So I was sitting around talking to my friend Jess about our upcoming backpacking adventure around Europe and she said something that really resonated with me. She said "I'm really worried about what to pack because I don't have much room but I want to dress nice and look good in our photos. This is going to be a nightmare."
Before you spit your coffee out in disgust - let's be honest. It may be a little silly but it's 2014 and we're living in a generation that is absolutely obsessed by social media. Everything we do is photographed and posted online for our "friends" to see. Whether it's because of a need to seek some sort of validation from random people online or it's the urge to portray our life to people we know, as far more exciting than it actually is - I have to come to accept that's the way of today's society.
Whilst I don't plan on being THAT person, you know the one - they travel the world but are too busy staring at their phone to savour the experience - I would still like to have some photos where I'm looking reasonably attractive and not wearing the same thing in every single one. And if that makes a few ex-boyfriends a little jealous of my life and how awesome I look, well that's certainly ok with me too.
I know from past experience the less you pack the freakin' better. I've never once came back from a trip and thought to myself "gee I enjoyed carrying that much stuff around, next time I'm going to add a few more kilos just for sh*ts and giggles." Um..no. Trust me, the lighter the bag the better the experience. Plus having carry-on luggage saves time in airports and alleviates the risk of your bag ending up on the wrong continent.
For our upcoming trip we're doing the full backpacking experience. We're staying in hostels for every stage of the journey and not even the private ones - the mixed dorm with ten bed type ones. We'll be living without: the luxuries of our own private bathrooms, complimentary iron for clothes, hairdryers, straighteners, mirrors and space to move! So pretty much everything you could think of that we would generally use at home before attempting an Instagram selfie. Insert 1st World Problem joke here.
As we're heading in summer we can pack a little more lightly, but it can still be quite cool in a lot of European countries no matter what the season is. I'm completely allergic to being cold anyway (that's a thing right?!) so my priorities mainly involve making sure I'm warm, keeping warm and enjoying being warm for the whole trip. Did I mention I like being warm?
There are absolute essentials you'll need to bring to survive in hostels such as sleep-sheets, earplugs and padlocks for bags but I'll cover that in a different post. In the meantime, here's my list of everything I've identified for my trip and that I think you'll need to look great in your photos online - even without Photoshop and the addition of a heap of filters. And hey, if your frenemies back home are wondering how you manage to look this good whilst backpacking, well that's just an added bonus. You're welcome!
As a general rule of thumb the best items to pack do not need ironing, are neutral colours and can be rolled for easy packing. You want to be able to mix'n' match and give the illusion of having a lot more to work with than you actually do. I wouldn't pack a lot of light coloured clothes because if you're anything like me you'll last less than two minutes without spilling something on your brand new white top. And Comfort. Do not underestimate the value of comfortable clothes when backpacking - this is not the time or place to try and squeeze into your two sizes too small Rock 'n' Republic jeans.
One pair of swimmers, seven pairs of undies, two bras and a sport bra will keep you in check and will mean you won't have to wash for at least a week. Stick with tan or black... save your sexy underwear for a dirty weekend away with a special someone. They'll just get in the way for this trip.
Black leggings. I repeat, black leggings... Pack two! They don't take up much space, they're super comfy and you can use them as either pants, pyjama pants or tights underneath a dress. Also, you can pack a pair of lightweight jeans or dressy bottoms if you want but I wouldn't bother in the hotter months, I'd just pack two to three pairs of shorts instead. For these you can either dress them up with a nice top with sandals or ballet flats or dress them down with a t-shirt, scarf and walking shoes.
I love dresses because they're complete outfits and don't tend to take up much room in your luggage. I'd pack at least two, preferably in black since it works with everything and will be much more forgiving on the figure after your beer binge in Germany. You can accessories them with a scarf plus leggings and a cardie if it gets cold.
T-shirts are just easy and will go with everything. They're even considered hipster cool these days so if you're planning on chatting up a guy with an ironic beard you might score some extra brownie points while wearing one. I'd pack two, plus a dressy top to wear out and a sleeveless top in a light breathable fabric for the hotter days.
I'm pretty lucky in the fact that due to being as coordinated as a baby giraffe taking its first steps, I've never really gotten into wearing heels. Even if you are an avid stiletto lover trust me when I say you CAN live without them. Plus remember Europe is old and lined with cobble stone streets, good luck navigating these in huge heels after a night out ladies. All you'll need is a pair of ballet flats (the one's that you buy from Chemist's are cheap and fold up so they take less room), a pair of sandals and a pair of shoes that are good for walking like hiking boots or converse type sneakers.
One cardigan and one military jacket will be more than sufficient for your trip in summer- and that's only if you're going to places that are cooler like Scotland. Dark green for the military jacket and grey for the cardie would be my choice. For people heading there in winter you're obviously a deranged crazy person with an Eskimo fetish and I really have no advice for you. Seriously, do you even know the joys of feeling warm?
Pack a heavy thick scarf. They are super handy for doubling up as an extra blanket, a rug or even a towel if necessary. Also bring two colourful light scarves as they won't take up much space, work wonders in accessorising an outfit and are also really popular in Europe. Sunglasses and a hat are necessary and bring a shoulder bag instead of a handbag. They're easier to carry around and better to protect you from pick-pocketers.
For your hair you'll need a brush, shampoo and conditioner. Also, dry shampoo is great for travelling so you don't have to wash it as much especially if you are doing a lot of activities like hiking. I have the world's thickest hair so I'm not going to bother with a hairdryer or straightener as it'll take hours to do and that's not what I want to be spending my time during my trip. I'll plait it before sleeping with some mouse for curls, or just wear up. A lot of hostels have hairdryers & straighteners available for rent if necessary but if you're going to pack them don't forget you'll need a power adaptor as well.
It doesn't matter how far you've managed to stretch your wardrobe out to look as fashionable as possible, if your face is reflecting your three day sangria bender you're going to struggle to channel your inner Miranda Kerr without a bit of help. You don't want to carry around a suitcase and not all makeup is created equal but the following products should be enough to get you ready to pose in front of the camera in no time. I always use an exfoliating face-wash, sunscreen and moisturiser every day no matter what country I'm in. I highly recommend a good BB cream instead of your foundation or at least use it as a base. Skip the powder - when you are dehydrated powder will dry out your skin further and make you look older than you are, especially in photos. Concealer! Concealer! Concealer! It will hide a world of sins or at least those bags from a lack of sleep. I always use a good mascara and heavy top eyelid eyeliner and lastly don't forget your signature lipstick for those big night outs.
Alright ladies that's it from me. Go forth and snap away. Ready steady "Duck face!"