Greetings, let’s dive into the hilariously chaotic world of preparing to travel abroad to Ghana. As someone who’s a pro at under-packing (read: I’m a carry-on-only type of gal!), gearing up for a three-week adventure feels like attempting to fit an elephant into a teacup. But fear not, my friends, for where there’s a will (and a comically large suitcase), there’s a way!

First, it’s all about documentation!  

  • Ensure your passport is up to date with at least six months left before it expires. Renewing it is relatively easy; you can do the majority online and mail it off. I paid for expedited service and tracking to ensure I had it back in ample time.
  • Obtaining your visa is a lengthy process that requires extensive information from your instructor or host. Many applications are available online. Give yourself time to gather all the information, but also remember that a tourist visa is only good for 90 days, so do not order it too early. This is another document that I paid to have tracking information on to ease my own anxiety.
  • Lastly, let’s remember to check for any required vaccinations (my least favorite part of this process). I found that some specific doctors and clinics specialize in travel vaccines, which was extremely helpful. These clinics are very knowledgeable and know the required vaccines for travel, the current climate, and what vaccines or medications are recommended.   

Let’s discuss physical, mental, and emotional preparation. Physically, I’m playing a real-life game of Tetris with my suitcase, trying to cram in everything from my malaria meds, Exedrine, and vitamins to enough bug spray to repel an invasion of mosquitoes. I have discovered the true joy of packing cubes and a meticulous packing list… There will absolutely be NO popping into Target or Walmart on this trip. Mentally and emotionally, I’m oscillating between sheer excitement and mild panic, with occasional bouts of “What on earth have I gotten myself into?!” Emotionally, I have never been away from my children for this long, and my mama’s heart worries about them and how they will handle the separation.

Now, the actual packing. Picture this: I’m staring at a mountain of clothes, gadgets, and creature comforts, desperately trying to decide what makes the cut for my limited luggage space. I only get 50lbs, so do I need three pairs of shoes? Absolutely. Will I regret not bringing that extra packet of my favorite snacks? Most likely. But hey, at least I’ll be prepared for any unexpected hunger pangs or impromptu snack attacks, right? My packing list was one of the first things I did based on the agenda and conversations with our faculty. We can send out or do our own laundry in the country, which makes it easier, but I have a week’s worth of clothes that are appropriate for the location in practicality and modesty. I also have over-the-counter medications (for everything from a headache to gastrointestinal trouble), vitamins, preventive antibiotics, a small first aid kit, toiletries (enough to last a month), and snacks. I will also have my carry-on with a pair of clothes, toiletries, and snacks just in case; it’s always better to be prepared. Plus, this space will be used to carry home any mementos or gifts for my family.

As for the intangible items, let’s say my suitcase may be filled to the brim with physical stuff, but the intangibles truly weigh heavy on my mind. From the excitement of immersing myself in a new culture to the nerves of navigating unfamiliar streets and facilities in Ghana, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that I’m trying my best to embrace with open arms (and a well-packed carry-on).

And there you have it – the grand finale of my packing saga! Laptops and chargers, backpacks, and notebooks, oh my! Balancing textbooks with bug spray and sunscreen might sound like a logistical nightmare, but if I can pull off this juggling act, I’m pretty sure I can conquer just about anything that comes my way in Ghana. So here’s to embracing the chaos and rolling with the punches as I pack my way to an unforgettable month!