If you don’t know by now i’m moving to Northern Uganda in exactly 21 days, which means i’m in full on prep mode over here. There is so much to do to prepare to move from America to East Africa, and one part of that preparation is what to pack. I’ll be there for a minimum of a year and will be having people visit me at a few different points, so they will be able to restock certain things for me. Just keep those dates in mind when reading this to give context to how i’m packing.
Just a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert on what to pack to move internationally, but I travel very often and have been to Uganda twice (once for almost three months), so I have some good background on what to pack (at least as an expat moving to East Africa)! I also have been so blessed by the former interns at my future office who put together some tips for us on what to pack for the specific area i’ll be in, which I am so grateful for. These along with friends that have lived there for years have really guided me in how to pack and prepare.
*I will update this as I continue to pack and i’ll add photos of what it ends up looking like! I can do a post in the future on what i’m glad I brought and what I could’ve done without or would change next time*
How to Pack for an International Move
- I am only bringing around three to four weeks worth of clothing. Yes I will be there a year, but clothes will obviously be washed and there are markets to get second hand clothing.
- I’ve been told by a few people to have five go to work outfits that I know I like and work to wear week after week. Make sure the pieces go together so you can mix and match those five staple outfits to create more outfits without needing more clothes.
- Bring western pieces of clothing to remind you of home and to make you feel more like yourself. You can wear shorts and that type of clothing around other expats. Also you can wear your your typical swim suits at the pool. Be mindful of the culture your in, but if your home and your lounge shorts make you feel comfortable and at home, bring them! These are also good to bring if you travel to regions where more typically western clothing is acceptable.
- Ugandan specific: Know that the country is hard on clothing. At least in my case things will be washed by hand and hung dry, clothes wear quicker, stretch easier, and get stained from the dirt like nobodies business, so if you have something super nice, leave it in the states.
- Don’t overpack clothes, once your there, there will be other things you really wished you brought and had the space and weight for – like chocolate!
Some people might not want to bring much “decor” stuff, but for me the atmosphere i’m in is a big deal! I need my new space in my Ugandan home to feel like home to me. These are the things that I would much rather take up the space and weight. Here are some tips to pack your home items
- Black buckets with yellow lids are life savers. I’ll pack them and use 50-70% of the weight on heavier items and then fill the rest of the space in the bucket with lighter items that can be compressed (think heavy candles + a comforter compressed). These bins weigh much less than a suitcase (under a pound) and keep your more fragile items from breaking!
- Space bags! Comforters, pillows, blankets, thicker jackets, will all take up so much less space if you use a space bag or one of those bags that compresses the air out. That way the weight is the same but you can fit so much more in the space you have. This way you don’t have to sacrifice the things that make you feel like home.
- Outlets/Extension cords! I’ll be bringing extension cords that can plug into African outlets and voltage but that allow for US devices to plug into them without an adapter. Beside that i’ll also bring single adapters and converters! I try to bring appliances that won’t need to voltage to be converted, but thats not always possible.
- One thing I didn’t think to bring at all, but it was recommended by one of the former girls in the office was to bring solar powered lights, and this is probably one of the things i’m happiest i’m bringing. The area where i’m moving frequently loses power so this way when there is no power I won’t just be living in a completely dark room, plus my room here in the states is covered in Christmas lights, so it’s another taste of home!
- Print out pictures from home to put on the walls. I have photos everywhere in my room because I love being surrounded by those sweet memories and those I love. I’m not bringing frames because of weight, just some good tape/adhesive to hang them.
- A diffuser! Essential oils are a huge part of my life and since i’ll be in my own room a diffuser is a must for me. Mine runs all day long now, and I know it will help my transition to have one with me.
- Bedding is something that I am bringing because I feel like it sets the tone for the room to make it feel homey. I love bedding and to me it can make or break a room. I had very specific idea of what I wanted my bedding for Uganda to look like- a dark rust orange linen. Linen is lightweight for the hot climate and the dirt in Uganda that gets everywhere is a deep rich orange, so to minimize staining and the bedding looking dirty, if I could find a pretty orange then that was my goal. Turns out that is super hard to find. I saw on Mary Kate from The Little Duck Wife‘s instagram what looked like orange linen bedding (after over two months of searching myself) and she told me where she got hers, and I finally found exactly what I was looking for! I linked it above in case anyone is wanting this very specific look also.
- I am bringing my Gathre Mat, it isn’t needed, but it’s light weight and cute and will make it much easier to sit outside. I have the Midi size but the pattern I have isn’t online anymore. I’ve loved using it in the states and am sure i’ll love using it in Uganda
- Shower/Bath supplies are something that I am bringing, this will include shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, etc,. Because of weight this category can be a little bit trickier. I am brining a few bottles of concentrated shampoo that I can actually add water to and make last longer. Same with body wash. You can get personal care products in country but they might be full of chemicals or if you have sensitive skin like me having products you know work with your skin is worth the weight. And again, these are the little luxuries that make you feel at home and make the transition even a little bit smoother so i’m willing to use the space up with them
- Makeup, I wear it here and i’ll wear it there. I don’t wear much and keep it pretty simple.I am doubling what I normally have and bringing that! I wear this tinted oil or this foundation, sunscreen, concealer, bronzer, blush (sometimes) in the color “captivating”, mascara, and then a tinted lip balm (color cherry) typically.
- Deodorant, i’m bringing enough for the whole year instead of enough for just until my first visitor gets there because a little goes a long way and it’s small and light
- I’m keeping my whole skin care routine (which is pretty simple) because of some health issues i’ve had problems with acne for the last year and have gotten to a good place and don’t want to change that. Thankfully with skin care as well a little goes a long way. Im only packing one bottle of each product (makeup remover, face wash, serum, face oil, and moisturizer)
- Body lotion, my skin drys super easily. I’m going to bring a body butter because a little goes a long way (see a pattern?) and i’m only looking to bring one tub/bottle with me
- I’ll bring two Loofah/Sponge’s I use, they’re small and compact and make a shower so much better
- I have a bottle of leave in conditioner i’m bringing. I like using this but if i’m gonna sacrifice something it’ll be this. If I can bring it i’m only bringing one and rationing it until my first visitors can bring me some
- Don’t forget feminine care-in Uganda you can’t buy tampons (in my experience and from what everyone has told me) so if that is what you prefer using you either need to bring a supply of tampons or a menstrual cup. In Uganda you can still buy pads although you might not know the brand so if you’re particular keep that in mind!
- If you use any hair care tools like a straightener or curling iron, i’d bring cheap versions of those. I found some on amazon that don’t need electrical conversion, just an adapter for the outlets so I don’t have to worry about it blowing up on me (like my curling iron did last time…)
- The same little things you need at home you’ll need when you’re away-things such as bobby pins, hair ties, q-tips, elastics, clips, nail file, floss, lip balm, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc,.
- Don’t forget your adapters and converters for the electrical outlets. I also am bringing some extension cords/extra outlets that plug in to Uganda outlets but then have the slots for US outlets (like this). I don’t actually know what it is called but my friends in Uganda last time had them and it was so convenient
- So i’m not sure how it is in other countries, but over the counter pain medication is very hard to come by in Uganda (in my experience) so i’m bringing Tylenol, Advil, NyQuil, DayQuil, Pepto Bismol (tabs not liquid), etc,.
- I am on a big vitamin regime from my doctor and have picked up four months worth of all the vitamins I take. This will take a lot of room in my luggage, but these are so crucial for me to have
- If you take prescription medication don’t forget to figure this out before hand with your doctor (and) insurance
- I use essential oils for everything and am bringing all of the ones I use most and know i’ll need throughout the year. These include: Digize, Thieves, Citrus Fresh, Valor, Peace and Calming (II), Lavender, Cedarwood, Peppermint, and more! To check out how much I love these oils or to get some for yourself check the tab at the top of my website
- One thing I learned last year in Uganda was to bring blank USB sticks. In a lot of the towns and for sure the capitol there are stores where you buy movies and TV shows and they get downloaded onto the USB’s or if you find a print shop you can use these to bring the photos there to be printed
- Bring extra chargers! These are typically hard to find and not as good of quality as you’re used to back in the states. I break phone chargers and computer chargers like crazy so i’m bringing a surplus
- Headphones/earbuds – and an extra pair or two. Same as the chargers, these are hard to find in country and easy to break so I like to bring a nice pair and a couple of cheap pairs in case something breaks
- I’m not sure if i’m bringing this or not, but a portable projector (like this one) Some people already have projectors in country to watch tv/movies but I also know of people who bring these and then can travel with them as well
- A camera! I like to bring one for traveling and taking photos, i’m not the best but I love the memories
- My cellphone and computer will go with me. Some people bring cheaper flip phones, but in my experience i’ve felt fine with my own phone. If you’re bringing a US phone make sure it’s unlocked for international use/an in country sim card
- I love to read and while I will be bringing a few physical books, because those are my favorite, I am also bringing a Kindle because with weight there is no way i’ll be able to bring as many books as I want!
- If you don’t have a computer with a CD slot bring an external CD player to plug into your computer to watch movies as well
- Chocolate!!! It is particularly hard to find chocolate in Uganda-chocolate chips, chocolate bars, chocolate candy, basically anything chocolate. I’ll definitely be bringing some and rationing it throughout the year. Things like this are also perfect to put into care packages to send to expat friends you know living abroad
- If you are someone who likes physical bible study books, these are worth the weight to bring. I stocked up at a LifeWay store that was going out of business and have a stack of these to bring with me. I am bringing this, this, this, this, this, this, and this one. I might not bring all of these because i’m currently working through two right now!
- A reusable water bottle is a great thing to have. You won’t be drinking the tap water but I used mine all the time last year. Sometimes you’ll drink bottled water, or you’ll drink bottled water out of a big dispenser. Having a reusable bottle is so much nicer because you’re not constantly reusing your old disposable plastic bottles. I personally like Hydroflasks
- This is going to sound funny, but if you have any particular pens, highlighters, markers, etc., that you like bring those (especially for bible study and journaling)
- Bring notebooks for journaling if you’re someone that does, and if you’re not think about starting because it’s amazing to look back on your time and read how you experienced it
- Last year when I was there we all kept any Ziploc plastic bags we had and reused them throughout the months because we couldn’t get plastic baggies in country. Instead i’d bring reusable baggies like the Stasher Bags
- If you’re someone that loves Candles at home I would budget the weight for them and bring one or two
- Bring a weekender bag or small luggage for any traveling or weekend trips you do. I plan on traveling and visiting my new home country and continent while i’m there! I would just incorporate this into how I travel to Uganda, whether I make my plane carry on this bag or if I pack it another way, that way you’re not taking up any extra space
I am sure I am forgetting a lot, but like I said i’ll update this as packing continues. It is getting extremely real now but it still feels unreal. It’s a really hard feeling to explain but I am so grateful to have this experience and to everyone who has supported me financially or prayerfully during this time! I’ll see you in three weeks Uganda! I hope this helped somebody (: