Packing

I have been trying to figure out what the heck I should bring to Colombia and anxiously reading other people’s packing lists for quite a while, so I figured I’d share what I finally decided to bring in case it will be of help to others down the road.

Unless you are also planning to teach in Colombia, or planning a similar trip, you may not find this post too interesting. But for those who want to know all the nitty-gritty details, read on…

I am usually a horrible over-packer, but tried to curtail that instinct as best I could, though I still feel like I’m bringing a ton of stuff. Colombia has so many different climates, and I hope to travel a lot and experience all of them (and hopefully some other countries as well), and that made packing light even more of a challenge. It’s also a challenge to pack for both work and travel when I’m used to packing for either one or the other.

I will be bringing a standard carry-on size rolling suitcase (with a hard exterior so that I can lock it) and a 38 liter travel backpack with a detachable daypack. I told myself that I would only bring the amount of stuff that I could fit in those cases, and I was able to stuff everything in, so I am feeling good about that!

Cat for scale
Cat for scale

My packing list was mainly based on the Peace Corps’ volunteers guide to Colombia (available here), along with some things suggested by folks on Greenheart Travel’s Facebook group for Colombia volunteers and a lot of googling “what do people wear in medellin” (the general consensus seems to be don’t wear shorts, skirts, or flip flops unless you want to get catcalled and look like a gringo, which I was very sad to hear since hot weather + skinny jeans = my idea of hell. Plus who doesn’t love flip flops!?)

Of course I don’t know yet if I brought the right things, but I’m about to find out! Once I’ve been in Colombia for a while I’ll post an update on whether there is anything I wish I’d brought but didn’t and what I’ve found I don’t need.

A note about traveling with electronics:

I was/still am nervous about bringing electronics to Colombia, given the levels of theft and crime there and the amount of stuff I saw or heard about getting stolen while I was studying abroad in Ecuador, a country which has similar levels of crime. With this in mind, I ended up following advice from the Peace Corps’ guide and purchasing insurance to cover my personal property (the main items I’m worried about being my laptop, camera, and phone).

I found a company called Worth Ave Group that covers loss, theft, and damage worldwide and has discounted rates for teachers and students. The company got mixed reviews online, but so did every insurance company I researched. They gave me a policy that covers up to $2,500 for one year with a $25 deductible at a cost of $97. It was the best deal I could find. I’m sure that filing a claim from Colombia won’t be easy, and I hope I won’t have to find out, but having the insurance makes me feel at least a little bit better.

If you are interested in finding personal property insurance for travel I definitely recommend researching Worth Ave Group and other companies. Make sure to read the fine print because many don’t cover theft and/or don’t cover incidents abroad. I also read online that some homeowners and renters insurance policies cover loss and theft outside the home; I don’t have such insurance, but it’s worth looking into if you do.

Without further ado, here is everything I am bringing with me to Colombia!

 

The List

Travel Supplies

Travel supplies:

  • Packable towel
  • Packable umbrella
  • Small sewing kit
  • Headlamp
  • Small keychain multi-tool
  • Money belt
  • Hanging toiletry kit
  • Luggage lock
  • Mesh bag for laundry
  • A small bag of travel-size bottles of essential things like shampoo and toothpaste for short trips
  • A silk sleeping bag for staying in hostels
  • Inflatable pillow (for long bus rides)
  • Travel clothesline
  • Deck of cards

First aid kit:

  • Bandaids
  • Neosporin
  • Dramamine
  • Ibuprofen
  • Oral rehydration salts (learned the need for these the hard way in Ecuador!)
  • Immodium (ditto)
  • Cipro (ditto)
  • Sudafed

 

Toiletries
Yes mom, I’m bringing plenty of bug spray!

Toiletries:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen face cream
  • Curly hair goop (a necessity for my crazy hair)
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • 2 huge bottles of sunscreen (everyone says sunscreen is very expensive there)
  • Eyeliner
  • Chapstick
  • Razor & razor blades
  • Hair ties
  • Q-tips
  • Multivitamins
  • Bug spray (hello, zika!)
  • Some pocket packs of tissues
  • Nail clippers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • DivaCup (one of the greatest inventions of all time, in my opinion!)

 

Let's hope they have a whiteboard!
Let’s hope they have a whiteboard

Teaching supplies (these items were recommended by many current and former teachers in Colombia):

  • A bunch of whiteboard markers (apparently whiteboard markers in Colombia are expensive and don’t work very well)
  • A whiteboard eraser
  • Stickers in English saying “good job!” etc.
  • English magazines

Documents & Cards:

  • Passport
  • Copy of passport front page
  • Credit card
  • ATM card
  • Health insurance card
  • Copy of visa
  • Copy of flight itinerary

 

Electronics

Electronics:

  • Laptop
  • Kindle
  • Phone
  • Mp3 player
  • Small bluetooth speaker (recommended by former teachers for classroom listening activities)
  • Earbuds
  • Camera
  • Spare camera batteries & charger
  • 2 small surge protectors (according to the Peace Corps guide there are often power surges in Colombia; they recommended using a surge protector when plugging in anything)
  • Thumb drive

 

Now I just need some Colombian friends
Now I just need some Colombian friends

Miscellaneous:

  • Gifts for people I meet in Colombia (Bringing gifts was highly recommend by many current and former teachers; the best I could come up with were these random trinkets from a souvenir shop in Chinatown.)
  • Photo album with pictures of my home, friends, and family (and cat, of course)
  • Small notebook
  • Large notebook
  • A bunch of pens
  • An anti-theft purse like this (not the most stylish, but I am hoping to avoid getting pickpocketed!)
  • Canvas tote bag (for carrying things to school and/or groceries)
  • A larger zippable tote bag for weekend trips
  • The Rough Guide to Colombia
  • A Spanish review and practice book
  • Wallet
  • A small purse for going out at night
  • Tide pens (I’m a slob)
  • Water bottle

 

And, last but not least, clothes….

Everyday clothes:

  • 3 pairs of jeans (dark, lighter-colored, and white)
  • 2 pairs of denim shorts
  • 3 cardigan sweaters
  • 1 light long-sleeve shirt
  • 1 casual dress
  • 1 casual skirt
  • 1 pencil skirt
  • 4 tank tops (nice enough to wear for teaching)
  • 5 short sleeve shirts (mostly nice enough to wear for teaching)
  • A light scarf
  • Watch
  • A few pieces of cheap jewelry

PJ’s:

  • 1 pair pajama shorts
  • 1 pair pajama pants
  • T-shirt (my Greenheart Travel one, of course!)

Socks & Underwear

  • 1 pair warm fuzzy socks
  • 7 pairs low-cut cotton socks
  • 2 weeks worth of underwear
  • 3 bras

Jackets:

  • Packable raincoat
  • Light insulated jacket (like this)
  • Hooded sweatshirt

Shoes:

  • 1 pair running shoes
  • 1 pair old, beat-up running shoes for hiking
  • 2 pairs dressy-ish sandals
  • 1 pair Tevas (for hiking or outdoorsy stuff)
  • 1 pair casual sneakers
  • 1 pair flats

Workout/hiking clothes:

  • 3 tank tops for running
  • 1 moisture-wicking shirt for running/hiking
  • 1 pair hiking pants
  • 3 pairs running shorts
  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 pair ¾ length running tights

If you’ve made it through this long and exhaustive list I hope it was helpful. Stay tuned to find out whether the things I brought were great or totally insane!

 

Next step will be getting the world's most wonderful cat out of my suitcase and saying goodbye :(
Next step will be getting the world’s most wonderful cat out of my suitcase 😦
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