Before and after I got my call, I remember reading everything I could get my hands on about preparing to serve! I read blogs and books galore. I read advice and funny stories. I was just SO excited! A lot of the information was very helpful, and I’m grateful that there are now even more resources available to sisters getting ready to leave.
So this list of things is really just a compilation of the things I wish I’d known, the things I read from other sources that I am so grateful I did know, and the things that will help you to be prepared temporally and physically.
So here we go:
Luggage with 4 wheels—One of the best investments I made. When you are in the airport by yourself, with 3 heavy bags, you do not want to be stuck with bags that can’t stand up by themselves. Give your arms a break! You’ll thank me later 🙂
A thin, soft cozy blanket—So the blankets they give you in the MTC are scratchy, brown, and old. They are good for weight, but that’s about it. I brought one of the lightweight, soft blankets from Costco and used it almost every single day of my mission. In Australia, the walls don’t have much insulation, if any, so I even used mine when I was studying in the mornings, and also at night when we were planning. I made both my brother and sister each bring one, too.
At least two USBs—One for pictures, both from your camera and from other missionaries, and one for music. All the cars in my mission had USB ports, so that’s how we listened to music.
Waterproof bag—You might have some rainy days; or you might have some drink mishaps; or you might get mud splashed on it…anyways, you just don’t want a bag that will get stained or that will let your stuff get wet. You will want to keep that stuff forever (scriptures and Preach My Gospel especially), so do everything you can to protect them.
Calendar with pictures—This was one of my favorite things I brought! I made mine on Shutterfly, and it was so worth it. I just waited until they had a good sale, which happens pretty often. I also made calendars for both my brother and sister who are on missions right now. It is just fun to have tons of your favorite photos of your family, friends, temples, and the Savior. My companions loved looking at it, too, cause it gave them a little peek into my life!
Mints–The kind that actually make your breath smell good. Tic tacs didn’t work too well for me cause the packages would always open and spill all over in my bag, plus they’re more sweet than minty. I would suggest the white lifesaver ones! You’ll probably eat them about 5 times a day…or more.
Hand sanitizer—This was a HUGE one for me! I didn’t get sick very often on my mission, and I mainly attribute that to the fact that I literally used hand sanitizer about 50x a day. Before my mission, Bath and Body Works used to do this 5 for 5 deal. So I brought 5, and that lasted me for the majority of my mission. Bonus: They smell really good! My companions were grateful I had them, too!
Blister Bandaids– These saved me! Breaking in shoes can be a little rough, especially when your feet aren’t used to walking all day. My first transfer I literally had about 4 bandaids on each foot, even though I had good shoes.
Lotion—Again, Bath and Body Works helped me out here. Your skin will get dry, and you will stink. Having smell-good lotion was a really great way to freshen up during the middle of the day. I always kept a little bottle in my bag, and again, my companions were grateful!
Signing journal—Not sure how much they do this in other missions…and they actually almost got banned from mine, but these were journals that you just passed around to companions and other missionaries and they would write nice little notes, put in pictures, and write down contact info. Mine didn’t have good binding, so it is totally falling apart now. I would recommend spiral bound because these journals get pretty full.
Personal hygiene—Find a sister that served in your mission, and ask her if they have the basic stuff like deodorant, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products. In Australia they only had spray-on deodorant, which I wasn’t too eager to try. So I had my mom send me some of the good old American stuff for Christmas. My sister is headed to Macedonia, and apparently they don’t have normal toothpaste, so she brought an 18-month supply. If there is stuff that you are used to, just try to find out about it and then decided if you can do without it.
Dry shampoo—Okay, so you can’t really pack lots of this…just enough for the MTC since you can’t take aerosol cans on an airplane. But you will not want to wash your hair every day! And you won’t have time to! Totally worth the investment.
Sheet music—If you sing or play the piano, bring some music! I brought a little paperback book of hymn arrangements and served in a branch where I became the designated piano player. The members loved that I could play prelude music. I also used it a lot for baptisms.
Nail polish—I know this isn’t a priority, but having painted nails has just always helped me to feel more professional,especially when you are shaking hands with people all day, every day! The dress standards recommend light pink, natural shades, and those are the best because it isn’t as obvious when they chip.
Photos—Take tons of pictures the entire time you are on your mission. They are worth 1000 words and will take you back to those people and places faster than anything else. Yeah, don’t look like a tourist…become a photo ninja! I made an online scrapbook right after I got home, and it is one of my most prized possessions! Remember, your mission is a once in a lifetime experience!
Sticky notes—You will use them for everything. If you are like me, then your planner will be full of them because they just don’t give you enough room to write out all of your lesson plans. And if you write the plans on sticky notes, then if you don’t get a chance to teach that lesson that week, then you can just move the sticky note to the next week without having to rewrite the plan! Major time saver! Also, keep a sticky note at the back of your planner where you can write down key words to remind yourself of experiences that you had throughout the week. That way you won’t waste any of your precious email time trying to remember what you wanted to share with your family. It’s pretty frustrating when you walk away and remember something you had been excited to share or needing to ask, only to realize that you have to wait a whole week.
Scriptures and Preach My Gospel—I brought a mini quad and a mini PMG. So grateful I did because then I could fit them both in my bag and carry them around everywhere. Also, it was really nice to have a new set of scriptures because now they are full with all the insights I gained on my mission! And don’t be afraid to write dates next to specific scriptures when you have really powerful impressions. That way your scriptures kind of become a journal too.
Microfiber towel—Not essential, but I loved it because it dried quickly and weighed hardly anything. And if you’re anything like me, less weight for a towel means I can pack an extra shirt…or two. I know they sell them at Deseret Book, but you might be able to find them online for cheaper. Not a bad idea to bring a few of your own wash cloths, too. You never know where the ones in the flats have been…
Chapstick—Pretty self explanatory, but your lips will be dry from talking, walking,and breathing. My favorite were the round EOS chapsticks. But find your favorite and bring enough to last you the whole time.
Needle and thread—Learn how to sew a hem and fix a button. Even your nice clothes will need help by the end.
Lists—Okay, by the end I had an entire list journal. It sounds weird, but I had companions who jumped on the list bandwagon and still thank me for it. I made lists of goals, dreams, favorite things, who I want to become—everything. When you’re on a mission, there are times when you feel like it’s just you and Heavenly Father and the Savior. You will become so close to them, and through the Spirit, they will help you to see yourself more clearly than you ever have. You will find yourself and realize what is really important to you. So make lists!
Colorful sticky tabs—So I don’t know the official name for these, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about. I used a different color for each of the lessons that we taught and used them to mark specific scriptures that I wanted to be able to find easily. I didn’t do this until the last couple of transfers because I was stubborn and wanted to memorize where the verses were…but that’s impossible. Be more humble than I was, and use the tools you are given! It will make your life easier and you will be way more effective as a missionary.
Waterproof pens—Use these for anything that you want to still have in 10 years. A lot of my stuff is already fading…or has been smeared. Get black and colorful pens!
Quotes—Write down your favorite quotes from apostles and prophets. You will use them in talks, family home evening lessons, and they will just be good reminders for yourself.
Analogies and object lessons—Brush up on your analogies and object lessons. Pinterest is probably a good place to start. They will be so useful in lessons, especially with members, less-actives, and recent converts. They just help them to apply better what they are learning.
Guest Post by Abbey Krzymowski
I returned about a year ago from serving in the Australia Sydney South Mission. I am currently living in Ephraim, Utah where I am attending Snow College as an English Major. I also graduated from Paul Mitchell the School and am a licensed cosmetologist. A few of my favorite things are singing, orange chicken, my 9 younger siblings, laughing, chocolate milk, friends, rain, deep conversations, flowers, roller coasters, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. My life motto is “All Things Work Together for Our Good”, and I believe that every phase of life should be lived to the fullest!
Follow her blog at http://rainingredroses.