I can hardly believe a year's passed since I last wrote about what to pack. In less than a month we'll welcome a new group of trainees to Guatemala - including, probably, my replacement. Wow! It's exciting and bittersweet. It'll be great to pass along the reins to someone with fresh energy and enthusiasm, but also sad and difficult to close out projects and say goodbye.
Pretty much the all-time most popular blog post I ever wrote was about what to pack for Peace Corps in Guatemala (click here to open). That's gotta be for a reason. In that vein I thought I would link back to that original post, which offers a comprehensive list, and also offer a few quick tips:
(1) Bring your laptop! For security reasons and perhaps wanting to go minimalist, I think many invitees question whether they should bring one. If you're asking yourself, you should. You may not need it urgently, as Internet cafes abound during training, but it is so useful for work, communication, entertainment, and sanity generally. You can cut down your risks substantially by keeping your house secure and simply not traveling with it.
(2) Less is more. You really do not need to bring too much stuff, clothing or otherwise. There are really well-stocked used clothing stores (paca/ropa americana), and stationary stores/markets/supermarkets sell almost anything you could find in the US. Just bring stuff to get you through training, including business casual/semi-formal to wear to the Peace Corps office and to swearing-in.
(3) Enjoy the ritual. Entering Peace Corps is a very exciting and stressful time. I think packing gets a lot of our attention because it's a very physical part of the transition. Don't stress out about it - you're not going to the moon for two years - but if you are stressing about packing, it may be your way of processing the transition. So roll with it and give the packing some tender love and attention if you like.
But above all, remember that just as you will be changed by your experience, very little of what you pack now will probably make it back into your bags as you prepare to come home in 27 months, let alone be important to you then!