Written for Life Aboard The Traveling Circus on 5/21/14
If you’re an Internet hound (and a travel junkie) like I am, you’ve probably seen oodles of stories about why you should put away your fanny pack, running shoes, backpack, and lame Cape Cod t-shirt and try to “blend in like a local.” It makes sense, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Capri, stop standing around in your binoculars with a blotch of sunscreen dotted on your nose like Nigel Thornberry.
However, even though it’s important to be open-minded, adapt to the culture around you and not wave American flags all over Europe, I don’t necessarily feel like adopting some tourist dress codes is a bad thing. So pull out your guidebook, strap on your sunglasses cord, and read on about what pieces it’s OK to bring on your trip overseas… yet accept that no one is going to ask you for directions in Paris anymore.
1. Sneakers. Since it was 800 degrees in New Orleans the August that I went (as I’m sure it is every August), I obviously packed loads of cute and light sundresses and sandals. Athletic shoes serve as a cardinal sin for dresses. However, one day in, my poor feet were dying from stomping around all day on the concrete sidewalks and cobblestone in the extreme heat. Do yourself a favor and pack one pair of athletic shoes (invest in a pair in a cute color and style if you have to) for that day or two when you literally can’t walk another foot in those precious flip-flops. Your blisters, and your walking tour guide, will thank you.
2. Electronic cord. These look kind of lame tacked onto your iPhone or camera, but when you’re looming over the 300 foot drop of Giotto’s Campanile of Florence, you’re going to wish you had a little assurance that your $500 electronic isn’t going to fall to its sad, sad death onto a pile of unsuspecting high school tourists. Check some out on eBay here.
3. Oversized purse. Back home, if you find me at a mall, restaurant, bar, or anywhere in between I probably won’t even have a bag – I’ll be stuffing my keys and phone in my pockets like a dude. However, abroad is a different story. You’ll never know how much water you’ll have to steal, maps to keep, stuff you’ll buy, or food you’ll get for free. Plan ahead and get yourself a cheap shoulder bag that you can cram all your stuff in.
4. Map and guidebook. I’m going to consider this a piece of tourist attire because every (smart) tourist you see wandering (with a purpose) around Barcelona has one strapped in front of their face. Is everyone going to know you’re not a local when you’re furiously flipping pages to figure out where Park Guell is? Yeah, obviously. But you will find it, and you won’t spend the whole afternoon searching, either. They’re worth the investment (and the lameness).
5. City tee. The truth is that no one wants the magnet, ugly jewelry, weird mini statue of the David, or any other overrated souvenir you were going to buy them. Why? Because none of these items really have any utilitarian value. You know what does? A well-made, kind of funny tee that someone is going to wear to work out, wear to bed, or maybe wear to the airport on their next trip. There’s a reason people hoard their college sports team t-shirts – because we love them. Especially if a tee says “Oktoberfest” on it.