Traveling for a year is not sexy. Unless you are Beyoncé on tour.
The buzz words “traveling the world” or “wanderlust” make travel sound like you walked straight off the cover of Condé Nast Traveler, gorgeous designer luggage in hand, rocking a red string bikini and continually migrating from one infinity pool to the next. While I am traveling with a red string bikini (that barely survived 5 months of croissant breakfasts), I am here to tell you traveling for a year is not inherently sexy.
This is about more than unpleasant illnesses and unsanitary living conditions (and since Brent and I live by the mantra “always be dating”, I will not being going there – whew!). The truth is, the practicality of working while traveling is not the same as the spare-no-expense glamour of vacationing.
But that’s not to say you can’t make extended travel look and feel more like one long vacation. Whether you plan to travel independently, with your boo, or with friends, here are my little secrets for keeping it sexy (and no, I’m not starting a sex blog, mom and dad you can keep reading).
“Travel clothes” are like “mom jeans”, just don’t go there.
I’m not talking your airport go-to of ripped jeans, sneaks, and a giant blanket scarf. I am talking about convertible clothing: pants that unzip to become shorts, dresses become skirts, and shirts & scarves that can be worn 100 different ways (if you are an origami master).
Most “travel clothes” promise to be wrinkle-free and lucky for Brent, he is a folding God so this feature is less of a selling point for him. I, on the other hand, am not so blessed. Even after years in retail, I’m terrible at folding clothes. It’s also by choice, I rather they end up in a pile on the floor.
Knowing I would have to face my folding fears, I watched every travel hack on YouTube. Some helped, but here’s my little secret weapon…. pack lace. Lace dresses, skirts and tops, are an easy way to keep your wardrobe sexy, and wrinkle-free. When I first packed my suitcase with lace dresses, Brent thought I was nuts, and I probably was out of my mind, but after 7 months on the road all of my lace items still remain wrinkle-free. Now you can skip having to steam your clothes in the shower every time you unpack.
Important note: I’ve heard wayyyyy too many girls use the phrase “travel underwear”. I don’t even know what that means but it sounds ridiculously unsexy and sounds like it requires lots of folding, which is why I would highly advise you to bring the good stuff. Why be stuck with the boring stuff for a year. So unless you are planning to backpack the whole time, bring your favorites. Plus like I said, lace doesn’t wrinkle :)
Sexy accommodations that don’t break the bank
Traveling for year can place strict budgetary restrictions on your accommodations. No matter how hard you negotiate (see my last post), you still might not be able to stay in the World’s 100 Most Beautiful Resorts, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for average hotels. My tip for living luxuriously and inexpensively is glamping. Here are two places that will make you feel like a king or queen for a fraction of the price:
Patagonia Eco Domes - El Chaltén, Argentina
One of the most beautiful places we stayed was the Patagonia Eco Domes on the southern tip of Argentina. Our handsomely furnished dome had its own wood burning furnace (lit for us nightly during dinner), a soothing jetted shower with hot running water, and morning views of Mt. Fitz Roy - radiating pink from the sun’s rays. After 4 days of once-in-a-lifetime hiking, my husband and I both concluded that our Patagonian adventure was even better than our honeymoon, and coming home to our eco dome every night was the icing on the cake.
Ballyvolane House - Cork, Ireland
After we reached castle fatigue in Ireland (yes, this can happen), I desperately wanted to stay on a real Irish farm. I even joked to Brent that I would be happy if they put me to work tending to the animals. In fact, most of our travel itinerary results from a very clear vision about the sort of experience or lifestyle we want to have next. Our visit to the Ballyvolane House exceeded all expectations, and honestly felt more like a fairytale then a beautiful glamp site.
We stayed in bell tents, lit by a chandelier of tealights, and our bed was warm from the hot water bottles tucked under our comforter each night. At sunrise we walked through their whimsical garden, into a magnificent 18th century Georgian home for a hearty Irish breakfast. The eggs had been collected that morning and our days were spent reading and working in their grand parlor. At night we helped ourselves to drinks, including their prized homemade gin from their honesty bar and exchanged travel stories with other guests. The atmosphere of this place is magical and dripping with romance.
If you don’t end up going the glamping route because you prefer the comforts of hotels and B&Bs, then try not to overestimate the value of being in the heart of a city – it increases your costs and doesn’t always give you the most authentic cultural experience. In researching our next home base, I expand my search to include accommodations within 30 minutes of downtown, it invariably pays off. Here are two more places you will not want to miss:
Domaine de Rhodes B&B - Avignon, France
In Provence, we stayed 10 minutes outside of Avignon in a beautiful, ivy-covered B&B. Every morning they served warm, flaky chocolate croissants on the patio along with plates of local cheeses and jams. When we weren’t on our laptops we took a dip in their refreshing pool, or borrowed their bicycles to explore local farmers markets. The city was only a 20 minute bike ride away, so we either peddled into town for dinner or walked to our favorite restaurant, La Ferme, and sat out on their picturesque patio to dine with the locals.
Relais Villa L'Olmo - Impruneta, Italy
Much like wanting to stay on a working farm in Ireland, in Italy we knew we wanted to live on a winery. (Bonus: wineries never run out of wine). We ended up 30 minutes outside of Florence in the quaint town of Impruneta. Our apartment was on the property of a working winery and olive oil farm with breathtaking views of the rolling hills of Tuscany. And because it was part of a resort, they also provided amenities like a gym, pool, breakfast and charcoal grills. This Tuscan apartment became our home base for three weeks, and on the weekends we would leave a few suitcases with the reception desk and rent a car to explore Tuscany’s famous wine regions. We were a 20 minute bus ride from the city, saved a considerable amount of money and fell in love with the people & culture of Impruneta. I’m not sure if I will ever find a Cappuccino again for $1.20…
If you can’t live without it, don’t.
For us, part of this year has been about learning to live with less, to value experiences over possessions. That said….
Bring the things you can’t live without, and use travel mules.
It’s been said that you can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want. Similarly, I'd say you can bring anything you want, you just can’t bring everything you want. To this point, I think we’re all allowed a few (perhaps irrational) indulgences. Here are ours…..
Brent’s: 2nd monitor, smart glasses, suit, and TRX straps
Mine: Lace dresses (see above), and 9 pounds of hair products to tame the mane.
One guy we know is traveling the world with an egg guillotine, another with a bed of nails. Are these normal travel necessities? No. In fact, I’d venture to say they’re not even normal back home. But to those who lug them around, they represent the short list of things they can’t live without.
To replenish our supply of hair products and other goodies, we’ve relied on the help of friends (travel mules). Without them I’d be a mess of tangled hair. We can’t thank them enough for stocking us up and most importantly visiting us!
So, as it turns out, keeping it sexy while traveling, isn’t really about sex appeal. It’s about a few small choices that keep traveling comfortable and fun. You don’t have to say goodbye to nice clothes, inspiring accommodations or your favorite creature comforts, it just takes some forethought and an unconventional outlook.