Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Travel Must-Haves #1: Mission Projects

I have already mentioned in my first post my love of my Aerosole heels and long, flowy skirts for travel, but there are several other items that are musts on my packing list.  This post is dedicated to the items I take when my family does mission work with a faith-based organization called Let's Start Talking.

Every other year we raise funds so that we can spend six weeks in a foreign country helping people improve their English conversation skills.  We use the Book of Luke from the Bible as our workbook, and we each have about fifteen students (actually, we refer to them as readers) who come for one-on-one practice several times a week.  We love sharing our faith and meeting new friends while seeing the world.

And while I can give up many things for the sake of Christ, what follows is my list of deal breakers.

1). My Let's Start Talking Luke book

I have been doing LST missions since 1996.  There are a lot of things written in the margins of my book that would be difficult to replace.  Sometimes I jot down my readers' interesting comments or questions.  Sometimes I draw pictures of hard-to-describe words such as "wheat".  Sometimes I list related vocabulary words to discuss.  But the most valuable parts of my book are the many questions I've written over the years.  These are open-ended and designed to lead to good conversation with my readers.  I could function without it, but I'd be super bummed to have to start from scratch.

                                                     Pages from my tattered Luke book

2).  My new zippy wallet made many my neighbor, Kirsten, over at LoveSpunStudios

This wallet is awesome!  It is custom made just for me, and it has 6 zippered compartments.  I am our team's accountant, so I need to keep track of my own personal spending money as well as our team's mission money.  Sometimes when we do LST we end up using multiple currencies.  For example, several times we've had  to fly through Japan to get to Thailand.  I've had to juggle team US dollars, team Japanese Yen, team Thai Baht, personal US dollars, personal Japanese Yen, and personal Thai Baht all on the same project.  It can get confusing, but I also don't want to haul two separate wallets all over the planet.

My friend Kirsten solved all my problems!  Now I have separate pockets for three different team currencies and three different personal currencies all in one adorable wallet!  And it has a place for my passport (you can't change money without showing that) and slots for the team receipts I keep for accounting.

Interested in one of your own?  The little labels can be customized.  Just click to get yours from Etsy!


3).  My NookColor ereader

Before I got my ereader, I had to take 12-15 books in my suitcase for a mission project.  We usually have 5-7 readers per day, but we're still left with some down time during the project.  During that time, I like to read.  But books are heavy, and I'm rarely willing to leave them behind when I've finished them (a practice Josh has adopted to lighten his suitcases on the way home).  So my ereader is priceless for the luggage space and weight it saves.  I still take some actual books, but far fewer than I used to.
                                    This year's suitcase of books is far less full thanks to my NookColor!
                                   Knox reads his Nook Simple Touch in the hammock in our room in Brazil.

4). My black cashmere wrap

This item is so versatile that it earns a coveted spot in my carry on bag.  It is perfect for using as a lightweight but luxurious blanket on the plane or as a wrap over a dress on a cool evening out.  It can be a scarf or even a pillow in a pinch.  Before I scored my cashmere version deeply discounted from Banana Republic, I used a similar one made of a polyester blend.  

5).  Taco seasoning packets

We cook most meals for ourselves on mission projects (except in Thailand where it's cheaper - and yummier - to just eat out every meal), so it's helpful to bring some ingredients from home.  You may be surprised to learn that most of the rest of the world has not yet discovered the deliciousness of Mexican food.  That means no salsa, no tacos, and no guacamole unless we bring the spices to make it ourselves.  Since our family can't go six weeks without some south-of-the-border goodness, we bring some Ortega along for the trip.  We have bought avocados, cilantro, and limes in almost every country we've lived, but yellow cheese and sour cream are harder to find.  Sadly, these two items are not luggage-friendly, so white cheese and plain yogurt usually have to stand in.

6). A short-sleeved summer robe

When I first wore this robe on an LST project, my fashion-forward thirteen-year-old asked with guileless sincerity, "Mom, isn't that what people in nursing homes wear?"  
I had to admit that she was right.  But this one meets my mission project needs, so it's staying on the list.  On LST projects, we almost always live with other people.  Sometimes it is a family from the local church; sometimes it's college students who are on our team.  Living in close quarters with people who aren't in your immediate family raises some privacy issues, of course, so I feel more comfortable going to and from the shared shower in a robe.  At home, I have a long-sleeved cashmere robe that my in-laws spoiled me with one Christmas.  But it's simply too hot for that one in the countries where LST tends to send us.  And I like the snaps on the "nursing-home" one because it's less likely to come untied and fall open when I'm passing a teammate in the hallway.  I get the heeby-jeebies just thinking about how scarred-for-life that poor teammate would be if that scene ever played itself out.  Ew.

7).  A vegetable peeler

I have no idea why the rest of the world (even the Italians!) cannot seem to produce a decent vegetable peeler, but I have had zero luck finding one in most places.  So now I just buy one and take it with me.  My kids eat lots of raw carrots and cucumbers, so this item is a must for us.  (NOTE:  In fairness, I did once buy a fantastic vegetable peeler in Switzerland, but I nearly had to take out a second mortgage on our house to pay for it.  I'd rather not have to do that again.)

There you have it - my deal breakers!  Granted, there are many other items we take with us each time such as a new box of Crayola markers, Sharpies, straight pins, scissors, dependable but expendable paring and chef's knives, church clothes, Luke workbooks for our readers, decorations for the parties we throw for our readers, etc.  But since we split these items up among the whole team, I decided that they don't really count.

Look for my upcoming post on my general travel must-haves.  And in the meantime tell me your travel necessities below!


  1. After using compression sleeves on our 17+ hour flights to and from Africa, I will never again take a flight over three hours without them. My knees thanked me over and over again. I always have Sleepy Time Tea and Badger Balm with me, especially if the time change is over 7 hours. And a Schick Intuition razor, especially if I'm sharing a shower with others and have to remove my things from the shower after I'm done.

    1. Courtney, what is Badger Balm? And do you have bad knees from softball or are the compression sleeves good for everyone? Do tell!

    2. Badger Balm is a little tin of essential oils that I like to use to help sleep. I rub it on my temples and under my nose and throat. It's basically just homeopathic voodoo, but I'm convinced it helps. (My pharmacist is somewhere rolling his eyes ;) ) Cracker Barrel used to have it, not sure if they still do or not. http://www.badgerbalm.com/p-393-sleep-balm-natural-sleep.aspx

      I bought the compression sleeves when I started running three years ago as they are supposed to aid in recovery of shin splints (IMO, they do). I do have bad knees from softball and I've always had a hard time on longer flights with my knees aching and my feet swelling up, so I decided to give them a whirl and see if they helped. Craig and I both wore them to and from SA and we both felt they worked really well in keeping our feet from swelling and our knees aching. We buy the Zensah compression sleeves that only cover your calves instead of wearing an entire compression sock. They also come in fun colors, but given the robe, perhaps you can get them in white or nude to complete your nursing home chic look ;)

    3. Informative and witty. Which, of course, is my very favorite.

  2. Good ideas - love the wallet! Praying for you and your readers.

    1. Thanks, Christi! We are so grateful for your love and prayers!