I have been living in Kenya for 4 months. Dragged my luggage from America to Kenya on a plane through 4 airports. Then from Nairobi to Machakos, and several bus and matatu rides later, ended up permanently setting up a residence in Bondo. I am happy that no luggage was lost, damaged, or entirely unreasonable to tow around everywhere.
After being here for 4 months and living within reasonable distance and cost to a major city, it is a pleasant surprise to find “most” things available here. My closest city is Kisumu, and Nairobi obviously has more. I can also happily report that every item I included in my suitcases has found a purpose or been useful. Below I have packing advise of the items I have brought, what isn’t necessary, and at last resort can be found here if you run out of room.
The rolling duffel has been a valuable asset and my backpacking packs have been entirely helpful with day trips. I definitely recommend at least a decent sized day pack if you aren’t convinced. My little purses have come in handy for simplifying my trips into town. Shopping bags have been more than useful and I wish I brought more. The neck wallet is the only thing that hasn’t really had a use, or I for see having a use.
- High Sierra rolling duffel (59″, 49.5# – the heaviest)
- 75L Kelty pack (50″, 33#)
- 35L Columbus pack (44″, 14.8#)
- Messenger bag (33″, 14.8#)
- 2 cross-body purses
- 2 lightweight shopping bags
- 1 waterproof neck wallet
- Everything here is needed and mandatory, don’t leave home without it. The only thing I regret not bringing was my own personal passport.
- 12 passport photos
- Updated license + backup
- Cash, visa debit and visa credit card
- shot records
- school deferment forms
- staging paperwork and schedule
- medical records
- emergency contact information sheet
- My regret here was not having a phone that uses a Sim card, it would have been much better than the phone I received here, not bringing a larger external hard drive and having a good laptop over a tablet is HIGHLY recommended. Also, you NEED a voltage protector/adaptor, try to find one in America. This ensures all valuable electronics are protected against the sketchy power grid here. Speaking of protection, get the insurance.
- Google Nexus 10 + charger, leather cover
- Canon Rebel T2I + battery, charger, case
- Macro lens & telephoto lens
- Canon SD750 Powershot + 2 chargers & battery’s, case
- 4 flash drives
- Memory cards: 2 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 32MB
- 3 plug adaptors
- Swatch (waterproof, 2 timezone) watch
- 2 headphones
- 1 unlocked phone/mp3
- travel luggage scale
- 2 TSA locks
- 6 unique luggage tags
- I wish I had brought more spices, snacks, favorite candies, and emergen-c. Yes you can also get these things in a care package, but who wants to wait? PC medical gives you a really nice medical kit when you arrive, and stocks you up as you need it, but bring your own selection that are herbal or specialty.
- 3 month prescription travel meds
- 3 month multivitamin and cranberry supplement
- Odwalla, Kind bars, and fig bars
- Instant coffee
- So glad I brought potholders, knives, and a veggie peeler. Nalgene’s, ziplocs and sponges have also been very useful. Wish I would’ve brought more Tupperware.
- 2 small Santoku knives
- Potholder set
- Veggie Peeler
- Meat thermometer
- (2) 16 oz nalgene
- (1) L nalgene
- Ziploc bags
- 4 small Tupperware containers
- The Steripen, greatest thing EVER. Also, my sleeping bags and sheet set. Though a second set would’ve been nice. Pillows, headlamps, multi-tools, and backpacking gear has also been most useful and needed.
- Alps mountaineering solo tent w/footprint + xtra stakes
- Alps self-inflating sleep pad
- Fleece sleeping bag
- Suisse sport 30 degree sleeping bag
- Sheet set (fitted and sheet)
- Memory foam pillow + small pillow (I was going to get a camping one, but this one is compact and comfortable)
- Leatherman CS multitool w/scissors
- Larger camping multitool w/pliers
- 2 headlamps
- This may seem excessive but I have worn every piece of clothing I brought. It is nice having a well supplied wardrobe you can rotate if you don’t feel like doing laundry one week. Layers have been my biggest asset, glad I brought so much simple cotton clothing, and warm weather clothes – though it can get very cold here – shoes have also been very handy in various situations. My best assets: undergarments, sport jacket, rain jacket, lightweight pants and cargos, and hard soled sandals. Kicking myself for not buying one more pair of hard-soled strapped sandals, best shoes ever here! The thing to bring less of would be long skirts. You really only use them in PST and depending on your village may never wear them much again except for PC events, and you can get lots of long skirts from the markets here.
- 1 pair hard bottom sandals w/straps (Naturals)
- 3 pairs basic flip-flops
- 1 pair hiking boots (WP)
- 1 pair tennis shoes (Dr Scholls, awesome walking shoe)
- 1 pair all-sport running shoes
- 1 black dress heel + 1 fun heel
- 1 dress sandal
- light, compact down jacket (folds into a neat travel pouch size)
- windbreaker (folds into a neat travel pouch as well)
- rain jacket
- sport jacket
- 3 long skirts
- 4 long dresses
- 1 casual business pant
- 2 linen pant (jean and khaki)
- 1 pair jeans + 1 jean capri
- 2 pair cotton capri cargo (great for hiking and all things outdoors)
- 40 pairs cotton underwear
- 7 button up shirts (varied in color, and sleeve length)
- 3 light cardigans (can double as business wear)
- 3 casual dresses
- 7 plain shirts
- 5 casual shirts
- 2 pair yoga capris, below the knee
- 2 swimsuits
- 3 pairs of shorts (double as slips under dresses and skirts)
- 1 dressy cardigan
- 3 light scarves (great to cover shoulders or hair scarves, even swim cover-up)
- 8 tank tops ( I love layering)
- 3 long shirts
- 1 pj set (long pants and long shirt, can be mixed and matched)
- 3 cotton bras + 2 sport bras + 4 cotton t-shirt bra slips
- 2 pairs hiking socks
- 5 pairs regular cotton socks
- Most of these are comfort items, but I have never been so happy to have them. SPF >20 sunscreen NECESSARY if you are very sun sensitive like me. My supply of lotion, hair care, razors, floss, baby wipes, toilet paper, hair ties, towels have really made things easier in these first few months.
- Some of these you can get here, but when you are just starting off in your first few month going to the store can be daunting and frustrating. It isn’t easy to just run to the store if you run out of TP all of a sudden. Having these things have been wonderful assets to keeping myself comfortable as I get settled.
- If nothing else, at least a 3-6 month supply of toiletries that you love. You can get more in a care package or find equivalent items in the country after that.
- Luna Pads deluxe pack (10% PC discount)
- box of q-tips
- 4 foundation w/sunscreen
- 4 face powder (May not use everyday but it’s good for sun protection and harshness of dusty environment)
- 4 mascara
- 2 brow liner
- 2 razors w/12 blades (these have soap on the blades, just need a little H2O)
- quick dry towel set: 1 bath, 2 hand, 2 washcloth
- 1 month supply lotion, sunscreen SPF 50, shampoo, conditioner, aloe vera
- 3 nail clippers & nail files
- multiple hair ties + clips
- 2 hairbrush
- 1 small nail scissors
- 4 chap-stick
- witch hazel
- 4 natural deodorant
- 1 tweezers
- 5 toothbrushes w/4 toothpaste and 2 travel holder
- 3 travel containers Aquaphor (great for rashes, burns, and chap stick)
- Natural medical kit I put together
- 4 Eye drops
- Kleenex travel packs
- 2 rolls of toilet paper (Laugh all you want, until you need some. It’s precautionary)
- 4 Hand sanatizer
- Soap with soap saver loofah
- Baby wipes
- Bring duct tape. Great for quick fixes. Sewing kit, journals, sharpies, pens, sunglasses, hats, rubber bands, pictures and postcards have been wonderful to have. Used my menorah during Hanukkah, it was a nice tradition from home. Haven’t used my ping pong set or baseball stuff yet, but I am glad it is here with me.
- travel ping-pong set
- toy baseball bat + ball
- measuring tape
- small sewing kit
- card deck
- small umbrella
- roll of duct tape
- 3 journals
- pictures and postcards
- TSA approved travel bottle set
- 2 pairs sunglasses
- 2 hats
- a few pieces of basic, cheap jewelry
- pens, sharpies, highlighter
- stationary, US stamps, envelopes
- 3 small folders
Items I decided weren’t necessary
- I still stand behind this list. These really aren’t necessary. Do bring a flashlight.
- Solar charger
- Solar camping shower
Open mind for adventure, change and new experiences!!!
Don’t come expecting anything other than new experiences! Makes obstacles easier to overcome. Laughter is the best medicine. Ups come with downs and it’s all very extreme and sudden. You can be fine when you wake up, but by the end of the day you want nothing more than to hide in bed. This is normal. Stay positive. The highs you will feel makes all the tough parts worth the struggle.
Side note: If you are a yoga lover like me, bring your mat. Also, all my exercise gear and running shoes since settling in at site are one of my most used assets. I make time to workout everyday and it is a great mood booster and makes you feel good. Find a little me time in your day, you’ll be glad you did. The other thing that volunteers, myself included, find nice to have, solid hiking shoes. If you enjoy hiking, you’ll regret not bringing them.
This is the toughest job you’ll ever love. Happy travels and welcome to PC Kenya.