Emily, you write a blog called Ruby Slipper Travels dedicated to your world wide travels and chic clothes wear during said travels. How did you begin traveling?
I started independently traveling (i.e. not family trips) when I was in University and studied abroad at the University of Glasgow. I loved living in Europe and also having lots of friends from different countries (I was inspired to study German by all my German friends). I returned to Canada to finish my degree, but I was already plotting how to live abroad again... ; )
What countries have you been to?
Quite a few by now, although not as many as people who go back-packing (I tend to move to a place and stay there for a while). I've been to quite a few countries in Europe, across half of Canada, and also to Cuba, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and Mozambique. I've never been anywhere in Asia or South America, and I've only been to the US once, to Seattle for one day! (Except for lots of airports, which don't really count).
Have you always made a point of dressing chic while traveling or did that evolve later?
I've always tried. Obviously my sense of style has evolved along the way. But I remember when I first went around some of Europe with some friends, my mom told me to take sneakers and a raincoat. I took the sneakers and never wore them, and I left the raincoat behind. I've often met people in hostels who have bought special "travelling clothes:" lightweight, waterproof, you can zip the pants to different levels to have capris or whatever, and I think it's completely bizarre. Why would you want to go around Paris looking like you're camping? I guess I always try to bring things that are sensible, but still attractive and still me.
Do you think the clothes you're wearing can make you feel a certain way and thereby make the trip even better? (i.e. wearing a swing-y vintage dress can make a train ride feel even more romantic and therefor more exciting.)
Yes and no. In an ideal world, of course! However, if you're taking the train long distances and have luggage, not so much. There's nothing romantic about vintage creases! I try to dress well while I'm at my destination, but I generally look pretty shocking on my way somewhere. Usually because I have way too much stuff and am trying to hide my second carry-on under my coat somewhere...
How do you strike a balance between chic and practical?
Practical means I can walk and I'm the right temperature. So flat shoes are, for me, an absolute must. But I want them to be nice flat shoes, not runners or clunky sandals. Cardigans or light sweaters are important too. They can add or enhance colour in an outfit, or they can be stuffed in your bag. For traveling, I tend to favour outfits that aren't too fussy: a dress and a sweater and some flat shoes et voila! Oh, and the less stuff that needs ironing, the better!
How much do you usually pack and for how long?
It's a bit seasonal of course, how many sweaters and things you'll need. But for example for 1-2 weeks:
2 dresses (or 3, realistically)
3 tops (including at least one long-sleeve T or blouse to layer under the dresses)
one pair of jeans or pants
two pairs of shoes
2 sweaters of whatever thickness
coat, scarf, hat, etc.
Obviously you'll wear one set of clothes on the plane or in the car or whatever, and I generally wear the pants and the heaviest shoes, since I'm incapable of sticking to weight allowances. Likewise, if you have too much stuff, you'll have to sacrifice some in-transit comfort and wear basically everything! I hate that! ; )
I try to bring things that roll up small, don't need to be ironed, and can be mixed and matched. It's especially important that the sweaters and the shoes go with everything. ; p If it's summer and I have extra space I might sneak in some capris too, since I find them much more comfortable than jeans...
How do you get the most out of the limited clothes you pack?
The usual tricks of the trade. Putting a pullover over a dress so it looks like a skirt. Sometimes even tucking or un-tucking a blouse makes a fair bit of difference. I don't tend to travel with accessories, mainly because they're small and they might get lost, but it's good to have a belt on hand. And different tights can change an outfit quite a bit... I guess those should have been on the list! Inevitably though, unless it's a very short trip, you will get a bit bored with what you've brought--but that only makes you appreciate your other things more when you get home!
It’s nice to hear that even someone who is so used to packing still has trouble with packing too much! You said you don’t pack many accessories but what about make up/beauty products?
I have a mini toilet bag that fits concealer, my toothbrush, mini-toothpaste and razor and some other random odds and ends in it, and I try and limit myself to that! If I have extra space and am doing something special I might bring a few nail-polishes. I tend not to wear a lot of make-up anyway. Oh, I do buy a travel sized tube of Nivea Soft if I'm organized; it's awful when you arrive somewhere and have no cream. Just remember that if you're flying each individual bottle has to be less than 100mL, and it's best to have a zip-lock bag to fit them in. Tweezers and disposable razors are allowed on the plane, whatever various airport staff might try and tell you. Insist on seeing their list of forbidden items if they give you trouble!
Wow! I could never deal with that little beauty supplies and make up! I admire your survival skills! LOL! I think I've run out of other things to ask, so last question: do you have any other, random, tips for packing?
Random tips for getting around weight allowances: (my obsession ; ))
If possible have someone come to the airport with you. They can hold your heavy stuff while your carry-on is being weighed or seen, and then you can dump all your books back in afterwards! I recommend this more for if you're moving than if you're going on holiday though. If going on holiday, just try and keep it minimal!
Also, most airlines restrict you to one carry-on bag (sometimes including your purse or laptop) but you can get around this in the winter by having a big coat, and draping it over your shoulders rather than wearing it, in order to conceal an over-the-shoulder bag. This may all seem incredibly petty, but if you're packing up your life and they charge $15 per kilo of overweight, well...
Wear your heaviest shoes, "read" your heaviest book in the line... and reward yourself with an enormous cappuccino or equivalent if you actually get away with all of this!
(All pictures from Ruby Slipper Journeys)