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Should I Buy Clothes Just for Traveling? Hell No.

It’s time for a little girl advice. Contrary to popular belief, viewing a mountain top in a North Face jacket does not make it ten times better.

Every time I see an article that pimps out a specific shirt that works well for traveling, a small (okay, large) part of me snorts inside. Even the respectable New York Times does this and I’m not exactly sure why. The truth is a lot simpler: unless you’re doing some serious adventure traveling or you’re on a business trip, you can honestly wear 90% of whatever you want and be absolutely fine.

Provided the clothes you’re shoving into your suitcase are comfortable, functional and versatile, packing the right thing isn’t so hard as trying not to overpack. Storing several different types of clothing minimizes this and lets you layer for different climates.

What if I run into a Russian hottie! you worry. It’s something I worry about too — though your clothes should be functional, I never said anything about your clothes actually having to be ugly. Clearly, while this comes down to personal taste (or lack thereof), style is something that can still be incorporated into your suitcase. Dresses for chicas, for instance, are actually great for traveling. Throw in some leggings, and now it can you last you through some cooler weather!

First and foremost, check the weather and see if the place you’re going has significant fluctuations in temperature. As a general rule of thumb, try packing about half of what you need. Stay away from bulky clothes and try to lean toward a shirt, light jacket and scarf if you’re heading somewhere cold. The key is to really have a bunch of different pieces that you can layer in conjunction with each other. If you’re heading somewhere where the sun will be out in full force, bring clothes you can breathe in. But don’t forget, it can also get really cold at night also too.

If you’re going somewhere seriously cold, consider a heavy-duty jacket — you’ll need it. Dress for the weather, and more importantly, the season and place. Singapore winters, after all, aren’t very cold. Here’s a basic (or common sense) list of some clothing types you may want to bring along:

  • Breathable shirt
  • Basic shirt
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Light jacket and/or cardigan
  • Pants and/or shorts
  • Dress (if you’re a girl)
  • Scarf and/or mittens and/or winter hat if its cold
  • Heavy jacket for extreme cold

The next thing to consider is where you’re going. If you want to bring your designer duds to Europe, it’s probably fine. But hell, walk in the ghettos of Vietnam with your flashy Louis Vuitton bag? Not only is that not smart, it is also insensitive to the people around you. You’ll basically draw attention to yourself instead of blending in and, generally, the more you do it, the more you scream “I’m not from these dem parts!” Guess who’s generally first on the list for petty and/or violent crime?  At the same time, other parts of the world aren’t as undeveloped as you think they are, so try to bring a mix of nice and basic clothing that you can get away with in different situations.

Religious purposes can also be a reason to pack slightly more conservatively. This is especially a concern in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia comes to mind as one where women must cover up; to complicate matters even further, it is actually against the law to be accompanied anywhere by a woman who is not your wife or a family member! Following decorum in houses of worship is also a sign of respect: though you may rent or borrow clothes, bare shoulders may not always be apropos.

Warning: Guys, the next two paragraphs I’m about to spit out are very girly, so unless you’re into hair and makeup, I highly suggest skipping through them.

Where most people—or girls, rather—tend to go wrong is usually in the makeup and accessory department. Leave your most expensive jewelry at home so you’re not obsessively worrying about it, especially if you’re absent-minded. By the same token, only bring your makeup essentials with you, not the whole bag. No one really cares about what you look like after an 18-hour flight across the ocean — they’re more worried about what they look like, if anything. People in the travel biz see harried passengers all the time; if you’re really bothered, there’s always the art of the airport bathroom touch-up.

My own personal weakness is a bit more mundane. My hairdryer almost always makes it on to the flight with me, but that’s because I know I’ll usually be staying somewhere where it might not be provided (i.e. hostels), conjoined with the fact, that well, I also have longer hair. But that’s just my one sacrificial just-for-me item that I’ll always find space for.

Things usually get a bit trickier with shoes, since I like to carry at least three pairs around, including the ones on my feet. You’ll need a pair of walking shoes—ones that you can walk in around for hours and hours at a time—and a pair of sandals for iffy shower situations at the very least. I like to throw in a pair of flats cause they’re generally small and dressy to stand a night out on the town, but I have packed heat with a pair of heels once in France. Heels are definitely a luxury; only pack them if you know you’re planning to make regular use of them. If you plan to do some serious, serious hiking, you may want to consider having your hiking boots double as your walking shoes.

Personally, I don’t think people need advice on how to dress themselves. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and how sick you get afterwards for not preparing, and that’s when you really learn, right?

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