Pulling water from this well every time I wanted to bathe made me much less likely to want to spend two buckets on washing my hair. Image by Samantha Marangell.

While in Moldova with the U.S. Peace Corps, I not only learned how to wash clothes by hand, but I grew increasingly grateful for baby wipes, Ziploc bags, and my ukulele. Family members who sent a kilo of Dunkin’ Donuts pre-ground coffee were godsends. I was also highly appreciative of my sketch pads, French press, and camping backpack.

However, now that I’ve had some time to reflect and to see more of the world, there are a few select things that I now realize would have made my service a lot more comfortable.

Here are the top three practical things that I wish I had in Peace Corps service:

3. A portable sleeping bag

I actually can’t believe I didn’t invest in one of these at the time. Other Volunteers had sleeping bags that condensed into easily portable sources of sleeping comfort that became very handy during summer campfires and last-minute hostel stays.

Two of us not-so-secretly borrowed another Volunteer’s sleeping bag on one summertime sleeping-outside-sleepover. He paid us back by throwing our clothes up a tree while we were sleeping.

I’ve purchased one here in the Czech Republic that I took to Oktoberfest and have unnecessarily brought it on many an overnight simply because it’s so small. It was an excellent purchase!

I-wish-I-hadWalking across the small country of Moldova through gigantic sunflower fields would’ve been more enjoyable without the need for prescription sunglasses! Image by Samantha Marangell.

2. Laser Eye Surgery


Though this one isn’t really a bring-able item, it’s been one of my best investments next to graduate school and high-quality bras.

After spending two consecutive summers on salt water, I bit the bullet and went under the knife. It’s been liberating! I now wish I had had the operation before going to Moldova. My dusty little village tore apart my contacts (so I rarely wore them), but glasses steam up in the winter and make training for a marathon a game of pushing up my glasses every other step.

1. Dry Shampoo


This item is #1 because it’s a load more economically practical than laser eye surgery and because I use it so ridiculously frequently now that I can’t imagine life without it!

Because I had to pull water from the well and heat it over the stove every time I wanted to bathe, I was keenly aware that washing your body requires very little water, but washing your hair requires significantly more. So one often skips hair washing for longer than is desirable in favor of a bath that takes less than two hours’ effort. A simple spray of dry shampoo would have made each hair wash last much longer without requiring the wasting of more precious resources (water, gas, and patience).

I-wish-I-hadI actually didn’t mind that this was my toilet. There were other items besides indoor plumbing that would’ve made Peace Corps service more comfortable! Image by Samantha Marangell.

Granted, most people don’t go into Peace Corps service because they expect it to be comfortable, but why make it difficult? Some little comforts soon becomes those cliche “smaller things in life” that we are told to be grateful for — like vision!

Besides perhaps self-cleaning socks and anti-Giardia pills, is there anything else I should have included in my top three?