9 Peace Corps Essentials to Take on Your Adventure

When I was in Peace Corps, I was there about 2 months before I realized, I didn’t have the Peace Corps essentials and the necessary items I knew I would miss while I was away. And I’m not talking like keepsakes, and things that remind you of home, those are important though. I mean food items and other simple pleasures you just can’t live without.

I didn’t realize how much I would miss my favorite foods until I no longer lived in my home. When I planned to go back to China to start a new job, I first spent a two-month vacation at home stocking up on things that I wish I had when I was living in China the first go around.

Now I can’t speak for other countries of service, but I can give you a basic run down of things you could and should consider bringing with you so you don’t have to wait a month or so for your family to send it to you. Below is the 9 Essentials to Take on Your Peace Corps Adventure.

Taco Seasoning.

The first of my Peace Corps essentials! Probably my most missed item. For some reason, 80% of our group in China was addicted to Mexican food and literally looked for any opportunity to eat it, especially whenever we would meet for a group training in Chengdu, China – they have a Peter’s Tex Mex there. When I was heading back to China, I took a giant container of taco seasoning with me. I also took a large container of gravy mix with me too! Super helpful for Thanksgiving events.

Instant Potatoes.

Now, I could’ve easily made my own mashed potatoes in China, but for some places where it isn’t convenient to make mashed potatoes. Believe me, you never know how much you miss mashed potatoes until you don’t have them anymore.

Basic Spices.

Luckily, because China was so urban, there were big markets like Metro, which is like a Sam’s club, that had tons of food imported from America. But if you love to cook and make savory dishes with Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, and whatnot, stock up on those spices now. Trust me, you’ll be glad you made room in your suitcase for them. Himalayan sea salts and black pepper were also important items I packed for the second time around.


I found the biggest bottle they had, wrapped that sucker up, and packed it in my bag. I love sriracha and I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had it in the morning to put on my eggs or for special occasions when I got to make a good steak for myself. It’s funny how a simple dab of sriracha can improve your day. This may very well be one of the most important Peace Corps essentials.


There was a point in my time overseas that I was having trouble sleeping, and being that I am holistic, I really didn’t want to visit the Peace Corps Medical Office (PCMO) and have them prescribe me with sleeping pills. I also asked about Chinese medicine, but I didn’t really want to go there either. Then I remembered, Chamomile is great for helping you sleep at night. Sadly, even in the concrete jungle of Chongqing City, I couldn’t find a bag of Chamomile tea anywhere. This goes for coffee as well. If you have a favorite coffee you can’t live without, bring it!


This is a given, but it warrants reminding. I decided to bring some all-natural deodorant because I was trying to be all nice to my body. What I didn’t think about was how hot and humid it would be where I lived, I was sweating profusely each day and the all-natural deodorant just wasn’t cutting it. Stock of kids, you will never regret it.
Razors. Some places just don’t have razors. And if you are cool with not shaving anything for two years straight, hey, all the power to ya! But for those who want to shave that unwanted hair away for wedding occasions or whatever, pack up a really good razor and some backups.

Tide Togo Pens.

Chongqing thrives on the spiciest and the oiliest foods I have ever tasted in my life. I was constantly soiling the front of my shirt with red oil when slurping up delicious bowls of noodles. Which is why this Peace Corps essential is another important one. It was pretty embarrassing going into a training conference wearing a shirt with oil spots on it. Thus, we introduce the Tide Togo Pen. Take a few of them with ya. And hey, if you never use them, gift them to the next group of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) after you!

Incense and Sage.

I am a big fan of creating a meditative space for myself. Peace Corps can be a stressful gig, so it is important to create that safe space for yourself for days when you need it most. The first go around, I didn’t bring and sage or incense. Every single day I wished I had had incense and sage. They’re just good for clearing out negative energies and making you feel a sense of comfort wherever you are in the world.

If you’ve found this article, you are most likely in the planning stage of your Peace Corps adventure. You’re probably looking for all the information you can to prepare. For some, this is an exciting time, and for others, this is a scary time. My dad made me pack a sleeping bag that I used just once during my two years. It’s better to over prepare than to under prepare. I know it’s a stretch but whatever you consider Peace Corps essentials, bring them, because they will help.

Everyone has different backgrounds, cultures, cravings, cooking habits, and whatnot, so maybe Mexican food or gravy mix isn’t your guilty pleasure. My best advice to you is to sit down and make a list of your favorite non-perishable food items or things you just can’t live without. Whether it is an organic toothpaste, dental floss, instant refried beans, or whatever, think about what you wish you could have with you.

Good luck with your Peace Corps adventure and stay tuned for more Peace Corps Advice with my Peace Corps guide book, “It Depends.”