24 July 2011

Here at The Career Break Site, you would assume we have got the whole 'packing to go away' thing down to a fine art. Unfortunately, for us and our long-suffering travel companions, we have not.

We still pack more clothes than we ever wear. We fuss for ages over how many pairs of socks we'll need. And we invariably forget something important.

Why are we telling you all this?

So you know you're not alone. Packing for a career break is really daunting – you are away for weeks or months and you're never quite sure what you're going to need. This is especially true if you're going to a new place, or doing an activity that you've never done before. Knowing what to take (and just as importantly, what to leave behind) is really hard.

So, what can you do about it?

The first thing is to remember that what you take is really up to you. It's a personal decision. While it's important to listen to people who know more about your destination or activity than you do, it's also important to not worry too much about packing exactly the 'right' things. Because there's no such thing as perfect packing.

Having said that, other people can be really helpful. Talk to people who've been to your destination, not just about what to take, but also what to leave behind. What did they find useful and what did they end up posting home? (Yes, most first-time career breakers end up posting loads of things home!) Guidebooks and travel websites can also be really helpful, telling you about culture as well as climate. If you're doing an activity, such as a course, adventure travel tour or volunteer placement, ask people at your organisation what to take. Some even supply kit lists!

Use a list

Speaking of lists, this is another way of organising your packing while helping it from becoming overwhelming. You can write things down as you remember them, rather than trying to store an entire list of important stuff in your head. A list of what you're carrying is also very useful if you're moving from place to place a lot. The amount of stuff we've left behind on our travels could fill a whole 'nother backpack.

You can always get stuff sent

Finally, make sure there's someone at home you can rely on to send you stuff. This will help calm your fears. If you're travelling about, your things can be sent to 'Poste Restante' at the post office where you're staying, then you can go and collect them.

Packing panic is something lots of travellers experience – from the novice to the world-weary. Hopefully the above tips will make packing easier for you, and you won't end up in a backwater wondering where you're going to buy dental floss.


Do you have any packing tips to help us out? Tweet them to us, or post them on our Facebook page!