Packing for any length of time can be a chore, and when I first began to assemble the items that I’d need for two years abroad I was completely overwhelmed.

What should I bring? What should I leave behind? How many bags should I take? How many jars of peanut butter is too many jars? 

But thanks to the help of multiple Peace Corps Albania blogs (especially The Lone Blonde, An Idiot’s Diary, and Holy Shqip Xhilli is in Albania), Reddit posts, and the Peace Corps website itself, I was able to put together my own personal list of items for my service.

This is a living, breathing list – at least for the next two years! As I experience different seasons in Albania I’ll add any new items that I think would be helpful for new volunteers!

Just keep in mind, Albania is a unique country and some of the items on my list won’t necessarily be applicable to other Peace Corps posts.

CLOTHING

  • Professional clothes (business suit and additional business casual outfits)
  • Outfit for night life/weddings (nice dresses, sundresses, and work dresses)
  • Outerwear (raincoat/rain jacket, sweaters, cardigans, sweatshirts, winter coat)
  • Casual wear for around the house
  • Summer clothes (skirts, tank tops, shorts)
  • Winter clothes (warm hats, socks, gloves, thermal underwear, and scarves)
  • Shoes (running shoes, regular sneakers, sandals, strappy wedges, heeled boots, black flats, and pumps)
  • Swimsuit(s)

Clothing Tips

Pack black jeans. They’re versatile enough to dress up or down, and because they’re a dark color you don’t have to worry about them picking up dirt or dust from the road.

Bring shoes for all occasions. I brought lots of different types of shoes and I’ve worn every pair since arriving in country. You never know what you’re going to need, and it’s not a given that your country will have shoes in your size!

Remember business casual outfits for all four seasons. Even when it’s the middle of summer here in Albania, I’m still at work every day – despite the scorching heat. My office doesn’t have air conditioning, so office-appropriate dresses and skirts are a must. In the transitional seasons, it’s a good idea to pack clothes that can be layered for colder mornings and warmer afternoons.

ACCESSORIES

  • Carry-all tote/purse (a bag that’s not a backpack that you can carry lots of items inside)
  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball cap
  • Jewelry (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches, rings)

Accessories Tips

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Bring your favorite pair of sunglasses or earrings, but don’t worry about packing every last item of jewelry. There are plenty of places to buy cheap accessories here in country.

Bring a professional-looking, carry-all bag. I prefer not to carry around a backpack (because it makes me look like a student), so my large purse has been a lifesaver. It’s professional enough to take to work, but big enough to carry all of my things.

ELECTRONICS

  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Camera and an extra battery
  • Adapter plugs
  • Headphones (the more pairs, the better)
  • External hard drive
  • Extra laptop battery (I brought one because my laptop is 6+ years old)
  • VGA Mac adapter (for projectors)
  • Extra charging cables

Electronics Tips

Pack more adapter plugs than you think you need. You don’t realize how many things you have to charge until you’re in a foreign country with only one outlet converter. Buy more than you think you’ll need, and you’ll thank yourself later!

If you think it might break in two years, bring extra. From charging cables to batteries, it can be hard to find quality electronics in some Peace Corps posts. If you have the money to buy extra, bring extra! (This is especially true if you have a Mac laptop here in Albania because this is a Windows-only country.)

Invest in high-quality cases. I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve dropped my phone here in Albania. It’s definitely a good idea to protect your valuable electronics in a sturdy case.

HOUSE

  • Sleeping bag
  • Multi-tool (Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife)
  • Decorations (maps, posters, pictures of family or friends)
  • Seasonings/comfort foods
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Laundry sack (very useful during training)
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Ziploc bags (useful for storage and for protecting electronics from rainy weather)

House Tips

Sleeping bags are a must because you can never be too warm. Here in Albania there’s no escaping the cold. Most houses don’t have insulation against the winter weather, so sleeping bags are a must for all volunteers. They also come in handy when traveling around the country.

Bring extra reusable bags. Having extra bags was a lifesaver when I moved from my training site to my permanent site. During pre-service training, Peace Corps staff loaded us with extra items (I’m talking multiple manuals, fire extinguishers, medical kits, water filters and more), so I was incredibly grateful for the extra luggage space.

You’ll never regret packing comfort foods. Wondering whether or not to bring that jar of peanut butter or package of spices? Find room in your suitcase now, and you’ll be grateful you did later! On your bad days (and even on your good days), it’s such a comfort to have little items that feel like home.

PERSONAL CARE

  • Nonprescription medical supplies
  • Glasses
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Supply of cosmetics or creams
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dry shampoo (I personally don’t use it, but some female volunteers swear by dry shampoo)

Personal Care Tips

Don’t leave your favorite cosmetics at home. While you shouldn’t bring your entire bathroom with you, it’s always nice to have a supply of your favorite cosmetics in country – especially early in your service when it’s difficult to navigate stores. They might not last you all two years, but once you get settled you’ll be able to find places that sell similar products.

Don’t worry about bringing a ton of medical supplies. The Peace Corps will provide you with a fully-stocked Medical Kit when you arrive in country, so you don’t have to worry about bringing more than a pack of band-aids and maybe some Ibuprofen. But I’d recommend bringing items like a heating pad (for stomach or back pain), motion sickness medicine, or other items that will make you more comfortable that don’t come included in the Medical Kit.

Don’t waste space on bathroom staples. Don’t worry about bringing things like shampoo, body wash, loofahs, towels and other bathroom essentials – they’re widely available in country. However conditioner has been a little trickier to find, so if you have a specific brand you like it might be a good idea to pack some.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Sturdy umbrella
  • Water bottle (reusable water bottles aren’t widely available here, so it’s important to bring your own)
  • Hobby items
  • Exercise equipment (I brought a yoga mat)
  • Notebooks/studying materials
  • Small gifts for your host family and local friends

Miscellaneous Tips

If you have a preferred study style, bring items that will help you learn. For me, I learn better with index cards – and unfortunately index cards aren’t really available in Albania. You can DIY some yourself, but I was really grateful to have brought them with me when I was first learning the language.

Try not to worry too much about host family gifts. Host families will be grateful for any present you give them – big or small. Small presents are more appropriate, and they can be anything from souvenir items to candy, tablecloths, or toys. Small games/cards are good for children, sweets are a hit for any age, but in my experience books don’t really go over well.


Header Image: Flickr.com

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