22 Things to Pack for a Trip to a Developing Country

There are lots of great travel packing lists out there — and with plenty of us fleeing for warm-weather countries this month for a break from the snow and rain, we can definitely use some recommendations.  I haven’t seen a list yet for  what to pack if you’re destined for a place where it’s easier to buy a goat than a bottle of Purell, or where the locals think that “Samsonite” is the name of an American airline, so here are my recommendations.  Believe me, there will be no room in the suitcase for your anxiety once you stuff all this in.

I. Bring to stay healthy:

  • A bedbug trap, since your place of lodging is probably unable to do anything in the case of bedbugs, or can move you to a bedbug-free room. Amazon carries a decent one: http://www.amazon.com/ClimbUp%C2%AE-Interceptors-pack-passive-traps/dp/B0028Z0LDQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1388938697&sr=8-2&keywords=bed+bug+detector
  • Vitamins. Don’t underestimate how many nutrients you may lose by eating non-fortified foods in developing countries.  Vitamins also help replenish your system after any bouts of diarrhea or vomiting
  • Granola bars, protein bars or trail mix.  Protein bars are my pick since it can become nearly impossible to get enough protein from safe sources abroad.
  • Water purification tablets, or a water filter
  • Condoms: these can be nearly impossible to find, depending on the religious and cultural swaying of wherever you’re visiting

II. Bring to stay clean:

  • Toilet paper: as much as you have room for.  I will never forget finding only bright pink TP in Morocco that practically disintegrated as soon as I touched it
  • Paper towels, in case your hotel or hostel towels (if provided) are dirty
  • A sheet, since the cheaper hotels, and many hostels, do not provide clean bedding
  • Laundry detergent, and a few feet of rope to use as a clothesline (among other things)
  • Enough hand sanitizer to sterilize a small village
  • A universal rubber plug, for use in tubs and sinks. Just remember to hide it after use each day or your host could accuse you of trying to flood his or her establishment.

III. Bring to stay comfortable:

  • A small, battery-operated fan, both to serve its primary purpose of cooling you where there is no A/C, and to drown out street noise.  Don’t wait to buy a fan where you’re going, since it will almost always come with a cord and you’ll already be using what precious few socket(s) you have to charge your devices
  • A sewing kit, if you can actually thread a needle; if you can’t, go with a few tubes of Krazy Glue like I do

IV. Bring to stay out of trouble:

  • Plenty of Google map printouts, zoomed in enough to get both the English and native language script for street and place names

V. Bring for a variety of uses:

  • Ziploc and plastic bags for protecting your electronics and documents from the elements Swiss Army pocket knife (remember to put it back in your checked bag)
  • A waterproof container of matches, or a lighter (also to remain in your checked bag)
  • A small roll of duct tape.  It’s come through for me as both bag repair and medical tape in a developing country!
  • A luggage lock and coiling cable (preferably one for each of your bags)
  • Keychain flashlight
  • World Market crinkle curtain-in-a-pouch: http://www.worldmarket.com/product/porcelain-crinkle-voile-curtain.do?&from=fn.  Can be used as a beach blanket, rag, rope, souvenir packaging, modesty or sun scarf, or a privacy curtain in case your hotel window comes naked.  And if you lose just about everything on your trip, including your inhibitions, at least you’ll have one last thing to wrap yourself in!
Unfortunately, there is no mall behind this neighborhood.  Best to bring what you need!

Unfortunately, there is no mall (or even a drugstore) beyond this neighborhood. Best to bring what you need!

How Your Vacation Can Change Your Beliefs and Attitudes in Unexpected (and Sometimes Stressful) Ways

What’s that rumbling sound you hear when you’re sitting on the tarmac of an airport thousands of miles from home as your trip draws to a close?  Sometimes it’s not just the plane engines firing up.  It’s your thoughts swirling, and perhaps even grinding, grating, and crashing right into beliefs you’ve had for years as you have a chance to put into perspective everything you saw and did on your trip — and what you discovered about how others live in another culture.  It may be hard to comprehend, but for something that lasted only about two or three weeks, a vacation can have a tremendous influence on some of your most long-standing and innate beliefs.

These are not necessarily things we feel comfortable thinking about, or discussing with others — which makes them all the more important since they can cause you stress if you ignore them.  Here are some deeper issues many travelers struggle with at the end of (and well after) their trip that can have a significant impact on their psyche.  Chances are you may grapple with some of the same thoughts.

About religion.  Every year thousands of people convert to a different religion — from Islam to Christianity, from Christianity to Islam, from Christianity or Islam to Buddhism, from any of the above to atheism or agnosticism, etc.  Many people make this conversion after visiting a country whose religious following is different from their own.  Does that mean you will?  Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience a change in your thoughts about the afterlife after visiting a place like The Vatican, Tehran, Jerusalem, and any other number of places.

Having these feelings can cause you anxiety depending on your religious upbringing and the attitudes of your family members (and even your friends).  Acknowledging that you could have some significant doubts, inspirations, or personal questions after your trip can make it easier for you to address them in the coming weeks or months and move forward on your personal and spiritual journey.

About race.  Want to hear a sad story?  I had a friend who wasn’t racist until he started traveling.  Going from country to country, he said, and having what he perceived to be negative experiences in developing countries, helped him see “the bell curve” and people “in their proper place”, i.e., how important it was that people had their own culture within their own borders.  Is my friend still traveling?  More than ever — and I hope I don’t run into him somewhere.

Most people become even more tolerant after they’ve been abroad and seen other branches of the human family; very few become prejudiced, or more prejudiced.  The vast majority of us will spend some time thinking about how we’re all different, how and why there’s been so much racism in the past, and what the picture of racial harmony could like like in the future.

About the importance of money.  Did you travel through impoverished villages on your trip, and have the time of your life exploring and meeting the residents?  Alternatively, are you a middle-class traveler who lived like a king or queen for a couple weeks in a developing country, simply because you could afford it?  Doing either can significantly change your perspective on what’s in your wallet, how much you think you need to lead a happy life, and what you do with your finances in the future.

About the future.  Many people feel an overwhelming sense of hope and awe over the promise of the future after they’ve been abroad.  In so many ways, humanity leaps forward every year in terms of quality of life, tolerance, development, progression, and pure inspiration and creativity.

Depending on their travel experiences, others can dwell on the more negative aspects of the human race — yes, how greedy and self-absorbed we are, how much environmental damage we’re causing, how a major world war could be coming within our lifetime, how likely there is to be a major epidemic, etc.

You shouldn’t be surprised if you experience all of the above thoughts, hopes, and fears about the future on the same flight home.  We’re all constantly dealing with the balance of good and bad, hope and pessimism, and of course, change.  Travel is synonymous with change.  How it changes you is up to you — just don’t let it cause you a lot of stress. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New perspectives don’t always come beautifully framed — but travel always helps us see life in a different light