Off to Sierra Leone

6:00 AM Elizabeth Seckman 13 Comments


That's my baby-- okay, so he's a twenty-three-year-old law student-- on his way to Sierra Leone, Africa for a summer internship with Children's Defense International. Below are some of the pictures he took of his neighborhood. He says it's actually one of the better spots. He's within walking distance to the CDI and near the American Embassy.

While getting him prepared for travel outside the Western world of comfort, there were a few things we thought of that have turned out to be right on target. I did a lot of googling and leaning on bloggy friends who have visited roads less traveled and here are a few tips:

Shopping. A few things to pick up before leaving.

1. Life Straw Go water bottle, so any water source can be made drinkable. I also got water treatment pills. I'm not sure if he's used either one because there is no running water. He says they buy their water by the bag.

2. Adapters for appliances and electronics. And speaking of electronics, he made sure to purchase and download a few games and movies to is laptop banking on the internet in the country being too slow to stream. He was right.

3. Bug spray and sun block. I've read that it's best to buy the bug spray in the country for highest levels of deet, but I consulted Consumer Reports online and their best rated spray was available online.

4. Powder. Keeping body parts dry in the tropical weather cuts down on chafing in tender places. I picked up Baby Gold Bond Medicated powder and a foot powder.

5. Quick dry clothes. He'll be visiting the country during their rainy season, so our goal was to keep him dry when he arrived at work. A bonus to quick dry? In a country where he'll be washing his clothes in a bucket and line drying, these easy care clothes are a blessing.

Medical. A few things to know before leaving.

1. Immunizations. Yellow fever vaccine was required. I told him to get all the shots the university health offered and he lacked. He got a tetanus booster, meningitis shot, and the hepatitis series. Unfortunately, there was no Ebola vaccine.

2. Malaria and dysentery pills. He started taking the malaria pills a few days before he left and has the dysentery pills in case of an emergency.

3. Insurance. I contacted our insurance company and verified that our health care insurance covers him out of country.

4. Pharmacy run. From ibuprofen to cold medicine, I picked up a little of everything he might need and could have a hard time finding.

Money. It makes all worlds go round.

1. Contact your credit card companies. Alert them that you'll be traveling overseas-- especially to places where money fraud schemes seem to originate from.

2. Sierra Leone is mostly a cash economy and the dollar goes a long way, so Caleb left without much cash in his pocket with plans to either wire him money as needed or using his debit card at a bank.

Communications. How to keep in touch.

1. I called our cell phone carrier (AT&T) and enrolled Caleb's number in a program where he gets unlimited texting and pictures for $40 a month from anywhere overseas.

2. Facebook messenger and email. Skype and Face Time are also options, but his internet is so slow, we've stuck to texting.

Housing. Where to stay...

We used Airbnb for housing. I wanted him to be in a place where there are people who are familiar with the country. He chose a spot close to where he'll be working and where another intern for the CDI was staying. The hosts at Airbnb are awesome. They answered questions while we were planning the trip so he had a good idea what to expect when he got there.

Miscellaneous. Some things to check...

1. The weather. We put Freetown in our Weather Channel app and found out that it's going to be hot, humid, and rainy for the next two weeks. Add an umbrella to the packing list.

2. Research culture. Google the area and the customs. Quickly realized style isn't nearly as important as practicality.

Safety. The stuff that makes a mom cringe.

1. Ditch the fancy jewelry. In a country where poverty is rampant, wearing a lot of bling is not only unnecessary, but makes you a target for a robbery.

2. Don't carry large amounts of cash.

3. Register with your embassy in case of emergencies, such as kidnappings. I had Caleb add the US Embassy numbers to his phone contacts, both the regular and emergency line.

4. Take pictures of pertinent papers (Passport; Visa; credit cards) for verification in case they're lost or stolen. Email these pics to someone (like mom) who will keep them safe.


So far, so good for this trip overseas. Our pre-planning seems to have helped make the transition to the country smooth. He seems to be having a good time, even though he's showering in a bucket.

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Caleb's domicile.
He says there is a pub on the bottom floor.
No running water, but the pub makes it a 5 star stay. 

More shots of Freetown. It seems to have plenty of natural beauty. 

Now, if only it had the proper infrastructure, it would have resort potential. 

Thanks to our hosts LexaL   .G, and Tonja Drecker for this weekly good things check in! 
Caleb made it to Sierra Lone safely. The morning of his departure started with a bit of a scare. His plane was delayed which would have caused him to miss his connecting flight. The lady at the airline counter got his itinerary squared away and the rest of his travel was uneventful. He's settled into his quarters and says the people are great. No running water in the place so he has to take bucket baths, but like he said-- it's like camping without the tent.
The rest of us are headed to the beach today. We will have working showers.


  1. Whew! Glad he made it there safely and all is well. He's doing good work and he's having an adventure.

    Now, you just hang in there and try not to worry too much. :)

  2. My heart just said, "wow" in awe of you and your family. I'll send lots of great vibes his way and I bet when he returns, his whole world will be brighter.

  3. Great that he made it safe and sound. Braver than me, my OCD cringes at taking a bucket shower lol Where does one go? An outhouse? Bucket? Blah. Hopefully the buckets don't get mixed up if so. Sure an adventure though.

  4. Glad he made it over there safely. You're very wise to research as much as possible beforehand, so you all know what to expect from his stay. It sounds like he'll have an amazing time, learn a lot, and have something fantastic to add to his CV.

  5. Oh WOW! I bet he'll have the time of his life and make memories to cherish forever!
    Suzy xx

  6. Awesome that he made it safe. And he's making good memories.

  7. A beer for the shower bucket. That's hardcore.

    We're camping nuts, so we have a lot of this. The water filtration pack. The bug spray. Lack of bling. It comes with the territory. It's awesome to see how prepared you were for him, though. Sierra Leone sounds like the kind of place you don't want to just get dropped off at without any prior preparation.

  8. What amazing tips! I'd never have thought of half of those. I'm glad Caleb made it there safely, is settled in, and doesn't mind roughing it. Have a great week!

  9. You can't get a better education than through travel. Your tips are right on and so helpful for those on their way to a new and strange land. Here's to your "baby" having a wonderful experience and returning with stories he can share with you.

  10. Congrats to Caleb on the internship! Quick Dry clothes are the most impressive add (to me). I might never have thought of it but so convenient!

  11. Goodluck and best wishes to this brave heart.


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