It was an innocent question our department intern recently asked me. She was getting ready to gallivant to Europe for more than a month, and her adventure made me wistful I didn't do much traveling during and right after college. But it also reinvigorates me for an adventure of my own.
Whereas most men likely don't give too much thought about what footwear is required at a far-flung destination, we ladies are torn over an ages-long debate.
What's more important: form or function?
In my 20s I would literally pack the kitchen sink to take a trip. I think the second time I went to London (my first adventure without help or escort by my parents) I packed five pairs of shoes. It was only a week-long trip, but I wasn't sure five pairs would be enough to get me through St. Paul's Cathedral, Abbey Road and Tower Bridge.
My, how things have changed.
Over time, most travelers experience a sort of epiphany: you never really need to bring as much stuff as you think you'll need.
I did my best to pack as light as I could when I went to India in 2011. I believed that traveling from New Delhi to Agra to Jaipur wouldn't be as fun if I was lugging a 50 lb. suitcase with me. I was right. Dead weight is the last thing you want to deal with after suffering through a 16-hour flight with Delhi Belly.
I have a new adventure on my travel itinerary and I am already mulling what will go in my suitcase. As much as I'd love to show up in the desert with nothing but a rucksack and some sunscreen, I will need a few extra items that will help me navigate "seven star" dining, camel rides and a Thai cooking class.
Flip-flops just won't cut it, methinks.
My packing list involves a few basic items:
- Birkenstocks. Ugly as all get out, these sandals are the height of comfort when traveling internationally, and the ergonomic brand has come out with a few versions that amp up the style quotient. Mine look like glorified flip-flops made with a silvery material. I can dress them up, dress them down and wear them almost anywhere.
- Flats with a "tennis shoe" sole. I have a couple pairs of the Cole-Haan shoes with Nike soles (I've heard rumors that partnership has dissolved) that are worth their weight in gold, or the retail price at the very least. These shoes are cute but super comfortable, and that's the name of the game when traveling.
- Wedge heels. If you must tote along a pair of heels, make sure they're wedges. Traveling usually involves a lot of walking, and your stilettos likely won't even survive a trek down a third-world-country sidewalk. I plan on bringing some wedges with me but will stow them in my purse and wear my walking shoes as we make our way to a dinner reservation. Taxi/tuk tuk drivers typically don't mind if you change your shoes in transit.
I typically don't pack sneakers because they take up a lot of space in the suitcase and I don't plan on exercising while trekking to Dubai and Bangkok. Unless you're a beach babe, you likely rack up a lot of walking miles when traveling, and your flats with athletic soles are just fine.
Twenty years from now you will be mores disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Katy, I'm heading to Jamaica in a few weeks, and I've been putting a lot of thought into my travel wardrobe. Shoe-wise, I'm planning on taking my birkenstock sandals, a pair of cute boat shoes, and my tennies. No high heels for this girl. Happy travels!
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