So much has changed in our travels over the last two years and three months, but one of the biggest has to be the clothing I carried in my backpack.
Comparing to the above photo, taken in July, 2018, here is what things looked like just before we left in March, 2016.
Maybe it doesn't look like a big difference, but it is.
My packing goal since the beginning has always been not to overpack, with clothing I chose back then meeting what I thought was a laundry list of foolproof requirements.
Original Travel Clothing Requirements
- Performance material (quick dry)
- Machine wash
- Not bulky
- Color coordinating (mix-and-match)
Now compare that to today.
Current Travel Clothing Requirements
- Allows me to leave home without being naked
I'm being a little facetious, but not much. I remember listening to a podcast before we started to travel, where a long-term nomad revealed his top packing tip.
'Pack what you like to wear. It can be anything, even jeans. It doesn't matter, just throw some sh!t in a bag and go.'
I remember thinking 'No way!' at the time, but slowly, what I 'like to wear' became the driving force in choosing what went in the pack. Even what seems like an objective non-negotiable for hot and humid Asia like 'selecting performance material articles' went out the window.
I found many pieces couldn't make the long haul for various reasons.
Some things just ended up being too bulky. My first rain jacket was lovely, but I couldn't roll it into a ball on non-rainy travel days, so switched to an REI jacket that compacted into the size of a pocket square. The chambray tunic was not just too big, but also not great in any weather. Too heavy for warm weather and too light for cold. Meh.
Some items just weren't practical, such as my Tieks flats. If I can't walk at least five miles in them, forget it! Then there was that Ably shirt, which touted its revolutionary non-stink material. Yes, you can wear it five days in a row, but since it doesn't hold it's shape at all, I looked as though I stored potatoes in it when not in use. Finally, my Lucy 'Get Going' pants didn't fall apart from over wear, they simply disintegrated after one month of normal wear. Grrrr!
Winners That Fell in the Line of Duty
Sadly (or happily depending on your point of view), I wore out a few things a long the way. My lovely white tunic with black embroidery from Estonia fell apart after too much wear. Same goes for my next white tunic from Uniqlo. After washing it with darks for so long, it eventually became an unsightly shade of gray. My $5 exercise pants picked up at Ross in Phoenix also disintegrated from heavy wear, but I wasn't too sad about those because by the time I threw them away, they were more than fully depreciated.
Please note the presence of my REI Coop Vest in every photo below. More on that later.
One of my most devastating clothing moments occurred recently in Taiwan. My prized Havianas that I purchased in Brazil in 2011 bit the dust as the super glue surgery performed by Perry last year finally gave out. I am now the not-so-proud owner of men's rubber flip flops as they do not have women's size 10 in Taiwan.
So, after all that, which clothing ended up on the positive side?
The Current Clothing List
3 t-shirts, 1 short-sleeve blouse, 2 tanks, 1 lightweight pant, 2 shorts, 1 dress, 2 long sleeve tops, 1 sports tank, 1 yoga pant, swimsuit, coverup, 8 underwear, 2 bras, 5 socks, 2 pajama pants, jacket, scarf, baseball cap, hiking sandals, sneakers, flip flops.
Current Clothes, The New Heroes
You live, you learn. After a few losers, I picked up some winners over the last year that have stuck.
TAYLOR BERMUDA SHORTS BY CHRISTOPHER BLUE
First, I traveled with a pair of golf shorts, then I went with some fancy hiking shorts from REI.
I didn't like how I felt in either one of them and ultimately decided to just go with what I like- travel appropriate or not. These Bermuda shorts (from Nordstrom Rack) go against every rule- they are cotton, bulky and hard to dry- but I like the way they look and they are comfortable. The last six months my pack contained two pairs- one tan and one black.
CAT CAFE T-SHIRT
If I'm going to visit every cat cafe in the world, I decided why hide it? It's not very fashionable, but it's a conversation starter, so I guess there is that.
SLEEVELESS BLOUSE BY UNIQLO
Uniqlo comes in clutch again- this is the perfect hot and humid piece, plus it washes up like a champ and resists wrinkles. Plain and boring? For sure, but that's why I travel with a colorful necklace. Please see below, exhibit A.
BLACK JERSEY DRESS BY UNIQLO
I loved my black Travelsmith travel dress (left), but the long sleeves were just too much for sweltering SE Asia. My current black jersey dress (right, shown in blue) from Uniqlo checks all the boxes (lightweight, coverage, easy care) with one key difference- it cost me $12 instead of $80.
When I'm attempting to look presentable, it's amazing how a cheap little dress like this does the trick. See below photographic evidence. What do you know, I'm even wearing the next hero piece on this list.
HIKING SANDALS BY KEEN
I've resisted hiking sandals all my life, deeming them not 'cute enough', but the travel lifestyle makes them indispensable in places like SE Asia. Leather sandals or even Birkenstocks simply cannot keep up with heavy rains and constant walking. I found these Keen sandals in Thailand last year and they have been in constant rotation ever since.
Hero Pieces Since the Beginning
Some clothing remained with me since the start and deserve a special shout out.
CAPILENE MIDWEIGHT ZIP-NECK TOP BY PATAGONIA
I can't say enough about this piece, talk about a workhorse. I wore my original nearly every day for two years, finally replacing it in January as there were holes forming on the bottom of the sleeves. As predicted back in April, 2016, it ended up being the perfect layer with zero bulk and sleek good looks, but still offering plenty of warmth. Worth every penny.
CITY JOGGER BY ATHLETA
These started and ended as one of my favorite articles of travel clothing with the ultimate combination of comfort and good looks. The fabric is light and quick drying, plus they skim the curves but are just loose enough. Perfection.
ORIGINALS ANKLE SOCKS BY BOMBAS
I won't put anything else on my feet. Period.
COOP VEST BY REI
It's the perfect lightweight layering piece, it rolls up into a tiny ball and it's not expensive. I wore it constantly, but interestingly, it was mainly because of the pockets so I wouldn't always have to carry a bag. Speaking of bags...
MICHAEL KORS WALLET
I realize this isn't clothing, but I 'wore' this thing 95% of the time. It ended up being the perfect thing- large enough to carry money, passport, phone and lip stuff, but small enough that I could wear it cross-body and move around all day. It's finally starting to look shoddy with the edging coming off, but DANG, did I get my money's worth out of this thing.
BARELY BRA & UNDERWEAR BY PATAGONIA
I traveled with two bras. One regular black bra and one nude sports bra. I've replaced my regular bra twice, but this Barely bra (and matching panties) from Patagonia is still holding up. Consider me impressed and a fan for life.
LONG & LEAN TANK BY MOSSIMO (TARGET)
I discovered Target discontinued these sometime during our first trip to Europe. So, even though my white tank is now gray and threadbare, I can't bring myself to part with it. I wear it to bed mostly, but there were travel days when it served as a layer. Luckily, I never had to strip off my top layer and reveal its disgustingness in public. P.S. If anyone from Target is reading this, PLEASE bring them back. What you replaced them with are too boxy. :(