The Tourist Pieces to Pack on Your Journey Abroad

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.



The Island of Lost Clothes

When you live your life eternally rummaging through a suitcase around the world, although you end up with an interesting collection of ticket stubs, post cards, knick-knacks and foreign hot sauce, you are also left with an astounding lack of clothing.

Most of my trips have encompassed a strapped-on backpack, not a rolling matching suitcase set, leaving me with no other options but to recycle clothing over and over again, mercilessly wearing them down until they have only two options to deal with their remaining shelf life – get abandoned or get lost.

Abandoning clothes at various airports throughout the world due to one too many holes, a lack of effectiveness of the sitting on a suitcase for those few extra inches of space, or simply the obvious end of an item never makes me feel guilty – instead, it makes me feel like I got my money’s worth and I actually made an economical purchase in buying something that I kept until its unfortunate end.


Not everyone makes it through customs.

However, in my possession, besides the fact that most of what I own turns to dust, the rest of what I own simply disappears which does make me feel an insurmountable amount of guilt. Dresses, sandals, boots, shorts and tops all mysteriously vanish as they journey across the world with me, almost as if they decided all on their own that it was time to part ways and move on to a new, nameless owner.

There aren’t many things that are more frustrating than using time and effort shopping for clothing, spending hard-earned cash that could easily, and possibly more responsibly, been spent on food, and creating a place for it in an already minuscule closet only to have it evaporate into thin air and leave one forced to think back on trips weekends and weekends ago, wondering whose car or whose hotel room it could possibly be living in. I find myself constantly digging through my own laundry room, trying to remember the last time I’ve seen an item and questioning if the dryer is really eating things like I’ve always suspected.

Just today, I realized that a piece of clothing I brought with me on a weekend away was missing and I unapologetically harassed the concierge desk at the hotel asking if they had it stuffed in their lost and found. They seemed baffled that someone would call in for anything other than jewelry, wallets, car keys or other irreplaceable items, but for someone with limited time and money as myself, even this is good enough reason to inquire.


 Someone lost one two many t-shirts.

As I began to deal with the loss and yet another item, I began to really wonder where these things were ending up when I realized I was keeping my own island of lost clothes – things I had (embarrassingly) found or been given that had once  belonged to another. A tank top a friend found on the side of the road at Syracuse University, a red dress the same friend had stolen from a laundry room and sent to me, accompanied by a clever poem. A bracelet I found outside of a dining hall, a designer top an old employer had passed over to me after digging through her exceptional closet.

They were just faceless items, but like what I currently had in my own closet, I truly hoped that my past things had found new homes somewhere else on their own island of lost clothes. I hoped that someone had found them, probably a 14-year-old girl that fit into my stuff, and felt like she was having a pretty lucky day in the fact that she had just scored some nice thing for absolutely nothing.

Clothes are clothes and things are things – and they don’t carry real memories like we do. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have history. And I, for one, like to think my own things that have been left globetrotting about have quite the stories to share as they jump from closet to closet and country to country, soon to be left in the hands of yet another relentless traveler.

Also posted on my travel blog at


Five Ways To Never Go Out of Style

As fashionable ladies, we spend a lot of time making sure that we are wearing the shiniest heels, carrying the newest bags, and sporting the most stylish clothes. Each and every season, we spend loads of new hard-earned cash on the most recent trends, which we enjoy to its fullest extent… yet a few months later, we ship it off to our sisters or to the donation boxes down the street. We’re left feeling a little guilty, a little stolen, a little cheapened.

On the same note, I always find it interesting when I meet these ladies dropping these dollars yet they’re not investing in the cheapest and easiest ways to stay fashionable… they’re wearing the newest Tom Ford strappy sandals, yet their teeth are stained and there are bags under their eyes. The best ways to have style aren’t always bought in a mall, but can be invested in right at your vanity. Read on to pick up five tips that will ensure that you never go out of style, and you won’t even have to clean out your overstuffed closet to do so.

1. Healthy, coiffed hair. 

Don’t be sporting those split ends past their expiration date – get regular haircuts (at least every three months) to keep split ends at bay and invest in good-for-you shampoos such as Organix which do not contain harmful chemicals that dry out your mane. As someone who has naturally thin hair, there’s also a plethora of things you can do to trick your audience and make your hair thicker and stronger – take a multivitamin plus extra Biotin and B12, take Jarrosil Silicon droplets everyday, use a Moroccon oil after each wash, use silk pillowcases which won’t dry out your hair like cotton does, create this egg yolk and olive oil mask and soak for thirty minutes each month, and make sure the water you’re showering in is as soft and free of chemicals as possible and if not, buy a shower head water softener and filter like Aquasana.


2. Shiny, white teeth. 

Nothing tastes better than a hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning when you can’t keep your head above the steering wheel, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look as hot as it tastes when you’re checking your teeth out after a bit of morning binge drinking. To combat unfortunate coffee and tea stains, try drinking out of a straw (this will make it so the coffee or tea goes straight to the back of your mouth instead of hitting your teeth first), eating fruit or brushing your teeth right after you drink it (the longer it lingers, the longer it’s likely to stain), or drink light-colored teas rather than darker ones. I’ve picked up drinking hot water with lemon on weekday mornings (lemon isn’t great for your teeth either, but it’s better than coffee) and solely drinking coffee on weekends, which has greatly improved my teeth. Also, use Crest Whitestrips once a year – I like the Crest 3D Whitestrips Classic Vivic where you place see-through strips on your teeth for 30 minutes a day for 12 days.

3. Fit, toned figure. 

It’s OK if you’ve got a little fluff hanging around (don’t we all…) but the real bottom line is if you’re eating well, you feel energized and focused, and you keep regular exercise, even with a desk job. Try to work out four to five days a week, mixing up workouts as necessary to work all muscles by lifting, walking, running, dancing, biking and hiking between thirty minutes to an hour each day. Also, for a little midday workout, use half your lunch break to go for a walk (even if it’s just around the parking lot). Even designer clothes don’t look good on a limp, unhealthy and tired body – but a fit body with finely tuned muscles will look (and feel) good in anything.


4. Strong, straight nails. 

I have an unfortunate nail biting habit that will never be 100% cured, but in the midst of my relapses, I try to maintain straightened, square-shaped nails with a monitored cuticle and strong ends. If your nails are weak, one thing you can do is buy Jarrosil Silicon, which is a silicon eyedropper that you mix with a bit of juice everyday. With ten to fifteen droplets a dayfor a few weeks, you’ll see your hair and nails growing like crazy. You can also make sure you’re taking a multivitamin and take extra supplements of both vitamin B12 and Biotin everyday. Plus, keep your nails polished – no chips – and in season-appropriate colors.

5. Sleek, manicured eyebrows. 

Nothing cleans up your face faster than a good eyebrow grooming or makes you look better with no makeup on. If you get them waxed every few months, be sure to keep up with fixings by plucking and cleaning up every two to three weeks. However, be careful not to get pluck-happy and only pluck hairs that were visibly waxed before and grew back outside the manicured eyebrow line. Also, make sure that the end of your brow (closest to your ear) forms a straight diagonal line to the end of your eye – not shorter or longer. Nobody wants to see crazy brows that are too hairy, too thin, too full, or too long.




Summer Style Gets Fussy

Dressing for the beach is a funny thing. On the one hand, everyone on the boardwalk looks great with designer bikinis, long hair, tanned skin, the perfect sundresses, and the finest beach bags. Yet on the other hand… your family is shoving you out the door, no one understands why you paid $70 for a towel, and your new Michael Kors sandals stand out ridiculously among your brothers’ Wal-Mart rubber flip-flops. If staying fashionable was easy, everyone would do it.

However, there is hope – there is a plethora of shore-ready items out there that will keep you looking chic this summer without looking obscene. You may need to ditch the diamonds and the gold plates… but here is a list of items you can feel comfortable in at the beach, and you never even have to step (bare)foot into a discount store.

1. The New Yorker Beach Towel 

You don’t need to sport a dolphin-covered beach towel anymore… instead, invest in a real 100% oversized towel that is big enough to stretch out on without being too big to carry back to the cottage. Ranging roughly between $35 and $60, these towels feature various vintage covers of The New Yorker and contain enough heft to make them worth the purchase. You can find them by Home Source and Conde Nast.

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2. Coach Beach Collection Beach Bag

Choosing a beach bag is always a gamble, because you need a bag hardy enough for the beach, large enough for all your shore necessities, yet still light enough to carry all that junk to and from the boardwalk each morning and evening. These limited editioncanvas totes by Coach run for $268 and each feature illustrations by Pierre Le-Tan, known for his charming use of color and playful designs.

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3. Kate Spade Idiom Bangle

We hate leaving our jewelry at home when we go to the beach, but no one wants to be the stuck-out sore thumb covered in ridiculously gaudy pieces either. Instead, check out these colorful bangles by kate spade which run for $78 a piece and paired well with your best bikini, they put together a complete beach look. Plus, clever enough, each one features a familiar saying matching the design on the inside.

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4. Glamzelle Brazilian Night Colorblock Bikinis 

The days of elegant, demur bikinis are over – for summer 2014, ditch the boring black and pick up on these sporty, neon bikinis. Not only will you be able to actually play beach volleyball this year without hoping your top doesn’t fall off, but you’ll also be turning heads… probably because you’re so bright. You can pick up Glamzelle’s Brazilian Night Colorblock bikinis for around $90 for the set.

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5. Lily Pulitzer Beach Maxis 

Don’t feel like sporting a beach cover-up? Grab a stylish beach maxi dress instead, in a colorful, whimsical design of course. Lily Pulitzer has released their line of 2014 beachwear, and with it, several maxi dresses ranging from $150 to $200. In normal Lily capacity, the dresses (as well as tunics, shirts, and shorts) feature bright colors, interesting designs, yet classic shapes. You can view them on Lily Pulitzer Best of Summer.

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