This is hands-down my #1 essential travel item for volunteering, especially if you’re visitingduring the height of the African summer. No matter if you’re volunteering or on a trip or tour, a bandana will protect your head from the sun, hold your hair back and let’s face it: it looks pretty cool!
Bonus tip: Soak your bandana in cold water and put it around your neck for a quick cool down.
Don’t get just any old book to write in – find a real travel journal that includes maps and quotes. Quotes from others who have been inspired by traveling will help you appreciate your travels more and when you look back at the memories you’ve written down it’s extra special to have them in their own travel book.
Bonus tip: Save some money by making your own journal by sprucing up a regular old journal. Make sure to bring colourful pens and glue so you can scrapbook it up while on the road.
Is it always warm in Africa? Unfortunately not. You’ll be thankful for wooly socks on those damp, rainy days, or in the cool mornings when you get up for breakfast or an early game drive.
Extra passport copies
Alright, I’ve covered some of the cool stuff, now for the important, safety stuff. Always copy the identity page of your passport and any pages that have stamps. Then hide the copies in various places in your pack or toiletries bag or even in your journal. If you lose your passport, these will be key in helping you get a new one.
Sure, you look like one of the Seven Dwarves, but a headlamp will be your best friend during a possible power outage, early-morning hike or while checking the meat on an evening barbecue.
Bonus tip: Purchase a headlamp with a red light setting – this is great for reading at night without disturbing roommates!
If you’re not on the ‘Birkenstock Bandwagon’ you’d better hop on – comfortable, practical and lightweight; you can hike, work or just lounge around in sandals made by this German company. And when you’re volunteering on your feet most of the day, you’ll be thankful for the comfort they provide for your tootsies. Flip-flops are just not going to cut it.
Even if you don’t know how to sew, someone else will. Your clothes may snag or your bag may rip, so bring a small sewing kit along with you (available at most drug stores). Make sure it includes scissors and needles – these are useful for so much more than sewing!for first aid treatments than for anything else.
Digital alarm clock
Most volunteer accommodation is not outfitted with alarm clocks – which makes it a bit difficult to get up for morning projects. Small digital, travel alarm clocks are available at most travel stores and are relatively cheap.
Please, for the love of everything that is good in this world, do not bring a bag on wheels volunteering. You’ll fly through the airport with a pack on your back instead, and it makes it easier when you wish to take weekend trips. I recommend getting a bag with a detachable daypack – these are great for day excursions or even when you’re out volunteering. A 65-litre pack should be all you need to travel overseas. If it’s not enough, you’re packing too much!
Deck of cards
Oh yeah – you’ll be the life of the party if you bring some entertainment along in your pack. Depending on the time of year, evenings can be long and a game that brings everyone together is always a plus.