My friend Gunta travels with a hair straightener and heels. She bops from city to city, Queenstown to Bali to Tokyo, and can jump off a flight, check into a hostel and hit the clubs, lickety split. Courtney is a badass rock climber and currently lives out of her van. She travels with mascara. Meike carries nail polish and a tiny bottle of remover in her backpack. And my friend Fran tried to argue with airport security when they took her tweezers, “You just don’t take a girl’s tweezers!” It’s true. You don’t.
There is a whole spectrum of packing and traveling that ranges from your ultra light backpacker, not concerned with showers or shaving (known more commonly as a dirty hippie) and a super posh vacationer, loaded down with bags of shoes and accessories. Some of how you travel and what you carry is based on the length of travel and what you plan to do. Obviously, you can’t cram a business suit into a backpack, but you might be surprised what some folks pull off. Most of what you pack has to do with being comfortable. Pack too much and you’re uncomfortable trying to carry stuff. Pack too little or don’t pack what you actually need and you may find yourself feeling a different kind of uncomfortable. (The kind of uncomfortable you’d feel when you’re trying to go out to dinner in running shoes.)
When I left New York, I left behind bras and bangles. I chucked my Diorshow mascara, hair spray and beloved bronzer. My saggy crotch long underwear doubled as leggings, I embraced my missing tooth and experimented with not shaving for extended periods of time. I learned just how feral I can go. But somewhere in there, I forgot how good it feels to feel good about yourself. I forgot that some little things (like razors and dangly earrings and the occasional haircut) can make a big difference. That Lululemon leggings make me feel like Lara Croft, like I can conquer the world, even when I wind up wearing my hiking boots in a city.
We have been away from home for a year and are packing our bags again. We are packing for a week in a hip city, summer in the jungle and winter in the mountains. All in one bag. The key is in having versatile layers, things that are functional and lightweight. Each item has to make you feel comfortable, fit well, and be able to be work with anything else in the bag. What this means is that your long sleeve shirt should be something that you can layer when hiking and also wear to the bar because when you only have one and it is cold outside, you’re going to wear it. May as well like it.
Some of the things that WILL be in my bag:
- One of very kind of shirt (tank, 2 tees, longsleeve)
- Lululemon leggings. Judge away, they’re stupid expensive, I love them, the end.
- Patterned tights and a black mini skirt (to be ditched after Melbourne and Bali)
- Shoes (hiking boots, running shoes, Vans)
- Socks and underwear, including a thong
- A real bra. Just one. Uniboob is fine 80% of the time, but sometimes you need two. Like when you go out to dinner.
- A scarf that doubles for style and warmth
- A pair of dangly earrings
- Fleece and rain jacket
- Electronics (Kindle, Computer, Phone)
- Toiletries (Toothbrush and paste, Khiels SPF face lotion, Mach 3 razor, emergency medical kit, small stash of daily contacts, sparkle nail polish)
- Ziploc bag of of important things (passport, vaccination records, visas, back up Credit Card, etc)
Some things that WILL NOT be in my bag:
- Books. Heavy. I came to NZ with 3, but am fully wedded to my Kindle.
- A purse. Pockets do just fine.
- Shampoo. I’ve been using baking soda instead of shampoo since November. Easy to pack, doesn’t spill, works the same and you can get it anywhere.
- Nice sunglasses. I’d rather have cheap ones that I can lose or break.
- Camping gear. Didn’t use it at all this year. Having talked with others, we won’t need it in SE Asia or India, either.
I feel pretty confident about living out of a backpack, but I am also quite aware that I’ve only ever lived in a 1st world, non-Muslim country. My Czech friend Iva told me a story that started with, “I used to say ‘ay fuck’ to the Muslim way, but after week in Turkey, I say okay, it’s easier just to cover the body.” So on that note, I’m looking forward to seeing how this incarnation of my lady traveler evolves as we set off to explore totally different cultures.