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Backpacking in Style: the Beginner’s Manual

Wednesday, 18 March, 2015

Backpacking and high fashion don’t exactly go hand in hand. As backpacking involves traversing around the world with a limited supply of possessions, endless wardrobe combinations and extensive beauty regimes become near impossible. You will bear the physical attributes of tiredness and jet lag. You will have horrific toilet and shower experiences. You will lose half your clothes from the hostel’s communal clothesline. However, having accomplished the feat of travelling throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia looking (I hope) vaguely presentable, I’m here to share with you my infinite wisdom on how to retain your usual glam while on the road.

DO go local.
Do as the locals do and you will be rewarded with newfound beauty, as well as an interesting cultural experience to boot…

  • Fancy a haircut?  In the crowded cities of Vietnam you can get one on the street, allowing hundreds of others to witness your transformation.
  • Need a proper cleanse instead of another dreaded cold shower in a shoddy hostel cubicle? Make sure to visit the local hamam in Morrocco or Turkey, or the public onsen in Japan. Not only is it an opportunity to say good riddance to the grubby backpacker look, but a chance to mingle amongst locals while completely naked. A great way to make new friends.

DO pack neutral.
Bringing your neon disco pants may seem like a good idea at the time, but you’ll regret it once you realise it clashes with every other item of clothing in your bag. Ensuring that your limited amount of clothing is restrained to muted tones like black, white and denim allows more variation in your outfits.

DO bring skincare products from home.
So you’re seeking as many adventurous, off-the-beaten-track cultural experiences as possible… but this need not apply to your soap or your sunscreen. Especially in Asia where you will most likely spend hours searching for any sort of skin product that doesn’t involve whitening your skin.

DO be respectful (and tasteful) when it comes to traditional wear.
Before purchasing saris, kimonos, headscarves, Native American headdresses and the like, consider the impact wearing them will have. While some cultures will be delighted that foreigners are embracing their traditional attire, others may be offended. Do your research and retain the respect of locals.

DO bring deodorant absolutely everywhere.
And I mean everywhere. As travelling involves various strenuous activities such as walking for hours on end, navigating jungles, trekking around mountains and running as fast as humanly possible for trains, planes and buses while lugging around an enormous backpack, excessive sweating is unavoidable. When travelling, deodorant will be your new best friend.

DON’T be ‘that’ tourist.
You know what I mean. The one sporting the bum bag, the baseball cap and the sports sandals with a huge map in front their face. Not only is it uncool, it’s incredibly uncool. Dressing in this tragic state will also make you a target for all those scheming pickpockets.

DON’T leave the inevitable task of washing your clothes to the last minute.
While washing your clothes probably won’t be the highlight of your trip, and you may not have the time with all the historical monuments to visit and cheap alcohol to consume, who wants to be a walking testament to a weeks worth of B.O.?

Travelling is, by nature, unpredictable – and your fashion and beauty regimen will undoubtedly suffer during your crazy adventure. Nevertheless, looking reasonably cool while doing so is possible. So next time your on the road unleash your inner backpacking diva, and do it in style.