March is soon approaching and with it, the newest group of Peace Corps volunteer trainees to serve in Jamaica! Some incoming volunteers have had packing questions, which got me thinking and reflecting on what things have been most useful and nice (in my opinion) for everyday life during service on the island. So I’ve compiled a list of twelve items that have made life twelve times better during my service in Jamaica!
Click here for more packing tips and my comprehensive packing list.
- Laptop – This is absolutely necessary for quarterly volunteer reporting forms. It’s also nice to have for other work purposes (lesson plans, resources, etc), podcasts, and other media for entertainment. Officially a laptop is “recommended not required”, but to be real – anyone who didn’t bring a laptop in our training group quickly regretted it and had to go through some trouble to get a laptop during service. Save yourself the grief and bring a laptop if you can.
- 2gb Hard Drive – Fill it halfway with movies, shows, books, and exercise vids and whatever other media you enjoy. Save some space for resources you’ll get on the island. During service you’ll likely have a significant amount of down time in the evenings and it’s nice to have a movie to relax to every now and then.
- A Backpack – This is just so necessary for lugging around all the books during training and for taking weekend trips. I also find it useful for my weekly library and market trips. Somewhere in the “packing suggestions” info sent to my group by Peace Corps, there was a note not to bring a backpack as it would make you look like a tourist, but to bring a cross body bag instead. I’m glad I didn’t take this advice. I even brought another backpack back with me from my visit home for Xmas. Cross body bags are annoying and hurt your shoulders when you’re carrying a lot of stuff. If you’re worried about theft, you can get a little combo lock for the main pocket on your backpack where you keep valuables. Also, plenty of Jamaicans wear regular sized backpacks, so no, a normal sized backpack doesn’t make you look more like a tourist. However, carrying a large backpacking backpack may make you look like a tourist, but is way more practical than carrying around a suitcase to a training event or weekend trip. Pick your poison. I have both types of backpacks and they make my life much easier.
- Yoga Mat – Flooring is almost exclusively tile and a mat is very nice for daily workouts, yoga, and/or meditations. Confession time: I bought mine in Jamaica but it cost 2x as much as it would have in the states. Looking back I wish I would have packed one, but if packing space is tight you can buy one in Kingston.
- Quick Dry Underwear – Jamaica is humid and hot year round! These are so nice and I wish I had more. They’re also easy to hand wash (you’ll likely be washing your clothes by hand during service). Exofficio is my favorite brand for women’s underwear. I’m sure there’s male brands available too.
- Hammock – Preferably the lightweight kind that collapses into a small bag and is easy to pack. Portable relaxation, need I say more?!
- Silica gel packets – You know the kind that come in shoe boxes? They absorb moisture from the surrounding air. Save these up and throw them in your clothing drawers to keep the mold at bay. (Also do yourself a favor and leave the leather and suede at home. Mold is a serious ongoing battle here on the island).
- Umbrella – When it rains it pours.
- Hand fan – It is hot hot hot in Jamaica. Especially during the spring and summer. A hand fan is a little, portable thing you can throw in your hand bag that makes a big difference.
- Power Bank – You will almost definitely have electricity during training and at site, but power outages are common and you could be out of power for days (or even weeks!). Bonus points if yours can solar charge.
- Good Shoes – Most of the time I’m in my Chaco sandles, hiking boots, or nice school flats as an Environment volunteer. Many Education volunteers recommend Croc flats, which are closed toed and appropriate for a school setting.
- Hobby to Improve – I brought a hula hoop and poi (both contact and fire). Other volunteers in our cohort brought things like watercolors, a guitar, ukelele, camera, embroidery materials, hair supplies, birding books and binoculars, and books and apps to learn a second language. What skills and/or hobbies do you want to improve during your free time?
- Bonus – protect your electronics by bringing a surge protector and getting personal property insurance. Many volunteers use Clements insurance.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!