The almighty question that has consumed me ever since I got my acceptance letter. In good ways and also very annoying, up ridiculously late on amazon, ways. So i digress, The packing process has a major limiting factor: 1oo lb weight limit, two checked bags, and whatever you can finagle into your carryon (and or just wear it, which is kind of my plan). Also, and I don’t know if this is unique to each group or a universal truth but I was also sent dimensions on the bags i can bring: each bag can be 107 inches length X Width X Height combined with a 50 lb weight limit each, then your carry on is the normal size (not exactly sure but I know my small hiking pack fits).
Albania specific details
Albania is stylish, which at first sounds awesome because who doesn’t like to look nice? When all your friends think you’re off to the land of Chaco’s and bandanas and then you realize that you have to actually ‘try’ for the next 27 months. The Packing Guru that has since disappeared mentioned that you might want to bring an outfit that you could go to a night club in (boys, it’s different in Europe you actually have to wear real clothes, a ‘nice t-shirt’ won’t do). The same site mentioned that heels can be purchased in Albania up to size 42, however sneakers are ridiculously expensive and not of great quality so if you’re having a footwear Sophie’s Choice, take the tennis! They also say a nice purse might be a good idea, though I wouldn’t go too flashy. Many people on the Albania Facebook page have said that it’s much more casual that they were told, so I am planning to go for ‘smart casual’ see how that goes. I’ll update when I know if I made the right choice.
Formulating the Plan
First I looked over the official Peace Corps packing list for Albania which was helpful in the sense that it woke me up to the fact that Albania is freaking COLD! If you’re coming to Albania start stockpiling smartwool (I’m not a paid spokes-person but I should be! The stuff is amazing!). Then the next thing I did was take to the internet, and I found this site that I WAS going to link but it looks like the packing guru has taken down their site….So I will have to try to remember what I can and carry on their legacy.
- First decide what are your wearable security blankets: the things that make you feel safe, happy, a preferably take you back to a fantastic time in your life or make you think of someone who you care about. Mine is an old L.L. Bean 80’s pullover that my dad found for me at a yard sale that happens to be an exact match to his which he’s had since forever. A major plus is that mine is super warm and layer able which is perfect for the freezing winters they have here!
- Second take the climate into account: Albania has 4 seasons and all kinds of climates (so much for simplicity), so me personally, I decided to make a quasi-capsule wardrobe for each season.
- Next think about the country dress code: Again Albania is a little of everything: It can be really conservative in the country side to very modern in the cities. Thanks to the Peace Corps Facebook page for allowing me to ask about skirt length and finding out that my sundresses are gonna be acceptable!!! She did say to start modest and work your way up as you get more comfortable with your community. Also, apparently women in Albania don’t exercise outside which I absolutely love, thankfully the Albanian people are understanding and realize that Peace Corps volunteers like to run outside for exercise.
- Start compiling the clothes you already own and think you should take with you. hopefully you have a fair amount already that are ‘Worthy’ laying around your house. I like to pre-pack ridiculously early for a trip and then assess what I need…it’s one of my many planning vices..like lists. I laid all the lucky garments out and it made it very clear what I was lacking.
- Now take all the information that you’ve compiled and make your dream list of the things you want to bring, This is my revised list:
- Rain jacket
- Puffer Jacket
- Scarves (3, one crazy warm one, one more versatile, one that’s a statement piece. They say all the Albanian women say you will get a cold without one so go for it!)
- Mittens. EDIT: Since the new group is coming in January you might have mittens knitted for you by your host families because they’re the sweetest people on the planet! (they have hand knitted Albanian mittens at the markets which I intend to buy).
- Wool hat
- Long underwear/ leggings (4)
- Base layer tops (4, I’m obsessed with 32 degrees tops because they don’t look exclusively active wearish)
- Dress pants
- Jeans (2)
- Smart wool (10)
- Bra’s (nice ones, 4) The quality of under garments is a bit lacking so get what you like now!
- Sports Bra’s (2)
- Undies (Literally all of them, just use them as packing peanuts)
- Sweaters (4)
- T-shirts (7) EDIT: go for a young professional look. I didn’t bring enough of the right stuff.
- Long sleeve shirts (7)
- Skirts (4)
- Dresses (4)
- Cardigans (3)
- Tennis shoes (1 for now)
- Everyday shoes (2) 1 pair I went with
- Tooth brush (6)
- Make up
- Your essential hair products
- Bobby pins
- Hair ties
- Jump drive
- Solar charger
- External hard drive
- Unlocked phone
- Surge protector
- Sleeping bag
- Head Lamp
- Metal water bottle
- French Press
- swiss army knife (more of a knife/ scissors) or letterman (more of a tool).
- Necklace (4-5)
- Hometown pride memorabilia
- Candy for comfort and/or trade with other PCV’s
- Host Family gifts EDIT: Post cards of your home town, American flag sunglasses, small stuff like this goes over really well.
- Flash cards
- Quick-dry towel
- Jump rope
- Resistance bands
- Reusable shopping bags (P.C. asks that you bring these)
- A copy of your passport/ passport numbers in a separate safe place
- List of important numbers/ passwords
- Your banks number
I was missing a lot of this list but thankfully I have amazing friends and an awesome family who got a bunch of this for me for Christmas (When you leave for 27 months people who like you tend to get a bit generous).
And now to do the last bit of shopping! I included the links to some of the items I have gotten and really like, I don’t make any money off these suggestions. These items are just awesome.