), candies or special foods to represent your culture, etc. As with all our packing, you should keep in mind to not burden yourself with a lot of weight.
CAMERA – You will not be able to rely on your cell phone to take photos as we will keep your cell phones with us for the duration of the course. So, a machine that helps you take snapshots of your experience might be something you consider bringing.
USB STICK – This will be particularly useful to help you store photographs and research documents.
WATCH – You may find that time works differently in other parts of the world and this is quite often the case in many parts of Guatemala. This is generally not something you need to worry about, however, some kind of personal alarm device to get you up and on time will be useful to have, especially when you are in a homestay need to get to classes etc on time.
TOWEL – that covers all the necessary parts (tiny towels can make walking to and from your homestay and hostel showers awkward and cold).
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).
JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK and WRITING UTENSILS – Keeping in mind that your instructor team is made up of a historian, an environmental engineer and an anthropologist, you can expect that a lot of information and teaching moments will be had. In addition, our course will take place in one of the most bio-diverse and culturally-rich places in the world. Therefore, we are pretty sure you will want to document some of your key learnings and reflections.
SPECIAL PERSONAL ITEM – It is not a bad idea to bring a personal item that helps you to re-centre in times of stress, and that also reminds you of the beautiful and powerful things that make you who you are. Please consider bringing ONE small special item that you can use to introduce yourself to the group and carry with you across our travels.
THINGS TO LEAVE AT HOME
MOSQUITO NET – If they are needed, they will be provided.
KINDLES / ELECTRONIC READING DEVICES – These are a risk for damage and theft, and not particularly culturally appropriate. In a lot of the communities we will be in, there is scarce access to gadgets and technologies, so carrying these with you may set you apart from the very start and put unwanted attention on your material possessions.
CELL PHONES – (iPhones included) leave at home. If you do decide to bring a phone 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 in more detail soon, but please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for the duration of our 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 loved ones following our journeys.
INAPPROPRIATE CLOTHING – 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. 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. There may be exceptions to this rule, but generally please bring more than just thin leggings as pants and clothing that is skin tight and/or low-necked. Generally, clothing a few inches above the knee, blazoned with inappropriate words, excessively torn, etc., may be deemed as inappropriate clothing so please make sure that your wardrobe contains things that lack these characteristics.
THINGS YOU CAN BUY IN-COUNTRY – Despite some popular conceptions, you will find that most things available to you in your communities are available also in Guatemala. In city centres, towns and villages there is usually access to a wide variety of clothing, footwear, books, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, etc. When packing, please give priority to specialty items that you will need and that you know you cannot find elsewhere.
Your Instructor Team