This is part two of a guest post by Thomaida Hudanish, a writer, blog reader and traveler whom I met when she came to Palestine as part of a long-term volunteering/mission trip. Make sure you check out part one of the post here. Enjoy. - Genevieve
Type of Trip:
Extended Volunteer/Mission Trip/Pilgrimage a.k.a. Around-the-World-to-Help-Children
Length of Trip:
India, the Middle East, Western Europe
5 More Tips
During trip prep, I love reading guidebooks for historical and cultural insight, maps, and background info about top sites. I thought I would easily find guides as I went, but this wasn't the case. Airport bookstores or large, chain bookstores(where you could find them) were the most reliable places to find guides.
2. Bearing Gifts
Previous volunteers clued me in to what gifts I could bring for the orphanage at my first destination, such as mosquito nets, coloring books and printer ink cartridges. You may also consider some easy-to-pack items unique to your home region. For friends at my second destination, I purchased gifts in India. For hosts at my third destination, I brought something from Turkey and so on.
I walked a lot and used the stairs more, but let's face it, I wasn't active in the same ways that I am at home. I packed two exercise bands and although I didn't do as many bicep curls as I planned, I was thankful for my occasional mini-workouts.
4. Final Preparations
In the 10 days between my last day of work and take-off for my trip, here's what I did: took a private 1-hour camera lesson, picked up leather inserts to boost the support in my well-worn walking shoes, purchased an international driving permit at AAA, distributed copies of my itinerary, financial info and contact information to trusted friends, drafted a power of attorney, requested a PIN code for my credit card and alerted them of my travel plans, renewed my drivers' license (which was due to expire while I was gone), and purchased travel insurance.
5. Teachable Moments
Although I made a few "mistakes" in my packing, I don't regret anything because it all worked together to make a memorable trip.
• Too many shoes? I packed 4 pairs of shoes + flip flops; seems like a lot for a light packer. I was glad to have extra shoes after I accidentally left my trusted walking shoes on a bus.
• Consider a Global SIM. I found out that in some countries it takes 3 or more days to activate a local SIM card. I think I should have had my phone unloacked and purchased a global SIM (from companies such as gosim.com or worldsim.com) so that I had an emergency communication option available at all times. I ended up purchasing a phone in India and local SIM cards as I went. Now I have a phone loaded with fun Indian ringtones that I can use anywhere.
• Bring a nit comb and favorite lice treatment if you're going to be working with children. I didn't wear my hair back, gave lots of hugs and got lice. What's the positive side? I bonded with one of the older girls while she picked nits out of my hair for two hours and after two weeks of combing and searching, multiple home remedies and lots of washing, I was nit-free! I'll know exactly what to do when facing lice in the future.
• Be Prepared for Air Pollution. India and Palestine have poor air quality for different reasons. I wish that I'd packed a nasal rinse system to help alleviate the coughing and sinus issues I had. Instead, I learned how to rinse with a cup and now I have a new survival skill!
• Brush Up on Driving a Manual Transmission. Not only will you be ready to help out with driving anywhere in any car, but in many cases you may find that stick shift cars are cheaper to rent and more readily available.
For Further Reading:
Two books that I referenced in preparation for this trip were Ron Wolf's Vagabonding and Lonely Planet's First Time Round the World. Although my travel style is less vagabond and more volunteer/pilgrim/tourist, I found practical advice and inspiration in both of these books. One great suggestion they made, for example, was to ship souvenirs home as you go, so you don't have to carry the extra weight in your suitcase. Additionally, I read packinglust.com and travelfashiongirl.com, among other girl-written travel blogs, to keep my naturally functional style balanced with a little bit of fabulous.
While on the road I met up with two other writers whose blogs and travels inspired me prior to departure. Whatever you take away from what is written here about packing and traveling, I hope that you'll also consider that the Internet is a window revealing just a small view of the amazing relationships and places out there to discover. I challenge you to move from the virtual and the vicarious to the rewarding experience of meeting each person and destination with all your senses.
May your journeys be blessed!
Thomaida wrote a series of articles about her 7-month volunteer pilgrimage covering India, Turkey, Israel/Palestine, France, Germany and England at www.honeybeebuzz.org. She lives, writes and dreams up new ways to make the world a better place in Portland, Oregon.