I’ve packed a few suitcases in my lifetime. I started with family vacations, moved on to weekend soccer trips, then came the high school missions trips, and now in recent years, leading missions teams myself. As a kid, my mom would look at my packing and exclaim, “Are you really bringing that? And that?” to now, when I can get by traveling internationally with a carry-on size bag (or less!). But the ability to pack light isn’t for bragging rights (though it’s definitely fist-bump-worthy), it’s actually just plain helpful. Here’s a few things we often think we need on missions trips—and why we can do without them.
I think we all know we can live without our phones… or can we? You’re talking to the one who never used to travel without her laptop, let alone without a phone. Today, our phones double as cameras, laptops, entertainment devices, even mirrors. So I’m not necessarily saying that you have to leave it behind. However, some of my best memories with my team were
duringtwo weeks in a Fijian village with little power and no data coverage. In time off, we actually sat around, chatted, and ate an insane amount “breakfast crackers” with peanut butter. So it’s not about what you will lose by not having your phone—it’s about what you can gain.
No, do bring clothes. Seriously, unless you are going to a remote tribe (but even then, you need to get through the airport), bring clothes. What I mean is “extra clothes”, but this is up for interpretation. More often than not, I regret that I’ve brought too many shirts or other items of clothing. Now, as a general rule, I skim over everything that’s in my suitcase. Then, I eliminate at least two items in each category (except for underwear—you can never go wrong bringing plenty of that!). Don’t worry, you can wash your clothes as you go! And until you’ve hand-washed whole sweat-soaked outfits with powder from a packet you think says “laundry soap” (but you can’t read the language), I’ll argue you haven’t lived.