DIY “Going Away” Box

We are coming off a week of blogging neglect and I apologize… computer issues, mixed with traveling to far off places with no internet connection is a recipe for a week of no posts. But not to worry, we have so many things lined up for the next couple of weeks that are sure to make up for the MIA-ness. As this past weekend was a time of travel for most (we enjoyed an awesome mini-vacation to our beloved Chesapeake Bay and a day trip to Hershey Park), I decided to dedicate the rest of this week’s post that very notion… travel and adventure. Except this time, I’m not taking you along with me to the bay… we’re going to India baby! Let’s rock and roll…

This week is a special week because it marks the one year anniversary of a really cool adventure I had the privilege of being a part of. About a year ago, I packed two weeks worth of clothes and… wait, hold on. Let’s back up a bit…

In January of 2013, this sweet girl (who I got to know through a college internship) made a bold move and spent a semester abroad in Kodaikanal, India… oh, and did I mention: she was in 10th grade? Meet Jess:jess Yeah, she’s every bit as awesome as she looks… and brave too (I never would have had the courage to study abroad in HS)! Anywho, Mitch and I are close with Jess and her family and I knew Jess was excited, but a bit nervous to leave home for a semester (she was there from January-May) because it would mean leaving her family, school, friends, and youth group behind. Sooooooo, I took it upon myself to make her a little something to take with her. A “little piece of home”, if you will.

Meet the going away box:

box 3

That picture was taken right after I gave it to her- she was leaving for her 20 week adventure the very next morning! I wanted to share this project because it’s something you can easily do for someone else… have a friend or family member that is taking a big trip? Moving away? Trying something new? Could just use a pick-me-up? This may be the project for you… Here is the simple “how-to”:

Step 1: Tell people!!! (well, tell everyone except the person you are gifting it to) I sent out emails, texts, FB messages, etc. to as many people as I could think of that knew Jess, had been a special person in her life, or mentored her in some way. I asked them to send me a letter for her to open sometime during her stay in India- and the feedback was incredible. I got letters in the mail, digital copies which I then printed, original artwork from kids in her neighborhood… you name it, I received it.going away boxThe letter in the top left (“open me on the plane”) was from me and had a send-off message, along with instructions on what the box was and how it worked. There was an element of suspense to all of this because she wasn’t allowed to open the box until she read the letter and wasn’t allowed to read the letter until the plane ride and so on and so forth… cruel, I know.

Step 2: Sort It. The method for sorting is up to you, depending on the situation you are working with. I decided to divide all of the letters into 20 groups- one for every week that she would be there. The idea was that each week she would have 3-4 new letters to open.going away box

To keep things interesting, I capitalized on some “stand out” weeks too… above, you can see that Week Nine was “first week of March!” and Week 11 fell on her “half birthday week”. Valentine’s Day even made it into the mix…going away box

Step 3: Gather supplies. Along with all of the letters from her well-wishers, I raided Michael’s and A.C.Moore for other goodies to pack the box with. The box itself came from A.C.Moore (it’s actually a photo box) and was big enough to hold all of its contents, but not too large that she could not travel with it. The box came with a design, but I added a personal spin to the top with some scrapbook paper and painted wooden letters:going away boxgoing away boxbaby showers and boxes 052Other fun trinkets that made their way into the mix were: candy, a watch, a water bottle (that acted as the “package” to hold that week’s letters), a few scraps of material that she could use to get crafty, photos, and an itunes giftcard (that came with the half birthday week). By the end, that box was packed to the gills with letters and gifts for Jess’ opening pleasure. Which brings us to…

Step 4: Pack (good luck with this one). It’s all well and good to gather a ton of stuff for your care package, but if it doesn’t fit, none of the previous steps matter! It took a few tries, but eventually, I had a system that squeezed  in everything. Remarkably, we were even able to get the later weeks toward the bottom and the beginning weeks toward the top!boxThankfully, I had some help (meet Jess’ sister, Katie) and we got the bow tied on top just in time to give it to her!

box 1Step 5: Hand it over! At some point, you have to stop working on the project (which was harder than I thought because I had developed a strange bond with that darn box) and send it off with them. Trust me, it will mean the world to them that you put so much time and thought into it. And really, in the end, this was the best part…

box 3So that’s the quick “how-to”! Off she went the very next morning… and you’ll have to wait for the rest of the story until tomorrow. Here’s a clue: it involves a surprise that was way bigger than the box itself…

Update: Want to see the next chapter of the India Adventure? Check out the follow-up post here!

Anyone else make (or receive???) a going away box? They are serious work, but also serious fun. 🙂 Or maybe you’re now thinking of a person that could use a box of love from you and are grabbing your keys to take a trip to Michael’s? Go for it- I got your back.

See you tomorrow!


This project has been featured on the following blogs:

Pioneer Momma


23 thoughts on “DIY “Going Away” Box

  1. Pingback: 10 Things I Learned In India | Oh, the Fun of It…

  2. I love this idea! It’s such a meaningful keepsake! I studied abroad in college and I know I would have loved this during times of missing friends and family! And as my husband and I are currently preparing to go off on a year long foreign adventure, I’m thinking of ways to take little memories with us! Thanks for sharing! Visiting from Making Monday 🙂


    • Hey Yalanda! That’s amazing that you and your husband are adventuring for a year! Where are you going? One way to customize this would be to ask people to write you a letter preemptively or give you something to think of them by (you can bribe them by reminding them that they’ll be saving on postage) and then divide up the “loot” into however long you’ll be away… open a few up every month and you’ve DIYed your very own “going away” box! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Have a wonderful time abroad 🙂

  3. What a clever and awesome idea. I’m going to share this with my granddaughter who has friends who are foreign exchange students heading home. Might be a great way to say Merry Christmas to her soon-to-be long distance friends. 🙂

    When my kids went overseas for ministry mission trips, their youth pastors had them ask close friends and family to each write them one letter full of encouragement, prayers, wise words of advice, fun stories or whatever else we each wanted to do. They opened them periodically during the trip when they might be feeling homesick, physically sick, or just needing a pick me up. They raved about these each time they returned. God always used them in the best ways at the perfect times. 🙂

    • Hey Kaye! We did a similar letter swap on our mission trip last year and it was very well received. I’m convinced… a good ‘ole fashioned hand written letter will never go out of stye 🙂 I love the idea of your granddaughter sending some “friend love” home with the exchange students… you’ll have to let me know if/how it turns out! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  4. Love, love, love! That is such a great way to help someone along when they are away. And it is so cool that so many people participated! Thanks so much for sharing, and your post is featured in this week’s What’d You Do This Weekend. Pinning! 🙂

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  7. What a fabulous going away gift! I am sure she loved it and what a wonderful way to keep her connected with home. Thanks so much for sharing it with Share Your Cup. I’m sure it’s not intentional, but I am not seeing a link back to the party.

  8. Pingback: Back to School… No Matter Where You Live! | Oh, the Fun…

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