How Long-term Travel Almost Cramped My Style in a Jet-setting Paradise

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It’s been four months since we left the States. Traveling the pristine landscapes of the North and South Islands of New Zealand and the beaches of Australia has been surreal. For a country with such a fairly small footprint in the world when it comes to landmass, New Zealand has afforded me the ability to experience unbelievable beaches, coastal views, mountains that will dwarf your existence and a helicopter ride to witness a glacier all in one country. As if that wasn’t enough, Australia didn’t disappoint as schools of neon-coloured fish circled our waists when we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.

Up until this point, after traveling to destinations with contrasting climates from a geothermal beach to the snow-capped Alps, I was sure that I was going to run out of clothing options. Before leaving the US, I downsized over half of my wardrobe by auctioning designer pieces at deeply discounted prices. I went from a walk-in closet teeming with floor length gowns, fur coats (yes, plural), barely worn studded thigh-high boots, cocktail dresses, and an abundance of skirts, shoes and accessories to one rolling suitcase. ONE. Armed with a handful of clothing to last several years, including one pair of jeans and three pairs of shoes, this abbreviated wardrobe would have sufficed for a vacation getaway in another life time.

The moment I came to terms with my decision to sell all but a few of my belongings and leave a comfortable life behind, panic sunk in. Quick. Not because fear suddenly encroached on a well calculated plan but the fact that this, this entire transition affected an intimate piece of my identity: my style. With limited outfit options in tow, leaving the US felt like leaving a piece of my identity behind. For good. At this point, you may be questioning the superficiality of my entire being given the descriptions of the aforementioned destinations. [Editors note: Judge not least ye be judged.] No, but seriously, add New Zealand to your globe-trotting goals *insert brown emoji praise hands*.

 

 

But before you start tethering the scarcity of my apparel to my self-esteem, let’s be clear, I am not shallow.

The truth is, as an unabashed ambivert, never leaning too far left or right on the introvert-extrovert continuum, my personal style is my distinct way of slipping into something that uncovers the hidden vibrancy of my personality. It spurs meaningful conversations with strangers. It’s the statement proclaimed among peers. It’s the tangible spirit of courage to express my identity. Clothing is my visual vernacular. The language of non-verbal communication which underpins my temperament.

But lately I’ve been feeling frumpy.

Like the visual language of my over-sized hoodie has been speaking an unfamiliar dialect that no one wants to understand. Like the time I was grinning under a cotton candy sunset at the thought of being half way across the world in Australia and my clothes announced to the tourist beside me that I looked disheveled…awkward…uncoordinated all before I could come to my own defense. To be honest, I never really owned outdoor gear. But for the first two weeks my windbreaker jacket and Indian Jones-like pants were my uniform because as naive as I was, I thought every day was going to be a hike so of course I didn’t do my make-up and threw my hair into a ponytail without fail.

In light of this trivial dilemma, I didn’t post any photos on my social media accounts or write a blog post until two months into my travels. Once in a lifetime moments laid dormant on memory cards and evaporated into my iCloud all because I felt inadequate as a personal style blogger. Because of this freedom from beauty norms I didn’t feel worthy enough to share my happiest moments to my readers. Who wants to follow a personal style blogger without stylish clothes? A person who is at risk of repeating the same recycled outfit?

For the typical long-term traveler this wouldn’t be a problem in itself. In fact, a travel blogger once wrote ‘travel is not a fashion show’ albeit the ratio of carefully crafted jet-setting editorials and countless “how to travel in style” content may prove otherwise. Despite some truth to the blogger’s words, I may need to point out one small detail: I am a personal style blogger. I am a personal style blogger with experience as a wardrobe stylist who happens to share the same alumni affiliation with the likes of Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, Calvin Klein and many others. [Editors note: By no means am I equating the virtuosity of these fashion icons to myself, it just so happens that our degrees share the same university seal and moniker.]

Concerns grew as I grappled with the direction of my platform. A personal style blogger without a closet may equate to a blogger without relevance. The inability to provide the visual vocabulary to communicate to my readers may very well leave us all at The Tower of Babel. Why? Because people want bloggers to create a fantasy. To fuel their aspirations of being the next influencer in hopes of affirming everyone else’s fashion decisions. The world of fashion and travel is frequently romanticized for the elite on the shores of Maldives and in the midst of extravagant parties in Dubai. Let’s be honest, no one double taps Instagram photos for being basic.

But if the intent of travel is to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences and to live fearless enough to challenge our perceptions, then taking a glamorous photo to conjure exclusivity would be a disservice. My clothes will wax poetic about the time I freestyled at the base of Lake Pukaki. Style will reflect the relationship between myself and the clothes that I have lived in. Because after all, basic is beautiful.

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