Traveling Light – The Do’s And Dont’s Of Barely-There Backpack Wear

Extras, Packing & Wardrobe, Shopping & Style, Solo Travel — By on June 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

by J’Nisha Towne

Special To The Lost Girls

I find that most of my travels are best explored on foot, namely small historical, touristy towns.

Your toes must find the scraggy torn rock and curl against the steep incline of ruins that is Malacca’s St. Paul’s Church. Unavoidable will be the swinging cameras and tour groups in matching neon-green shirts. You will see the red, hand-crafted flags will mark the path to a littering of hawker stalls selling knock-off Tom Ford eyewear and woven hats. The lingering aromas of roasted chickpeas, pig skin- dried and curled, and thick slabs of sweet watermelon will envelop your senses.

As your maneuver toward the bustle of crowd you will discover counters selling cendole, a sweet and cooling favorite among locals and tourists alike. Through the considerably slower pace, you will wade in and out of bodies to notice the display of plastic bowls filled to the rim with shaved ice, cooked red bean, sweet cream corn, and strings of green cendole laden in coconut milk and gula melaka (brown sugar).

Mentally ticking off your list of local eats to try, you are captured by the sights and sounds of Melaka. And yet as a solo female traveler, captured by your surroundings, you may not notice that you have attracted stares from small children with dark hair to aged men with sun-blazed skin.

You simply pull up the belt loops of your so-snug-stretch pants and walk briskly in the direction of your least “lost-ness”. Other signs of mmm-what-is-that distractions?

Check out reasons why you may be standing out more than you anticipated…or were you not anticipating standing out?

1. You’ve been wearing the same pair of black, spandex crop yoga pants from the athletic line of Victoria’s Secret, without notice of any every man on motorbike honking. It’s not always about traffic.

2. Take note: a man’s gummy smile will continue as long as you continue to forego wearing undergarments. You can be assured that the sweat stains under your bra-less line don’t bother their eyes much.

3. You’ve foregone the razor. No mind if you’ve forgotten (or foregone) shaving your legs, the bus driver will not be offended.

4. I know- dark hair hides grease well and shampooing your hair every day is not healthy for sun-trenched tresses. Even so, forego the suds now that you’ve discovered dry shampoo and refusing running water for days may not be the best first bus seat impression for “do you have room for one more?” even if the smell does keep the bugs away.

5. Don’t think for a minute that you look like a foreigner, for your oversized name-brand backpack barely casts a shadow on the sheen of sunscreen layers applied, thick and white-laden upon your skin. You hardly stand but a foot taller than the locals and your money pouch remains hidden visible among the clinging sweat of cotton stuck to your body. A snatching in such a circumstance? Likely.

6. The stench of your mosquito spray and random jerks toward potential dark mozzies in mid-flight-…could it?

Whether your concern to blend in or not is subjective and ambivalent to your tasks (and tastes) at hand- remember that before we were “locals”, we were visitors- tourists you might even say- and the eventual female traveler must keep in mind the following tips for a look that carries you from an overnight sleeper to the night market with hygiene, style, and self-awareness:

Take note the following before you get out of the bus/train/plane/room:

1. Work-out clothes cannot be your consistent, wick-free way to maintain an odorless ensemble. Check out skirts that are a wee bit longer and tops that fit snugly and cover.

2. If you forego shaving your legs- that’s your choice. If you insist on shaving nothing, decide on wearing mini-everything, and abstain from the use of a shower in lieu of baby wipes and dry-shampoo – that is a choice that affects most everyone.

3. Undergarments, sans the uncomfortable wire or strappy-this and too-that-that, are meant for the purpose of support, seemly modesty, style (sure), and overall hygiene. If you choose to go about traveling “freely”, then do! If you intend on scowling at the men gaping at your less-than-modest-breasts, then you’ll need to make peace with a second layer.

4. Your choice to blend in or set apart can be quite harmless really- the oversize backpack is a statement in itself – so check it at the next hostel, change into comfortable clothes, grab a day pack with a discreet area (or two) for your bills, and enjoy the liberties you have in exploring a new place!

5. Remember to bring the necessities- take bug spray to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Buy miniature packs of toilet paper and carry a packet of wet wipes in case you inevitably sweat, smell, or exhume ghastly unladylike fumes that could not have been from you.

A few tips to follow can keep the bugs at bay and the experiences plentiful- without the inevitable stares that come alongside travel, oversized backpacks, and a multitude of intermingling odors!

Photo credit: kibitan, /flickr

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  • Susan Hartmann says:

    I totally agree that wearing short-shorts and a teeny halter top can make you stand out in a lot of places (though not Miami or the south of France). However, arguing that not shaving your legs or wearing a bra somehow make you immodest or asking for hostile attention is hard to swallow. Unless you are quite large busted, anything other than a sports bra will make your bust perkier and cleavage more noticeable. And not shaving has nothing, at all, to do with bad hygiene–it’s a perfectly acceptable personal choice–most men make it every day.

  • Duncan Faber says:

    We have two girls and travel quite a bit. The secret to travelling light in our case is leggings, and lots of them. They pack light, and they can easily put them on underneath a skirt to stay warm. This seems to be our favorite brand these days. LOL.