Volunteer’s suitcase – what should be packed in ?

View from Cabo Girão, photo by A.Szerejko

Ever since I can remember packing a suitcase has been always a huge challenge for me. It’s usually the worst part of preparing to any journey in my life and it scares me off. I keep asking myself the same questions each time: „Will I need it?”, „Would it be enough?”, „Is it worth to take?”, „What if I can’t buy it in a place where I go?”.  I always try to check the Internet carefully before my travels  to find out any information regarding weather conditions, accomodation or surroundings. Surely, you can’t be prepared for everything that’s going to happen but with every single travel you learn a lot and get more confident what’s necessary to take with you. When I decided that I want to start the long-term volunteering program on Madeira Island, I only knew where the Island is located. I didn’t know anything about its climate, people or cuisine. And believe me or not but packing your  suitcase for 6 months  it’s really not the easiest thing.  So when I got the task to write some article on a blog connected with the Island or our Teatro Metaphora association, my first thought was to create the list of necessary things that volunteer should pack before coming here. Of course, people are different and it’s impossible to make such flexible list that suits everyone but maybe some future volunteers could benefit even partly from that. So if you are also scared of packing your suitcase before coming to this wonderful Island, welcome on board and follow my tips!

  1. Sun protection

So maybe some of you heard that Madeira Island is usually called as the Island of Eternal Spring, what means that most of your stay you’ll be accompanied by the sun. And during summer time the sun can be very strong and harmful for you. That’s why take your favourite head protection like hat, cap or headscarf ( which is the best for me as you can see on pics). Don’t forget about sunglasses and sunscreen – based on my experience I really recommend to buy the one with SPF of 50, you won’t regret it!

2. Swimming accessories

Imagine swimming every day in crystal and warm ocean water even during the night – yes, that’s daily life here. So surely pack your swimming suit and towel. What I also advise, take some water shoes. Beaches here are mostly rocky ones and rocks in the water can be sometimes slippery or sharp. If you are not used to rocky beaches, believe me that entering the water without nothing on your feet it’s not the most pleasant thing.

3. Warm & waterproof clothes

I know that previously I mentioned about swimming suits and sunscreen but you should be also prepared for some colder temperatures, especially if you are a big fan of trekking in the mountains. Yes, there are wonderful mountains here, where you can also camp in a tent, but the nights there can be quite chilly. What you will need is some warm sweatshirt, long pants, socks and good shoes for trekking –it’d be better to have some waterproof ones, just in case. I was welcomed by the rain on arrival to Madeira Island. It’s not raining a lot here but pack some rain coat or waterproof jacket, as well.

Trail to Pico Ruivo

4. Reausable water bottle

If you’re concerned about the environment like me, I have a good news for you. Tap water here is safe to drink, so you don’t have to spend money on water and contribute to increasing of plastic waste. Of course, if you have very sensitive stomach, maybe it’d be better for you to buy bottled water.

5. Face masks and hand sanitizer

Because of the Covid-19 situation, it’s obligatory here to wear a face mask in public spaces. So take some masks with you, hand sanitizer would be also a good idea.

6. Powerbank

If you don’t have it yet, maybe it’s high time to buy one. It’s very useful especially during trekking trips. We use our mobiles quite often here – mainly to take pictures because of many wonderful and beautiful views. So it’s better to have possibility of charging your devices whenever you need.

7. Lunch box

I cook a lot here and I take food in my lunch box very often when I go to Teatro Metaphora for my shift, to the beach or trekking trips. I truly recommend to not avoid eating out and try delicious Madeiran cuisine, but maybe not everyday, because it’d cost you quite a lot of money.

8. Medical kit

I am veterinarian and thanks to my experience I realise that we are not unbreakable and sometimes health problems can happen to all of us. So create some basic medical kit, where you can put some cream for sunburn, painkillers, patches or antiseptic spray for wounds. Please don’t forget to pack medicines that you take daily!

Levada do Norte trail

Aleksandra Szerejko
Volunteer at Teatro Metaphora – Associação de Amigos das Artes
European Solidarity Corps  
To know more: https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en

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