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A Rovin’: 10 Travel Essentials

I’m nearing 30 and have lived under an actual lease for only 3 years of my 20s. I’m a digital nomad, which means basically that I work from home, and home is “wherever there’s WiFi and a rough approximation of a desk is.” So basically, all over the world. I’ve rounded the corner on 25 countries at this point, and have logged hundreds of hours on the move. I have swum with sea lions, replaced all my plus size clothing in Europe (an adventure), and slept on trains, planes, ferries, and the floors of bus stations, one hand on my backpack. Here are are some of things that have helped me along the way.

1. Athleisure Clothing

Bless the rains down in Africa, and bless the current widespread availability of athleisure wear. Technical fabrics on clothing you would actually wear outside a gym! They are a traveler’s best friend.

I am personally attached to joggers from Athleta because I am 1) bougie af and 2) sweaty af. However, they could, as with most athleisure labels, stand to make sizing more inclusive than 2x. Torrid has some great, on-trend options (love these roses) through 6x.

Embrace clothing that looks good on you that is also comfortable to wear and that you can wash in a hostel/hotel room sink.

2. A Button Down Chambray Shirt

You can take me literally here, but this is the “please take your favorite article of clothing traveling” section.

Is there an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks, powerful and sexy and confident? Great! Pack it in your bag and take a hundred selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower (or an elephant). For me, it’s a (travel-friendly Tencel fabric) chambray button down, which also helpfully layers for colder days/visits to religious sites.

3. A Self Massager

This is the self-care section. Because I’m An Old, my self care is rolling out my aches and pains with a roller massager every night. Maybe your self-care is a face mask stick that plays nice with TSA; maybe it’s doing your yoga on a travel-ready yoga mat; maybe it’s a more euphemistic meaning for “self massager.” You know you.

4. Plane Snacks

Airports are liminal places where everything is minimum $15 and you can’t bring liquids with you. What you can bring are outside snacks!

Save some money; eat what you actually like.

My travel life changed once I loaded up on travel snacks outside the airport, paying half the price and choosing from 20 times the variety. My faves? Candied ginger, herbal popcorn, Luna bars, and chugging a coconut water right before security.

5. A Drapey Poncho/Shawl … Thing

Truly the workhorse of travel accessories. It’s a plane blanket that doesn’t smell like industrial laundry facilities! It’s a dramatic scarf for selfies in Europe! It’s for those halfway days in autumn where the morning is freezing but the sun is bright midday!

These do come in expensive alpaca wool versions that are truly sumptuous (…thanks, Mom), or you can pick from a ton of reasonable options on Amazon here.

6. Collapsible Bag

When I’m traveling, collapsible bags are what save me from winding up schlepping around five smaller plastic bags at once while grocery shopping. Small enough to live in your purse or pocket, big enough to hold all the souvenirs you totally thought were going to fit in your suitcase.

I’m really into the Rume brand ones, because they hold up to some rough treatment. Plus, they come in different sizes and fun patterns.

7. Sensible Walking Shoes

Cobblestones. Sand. Dirt roads. 10 hours of art museums. None of these places are good for heels or shoes with no arch support.

I’m a big fan of the “three pairs of shoes: boots, slip-ons, sandals” rule, but all of them should be sensible and supportive.

My favorites? Boots from Teva (cute, but grippy soles and solid support), anything that’s been made more supportive by Dr. Scholls, and these miracles from Birkenstock, which are like a cute sandal/flip-flop hybrid.

8. Merino Wool Layers

Are you ready for your life to change? What if I told you there were layers of fabric that you could sweat all over and a sniff test the next day would indicate otherwise?

Warm when you need it; cool when you don’t, merino wool is the choice for travel lovers because of its mutability. Live your best dirtbag travel life: wear the same shirt five days in a row. Ibex, Uniqlo, and Patagonia all have good clothing in this fabric through 2X. Minus33 goes up to a size 26.

9. Dr. Bronner’s

It’s a soap; it’s shampoo; it’s detergent; it’s whatever you will it to be. Dr. Bronner’s famously has more than 25 uses, but those first three are what I wind up using it for.

This miracle soap is available in a smattering of scents and TSA-friendly sizes.

10. Water Bottle

Keep hydrated, save money. Bringing your own water bottle means not paying for water in: the airport, your hotel, around town, at the museum, on hikes. Whether it’s a bougie Swell in plenty of patterns (guilty), one from a charity run covered with stickers, or one with a built-in filter for dubious water sources, taking a water bottle along saves you and saves the planet.