March 11, 2010

It fits! (Kind of…) or Typically Laid-Back Chelsea Enters Crazy-Over-Achieving-Organized Mode

It is a strange experience trying to anticipate each and every thing I might use over the next two years, whittling that list down to only bare necessities, and squeezing it into only two bags (not to exceed 107 inches total bulk and 80 pounds total weight,  plus a carry on, of course :o).  It is stranger yet to think of all of the things that I have categorized as necessities, but that cannot even be purchased in Botswana—meaning that they are not only unnecessary, but they aren’t even frivolities for most people throughout the world.  Thus, even in these early stages of Peace Corps preparation, elements of the culture-shock that I am about to experience are beginning to set in.  As an American, raised in a materialistic culture, it feels both unsettling and strikingly empowering to condense my belongings into two bags that wouldn’t even fill the trunk of my car.  Despite the comfort provided by the possessions that I won’t be able to bring (the blanket my mother made when I was a child, my band memorabilia, paintings, etc.), the excesses and the constant subconscious need for more is a weight that I am happy to be rid of, at least for a couple of years.  (Of course, ask me if I feel that way in 6 months, and we’ll see whether my “hippie” anti-materialistic idealism holds…I hope it will, though!)

All that said, even in the paring down of my possessions, my American tendencies toward control, precision, and order have been out in full force—strangely more so than in my everyday life—perhaps as the final attempt to exert authority before being hurled into a foreign world in which I will inevitably feel quite vulnerable and helpless at times.  These tendencies have manifested in a near compulsion to create the perfect packing list, get the perfect bags, and create the perfect organizational system (along with a corresponding chart which diagrams each item on said perfect packing list and its exact location within said perfect organizational system in said perfect bags).  I would love to say that having seen through this thinly-veiled attempt to exercise control over my soon-to-be tumultuous life, I rose above this impulse and packed calmly and rationally like a normal person.  But sadly, as I sit amidst my entirely packed, perfectly organized bags, staring at my color-coordinated and numbered itemized packing chart, just under a month before I am set to depart, I think it is quite clear that this is a battle that was not won.

I will admit to feeling a twinge of smug self-righteousness (as one of my dear friends often puts it) over my apparent over-achieving packing success (I say “apparent” because I am quite sure that once in country, I will find I have fallen into many packing pitfalls.  And that’s okay.)  However in all truth, as I stare at these bags and think of my two years to come, the thing that strikes me the most, trite though it sounds, is how blessed I am to have the love, encouragement, and support from so many friends and family members.  You all mean the world to me, and I know I honestly would not be on the verge of embarking on my dream experience without all that you have given me.  And that is something I can neither control, nor fit into a pack.  (Awww.)  Thank you, everyone.  I am in constant awe of how lucky I am to have each of you in my life.


The inside of my big blue rolling duffel.  Note the crazyawesome organization, including numbered bags.  Be impressed.

The outside of my big blue rolling duffel.

Inside of the perfect backpack.  Again, note the extreme level of organization.  Also note that it opens like a regular pack, instead of at the top, like most backpacking packs.  Way better for packing/unpacking/repacking.

The front outside of my pack, without the extra daypack attachment.  This is how I will have to check it, with the daypack as a separate carry-on.  This pack is SO versatile!

Outside side of my pack.  Note the heavy-duty handles at the top and side, in case you want to carry it as a duffel instead of a pack.

Outside back of my pack.  Where are the straps to carry it?

Oh, THERE they are.  That’s right, this pack kicks butt.  Well worth the intentionally undisclosed amount of time I spent researching to find it.

The back of my big pack’s companion day-pack with the straps all tucked in cute-like.  Aww.  What a pair these two make.

Front of the daypack.

Inside of daypack—even more crazy organizational madness.

Big pack with daypack attached.  This thing is bigger than it looks, I promise!!  (Also notice my cat Pierre, offering his moral support or condescension [could go either way] in the background.)

My bags, along with my carry-on all together…that’s my next two years in there, folks!

 Happy Chelsea carrying her pack (happy, considering I JUST put it on).

 I only hate my life a little bit when I have to carry all this.  ;oP

Me and all my stuff.

PACKING LIST: (in NO order and with NO structure whatsoever.  My advanced tables and graphs would not translate into the html box :oP):

6 dress shirts     2 cardigans     Mirror     Sleeping bag     Sheets     Protein powder     Window screen material     FM Radio     Jump rope     Seeds     Can opener     Vegetable peeler     Rope     Scissors     Plug adapter/converter     Rechargable batteries     Pepper spray    (at the suggestion of several returned volunteers. Not sure whether I’ll use it)     Extra camera memory     iPod speakers/plug     iPod computer connector     Duct tape     Swiss army knife     Chargers (for everything that needs charging!)     External hard drive/cord         Sewing kit     Flash drives     Extra headphones     Camera tripod     Headlamp     Tennis shoes     Dress/work shoes     Sandals     House Shoes     Casual clothes     2 Skirts, past knee     Socks     Tights     Underwear     Undershirt     Pajamas (for warm and cold weather)     Tea     Green produce bags     Reusable shopping bags     Rx Glasses     Rx Sunglasses     Sketchpad     Pencils     Paintbrushes     Wildlife guidebooks     Botswana guidebook     Seattle books     Stargazing book/star chart     NGO Development book     Earplugs     Tampons     Meds     Vitamins     Sunblock     First aid kit     Toothpaste     Toothbrush     Dental floss     Hair brush     Hair scissors     Hairbands     Lip balm     Contact lenses     Contact lense solution     Deodorant     Facial toner     Facial moisturizer     Grapseed oil (moisturizer)     Razors     Microfiber towel     Face soap     Shampoo     Conditioner     Long underwear     Baselayer jacket     Fleece jacket     Rain shell     Running pants     Running shorts     Running top     Scarf     Gloves     Sunhat     Index cards     Sharpies     Pens     Journal     Day calendar     UNO     Regular cards     Dice game     Blow-up globe     Copies of all personal documents     Laptop     Camera     FlipVideo     iPod     Binoculars     Coffee press     Water Bottles     Sunglasses (non Rx)     Toilet paper     Pillow     Travel alarm w/ thermometer and flashlight     GPS w/ Africa chip      Maps

If you have questions about anything on here (why it's on here, why something's not), I'm more than happy to answer.  Botswana is a country where (according to volunteers) you can get most things you need (pots, pans, etc.) at stores in the bigger cities.


  1. AHH!! You are my 2nd friend who is traveling to a new country and making a travel blog about it. SO JEALOUS OF YOU TWO. (She went to Australia for a semester abroad and I'll be visiting her during the summer at least!)

    I can't wait to read your blog! I'm soooo super excited for you, Chelsea!!!! And soooo hope you can make it to NYC before your journey.

    Also, I can't believe that you can pack for 2 years! That has to be really hard!! I don't know what I would do! lololol

    Oh and this is Ana, btw!

  2. what an adventure you are about to have :-) good luck, have fun and we'll be reading!

    -anna g. (i volunteered at animal aid this past summer and vacuumed your office a lot, lol)

  3. Wow Chels. How far you have come. I feel your excitement in my stomach - mostly in the form of nervous excitement. Will you be able to blog while in Botswana? I can't wait to read about your adventures, both good and bad.

  4. Wow, you that is quite the packing list, even for me! Will you have a mosquito net provided for you? Don't get lazy like and forget about tucking it all in. Or else you'll wake up with over 100 bites in one night!


    I must admit you make me feel disorganized and dirty when I look at your outragous backing skillz (<- note the Z because you are just chock full of awesome...) and this is coming from someone that fit ALL of their other half's clothes into 1 drawer and packed for three people for 2 weeks (one of them a baby) into one suitcase a diaper bag and a backpack...


    PS I want your backpack!

  6. Oh, good. Toilet paper. You'll be happy to have that :)

  7. @ Ana: Once I'm settled, you are SOOOO welcome to come visit! I won't know the specifics of the visitor policies until training/I finish reading the PC handbook, but I know we are able to have should SO come! And I still haven't heard anything about staging, but should sometime early next week, and I'll let you know the second I've got it figured out!!

    @ Anna: Thanks for your support, and I can't wait until you join us, either in Bots or exciting!!!!

    @ Emily: Ugh, I am still so bitter that I am such a failure and didn't get to see you before I left!!! Thank you for your support, and I do hope we can stay in touch!! LOL @ the pit in the stomach comment...glad to see some of that translates! Butterflies abound!

    @ Ashley: They do, thank goodness, but keep the advice coming if you think of any! Better to think of that stuff here than to have to pay an extra $65 for shipping stuff I could've brought in the first place!!! I can't wait until I'm back and we can exchange stories...

    @ Noelle: I don't know, your packing experiences sound pretty epic, particularly the 3 people for two weeks...I've heard of babies needing more gear than that for 2 hours!!! Those are pretty crazy mad skillz there!! LOL. And seriously: LOL!

    @ Hana: This I have heard...this I have hoping that Pepcid will reduce the need for said toilet paper, but time shall tell. LOL. And don't expect any cookies from Botswana...although you could certainly send some to me if you wanted. :oP

  8. Omg woman, you are crazy. But I'm glad that the crazy manifested itself in super organized Chelsea. Way impressed by your packing skills.

    Man, I'm going to miss you so much. I really hope you have access to the internet because I really don't know how we'd do without you.


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