One of my closest friends (also named Emily) is spending her summer in Europe with her husband and family. When she called me in the midst of packing panic, I was reminded that, while spending months in Europe is a dream, packing efficiently for the trip can be a bit of a nightmare. Having just come back from traveling around 4 countries for 3 months with only one small backpack, I can empathize.
Because I’m such a very good friend (and because I really didn’t want to translate anymore poetry) I calmed her fears with all kinds of packing advice via my brain, my blog, Polyvore and Pinterest. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing that advice in a series entitled, “Summer Wanderer,” featuring packing tips and outfits designed to maxime key pieces (and suitcase space!) without minimizing style.
SUMMER WANDERER, Part 1: Planning Your Travel Wardrobe
1: Color Palette. Choose one basic color palette and stick to it. I’m a big fan of neutrals for their wide range, but if you’re a die-hard color lover, choose one color family (red, orange, and pink, for instance). After you’ve selected your colors, find solid, versatile pieces in that palette. For summer travel, I tend toward dresses and skirts, with usually only one pair of pants and a pair or two of shorts. A good variety of separates is always a good idea, in that it helps maximize your mix and match potential.
2: Prints!: Expand your repertoire by selecting prints made-up of your core colors. They’ll go with your key pieces, but they’ll keep you from looking too Nihilist-style monochromatic. Here neutrals get a kick in the pants (hah!) with stripes, plaid, polka dots, leopard, and ikat. Who says neutrals are boring?!
3: Fun!: It may be boring, but it’s best to stick primarily to pieces you know you’ll wear multiple times. To that end, choose pieces that you can mix and match and be realistic about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. If you’ll be walking kilometer after kilometer, set aside those 4-inch heels. If you’re going to a laid back beach village, black slinky dresses not be the best choice. That said, don’t be afraid to add in a few “just in case!” items, like a fun dress or a sequined cardigan. You never know when you’ll end up at an art party in Paris where everyone looks cooler than Vogue thinks it is (this actually happened to me, and I thank the fashion gods I tossed in a few magic things at the last minute). Add to those pieces a couple in a ”statement” color. Here I’ve chosen citron, mustard, and gold, which remind me France and Italy.
4: Be Smart. Pack sensible, versatile outerwear and shoes. These are the things that take up the most space and end up being the most crucial. There’s nothing worse than getting blisters from bad shoes, except maybe not having enough space for all your souvenirs because of that fancy coat you brought but never used.
5: Accesorize! Use accessories to bring life to basic outfits. Jewelry and scarves pack well into small spaces and make all the difference in a simple look. Scarves have the added bonus of keeping you warm when needed and acting as a beach blanket, gag, or tug-of-war rope in a pinch.
RECAP: All told we’ve got 34 pieces of clothing, 4 pairs of shoes, a backpack, a tote, a hat, and a pile of other accessories. I’d say that puts us squarely between “Obsessively Light Packer” and “3 Suitcases Clotheshorse.” It’s a good place to be. I forgot to add belts, but I’m too lazy to change all these polyvore sets, so just pretend they’re there. I’d also add in a gold clutch.
Check back soon for Part 2 of this series, in which I’ll put together some outfits from these pieces, each inspired by a European city, and learn how to cull pieces you could probably do without.
How do you pack for long trips? What are your must-have travel items? Any great packing secrets?
If you want more visuals and sneaky strategies, check out this guest post from The Other Emily (I know, another one!) in which she shared packing tips gained from a year of traveling around Europe.
It’s that time again: Photos That Probably Bore You Time!! What follows is something of an explanation of my time in Namibia. I find that sharing pictures is much easier than writing to you all about the experience, and after several weeks of thinking about what to write, I’m still at a bit of a loss. Namibia is a strange and fascinating place that is, in so many ways beyond the geographical, the farthest from home I’ve ever been. At the same time, the years I’ve spent there have made it a home in itself. It’s peculiar and surprising and resistant to simple descriptions, but it’s also familiar, and going back there was a homecoming, in a way.
I guess, by way of explanation, I’ll tell this story, and leave it at that:
The day after I arrived to the village where I lived during Peace Corps, I got dragged out of sleep at an ungodly hour by pounding on the windows of the little concrete hut where I was staying. Being woken up or intruded upon is par for the course in the Nam, and I stumbled out the door in a sarong, crazy-haired, and found standing on my doorstep a girl I’d last seen when she was 16. She’s 21 now, and very pregnant, the same and not the same to me, just like her country. We talked for a while, and the problems of her life– little money, family struggles, a boyfriend who’d just wandered away– weighed on me. In the weeks that followed we took long walks in the sand and talked about the baby and she acted as my translator with traditional healers and elders when my language skills failed me. I’d call her Mwinda, like her mother did (instead of her church name), and we settled into a kind of partnership that I hadn’t expected.
One hot night– all the nights are, so this is a superfluous adjective– I heard that Mwinda had gone into early labour, and by the time I’d crossed the mission to the hospital the baby had almost arrived. I waited in the hall, asking the impatient nurses too many questions, and when I discovered that she was giving birth without any family, I asked if I could stand in their place. The nurses gave me the side-eye, wondering why this white American was so curious about some village girl. In the end, they let me go into the delivery room, more to shut me up than anything, I suspect. I held Mwinda’s hand and watched her baby struggle into the world. I stood next to them as that tiny body took its first breaths. Mwinda named her Kendra. I am her godmother.
At the risk of making things conveniently relevant, Kendra’s birth is a sort of metaphor for all the months and years I’ve spent in Namibia. It’s messy and complicated and there are few easy moments. But it’s beautiful, too, and something unlike anything else. It stays with you, long after the silence has settled in, and before you know it, you’re inextricably connected. This time was no different, and when I go back again, I suspect I’ll experience some version of this labyrinth of thought and feeling.
Until then, enough reflection! Enjoy the photos, and ask questions, if you have them.
If you follow me on Twitter (and if you actually read what I tweet…one doesn’t guarantee the other, I know), you might be aware that I sometimes comment on dreams I have. As I’m sure is the case for many of you, my brain is always doing crazy things in the night time, and I generally wake up the next morning with all sorts of strange ideas and memories of things that never actually happened to me.
Case in point: a few nights ago I dreamt that I was caught in a love triangle with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jeff Probst…on a plane…going from Australia to LA…and the plane crashed…and I had to give birth to a baby (Jake’s?! Jeff’s?! Stay tuned!) amidst screams and flames and lots of sand. Thank goodness there was a hot doctor there to help me out…though he did seem distracted by that curly haired woman…(thanks to JJ Abrams for the dream’s plot).
Sometimes said dreams are actually useful. When picking out my outfit for the day I realized that it was exactly what I was wearing in the dream: a vest, an oxford, black pants, and a trench. How a pregnant belly ever fit under that I’ll never know…though this vest is a little unflatteringly puffy, now that I think of it. Maybe it wasn’t a dream, after all…
PS: Who would you choose, Jake or Jeff?
Remember me? No? Well, my name is Emily. Nice to meet you (but not in the creepy way of 42 year old men in chat rooms). Sometimes I write this blog, and sometimes I go to Africa and ditch this blog for months and months. Now that I’ve returned (for now, anyway), I’ll try to actually post some outfits once in a while. Failing that, I will post copious amount of travel photos that mean nothing to any of you.
Now, please excuse me while I abandon you again to eat brie, read Courtesy Laugh, and not cut my hair.
PS: I may have been gone for a while, but I still love chambray and Johnny Cash-esque semi-suits.
Hotties, I’m HOME!!
After approximately 87 flights (not to mention the taxis, mini-busses, and trains) and about as many hours, I’m back in Chicago. While I fight off jetlag and try to remember how to behave like a normal human being, here’s the first of a few posts to catch you up on what I’ve been doing since Paris. First stop: Spain. This part of the trip is now far behind me (chronologically, geographically, culturally), but it’ll be a long time before I forget the joy of rolling r’s, tortilla, and walking with friends in the salty sea air.
A Namibia update will follow soon, and then back to business as (un)usual. Until then, stay strong and…you know, stuff.
Some photos from Paris, quickly shot and posted for your pleasure…or at least for my mom’s pleasure. They include adorable grafitti, delicious foods, flea market finds, semi-glamour shots, oil slicks, copious cafe facades, and the occasional recognizable landmark (Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, etc).
Off to Northern Spain tomorrow, then to Cape Town in a few days. Hope all is well, blog folks and random passersby.
Happy New Year, folks! It’s your favorite (9th favorite? 132nd favorite?) skiver blogger here. I’ve just returned to Chicago from the South and in a few days I’m (here’s the exciting part of this post)…off to Europe! And then Africa! I’ll be visiting friends in France and Spain on my way to South Africa and Namibia, where I’ll be doing fieldwork for a few months. This means I’ll continue to shirk my blogger duties, and will probably only post the occasional photo of myself looking sweaty and thoughtful in Namibia’s desert summer. I don’t expect I’ll be wearing much that’s worth comment, since I’m only taking with me what will fit in a small backpack. Still, if you’re pining after my sartorial self (and who isn’t, right?), you can imagine me in my standard “I’m in Africa” uniform: a sand-covered white skirt, a random tank top, Chacos, and some sort of headband or scarf. I look like a hippie who got lost in the dunes. I quite love it.
In a last ditch effort to appease the disgruntled souls who’ve frowned at my lack of posts (that’s you, James, and random emailer who thinks we’re best friends), here are some outfit shots from a recent day trip to Edisto Island. Most of these photos were taken at a beautiful 18th century church and cemetery right off the Atlantic. It wasn’t difficult to justify prowling the grounds and using the mausoleum as a prop; the last Legare was buried here so long ago it’s unlikely there are any mourning relatives left to offend. After desecrating resting places and fruitlessly searching for haints, my pal Sean and I had a little sunset picnic on the beach, then carried on roaming the Lowcountry.
And that, as they say, is that. I hope you all have a wonderful few months! I’ll return here as often as I can, and may occasionally confirm that I’m alive via weird pictures of my head with African landmarks. I’m sure I’ll inundate you all with stories when I’m home in the spring, but if you wish for a personal one, send me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a postcard. No spam, I promise. And no, Merl, I will not send you a baby cheetah.