We are nearly finished with our breather in the UK before continuing our travels in Western Europe for the remainder of the year. In preparation, I've just finished sorting my stuff into piles of what's 'in' and what's 'out'.
After six months, I've come a long way since I first packed up in March. There has been a lot of learning about how and what to bring for life on the road, but the biggest realization is that you need to figure it for yourself. No matter how many blogs and articles I read cautioning to 'do this' or 'bring that', there is nothing like good old-fashioned experience to help hammer the lessons home.
Cheaters Never Win
A backpack only holds so much and you can't sneak something in like you might do when packing a suitcase for a weekend trip. You know, those 'just in case' pieces. Once you are over the limit, your backpack will simply ignore your pleas to ZIP UP YOU PIECE OF S&!T while you wrap your leg around it trying to squeeze it into submission. Not that it's happened to me or anything.
Speaking of 'just in case', you will curse those items and the extra weight they contribute when you inevitably take a wrong turn on the way to your Airbnb from the train station and end up walking two extra miles in 90F degree heat with 25# of 'just in case' on your back. Not that it's happened to me or anything.
Not Just a Pretty Face
Once in a blue moon, a 'frivolous' item becomes a travel hero. Such is my trusty Michael Kors gold travel wallet- see the WINNERS section below.
The Price of Beauty
Toiletries & makeup are heavy and I'm sick of carrying them around. I've cut WAY back and no longer pack extra amounts of the face wash, lotion and tampons I prefer.
Yes, understand the limitations of your gear but don't let it stop you. You are not going to run a marathon in flip-flops, but you CAN climb mountains in a simple pair of sneakers. You can't pack for every contingency, but somehow things just work out. I wasted way too much time thinking about the 'what if' scenarios and trying to find the 'perfect' article of clothing. 99% of the time, it just doesn't matter what you are wearing. What if I need to go to a nice dinner? What if I get invited to go white water rafting? Blahblahblah! Just throw some stuff in bag and get out there.
WINNERS & LOSERS
As mentioned above, most of the clothes I packed turned out to be just fine. However, there were a few pieces that stood out on both ends of the spectrum. There were several winners and a few losers. Luckily, more of the former than the latter. If you read the original article on what I packed, you know I had high hopes for my gear and here is how it worked out.
The number one can't-live-without piece in my possession is this little number I picked up on sale for $50 at REI in St. Louis. I've worn it nearly every single day over the past six months, even in the summer because air conditioning makes me cold. Lightweight, yet warm and still looking great after countless washes, Patagonia, I owe you everything.
My city joggers are SO comfortable, I kicked my leggings out of the pack. Even though they feel like pajamas, they look great.
I've worn this dress more than I thought I would. Not just for going out to eat, I've worn it frequently on travel days as something that is not constricting but looks respectable.
These shoes are so awesome, I'm on my second pair! I was lucky to find replacements in Bucharest for $80 which was perfect timing because of the 800+ miles I had put on them up to that point. It's a relief to be in a pair of shoes that are not only comfortable and super lightweight, but my feet still feel great after 7-12 miles per day of walking. They have even tackled some mountain hiking.
MICHAEL KORS JET SET WALLET
Originally, I bought a nylon travel wallet from Travelsmith, but at the last minute I decided to go with what I had been using. What makes this wallet great is the removable strap so I can go from cross-body purse to clutch in seconds. In my previous life, it lived inside my big work tote along with the strap in case I needed to go hands-free.
This wallet has worked like magic on road. It's been a workhorse as I carry it nearly every single day. Not only does it hold my passport, phone and lipgloss in addition to the usual money and credit cards, it's cute AND waterproof. Cue the song of heavenly angels.
I thought this tunic would be great, but shame on me for not giving it a test drive prior to leaving. Tencel may be easy care, but it wrinkles like crazy! Even after hanging up for several days, the wrinkles won't budge. Ironing on the road? Nope.
RIBBED SLIM TEE BY ANTHROPOLOGIE
How wrong can you go in a simple long sleeve top? Plenty, it turns out. After one wash, it shrank up. Boo!
Normally, high performance material is good on the road. In fact, I will probably bring it to SE Asia where cotton just doesn't dry very well in the humidity. The reality is that I didn't reach for this shirt very often as it just felt like a baggy square and was not very flattering.
I take back what I said about leggings being a must have travel item. I hardly wore mine even though I thought they would be used for both exercise or relaxing. Instead of gyms however, we walked everywhere but I wore either my City Joggers or shorts. If I wanted to relax, it was my City Joggers or pajama bottoms. Caught in the dreaded middle ground, I sent these back to the UK with Alison when she visited us in Split.
If a piece didn't make the cut, I mainly just did without, but there were a couple of items that I did pick up on the road that especially helped during the hot weather period.
CUT & PRET PEASANT BLOUSE
I picked up this shirt in Tallinn and it was a lifesaver. It provided lightweight coverage without making me sweaty. It washed up like a champ and air dried in a couple of hours. It wrinkled a bit when packed but after hanging up overnight, the wrinkles disappeared. Good enough for me!
When the weather was really hot, even a t-shirt was too much. This tank checked all the boxes- cool and lightweight, good looks, easy wash/dry and packed up in the tiniest ball in my pack.
Thanks for reading!
Next time on Gobsmacked: A Walk on the Wild Side: Bucharest, Romania