What's in My Travel Bag - The Wash Bag Edition

For a while now I've been wanting to put together a few tips on travel, packing, planning... that sort of thing. I've been traveling a lot over the past few years and when I started out I had a long check list that I would print out and go through item by item as I was packing for a trip. The way I packed for a work trip was definitely different from the way I packed for a holiday, what with all the equipment and clothes required for weeks away from home. Now I've reduced it down to a fine art, this whole packing business, and I hope you find these tips useful for whatever kind of adventure you're getting yourself into!

Starting out with my favourite bit of my suitcase, my wash bag. I tend to think of my wash bag as my mini spa, a little self care kit that will revive me after a day of running around getting sweaty and hauling several pounds worth of equipment through the bush/city/slum, or wherever... Having a little bit of time to myself to take care of my body at the end of the day has filled me up with relief and gratitude more times than I can say. Here's what keeps me going:

1. The bag itself comes from Anokhi in Jaipur. Any bag that can fit a lot of stuff is perfect for me - it doesn't need compartments, I just need to be able to pack it and squish it into a bag. It needs to be washable, but have a plastic inside so that when something leaks (and it will), that something doesn't go everywhere.

2. Refillable bottles from Muji are what I use to fill up on my own shampoos, conditioner, etc... These for shampoo, conditioner and body wash, and these for hair mask and body lotion. I'm not too keen on whatever you can buy in travel size and the idea of buying a mini bottle that gets chucked away when it's empty makes me cringe. I use this OGX shampoo and conditioner and this hair mask - the last of which is definitely a necessity if you have long, bleached hair in a dry heat and you hope to, at some point, get a brush through it.

3. For body and face... I've been trying to teach myself how to make homemade, natural beauty products and so far the only one I've had any success with is this body wash which also doubles as a face wash - it's super moisturising. I tried to make homemade shampoo and it did not go well.

4. Sun protection is a must must must at a minimum of factor 50, especially when you're pale as anything and look like you would be better suited to living underground. This is my new favourite face SPF, I used to use this one which is also good but it's more liquid so it tends to travel down my face and get into my eyes. Lately I've been using this body SPF and so far it hasn't let me down - unless I forget to re-apply.

5. For moisturiser, I love all Aesop products, so I use this one because it smells amazing. I'm not a fan of flowery smells which seem to make up most women's beauty products and often make me feel sick or give me a headache, so Aesop is perfect for me because it's all nutty and herb smells with understated floral scents. 

6. Perfume is also from Aesop and I wear it always, when I'm working and when I'm traveling for any other reason - it makes me feel so good and a little more myself no matter how flat out I am.

7. Aromatherpay is something that has only recently become such a big part of my travel routine, I use this flight therapy because I'm a terrible flyer and it cheers me up when I'm getting all anxious about having to sit still on a plane for a million hours. Also my friend gave me a few samples from her doTERRA kit, and I use them at random whenever I feel like I need to chill the F out.

8. Samples. I always load up on a bunch of samples, especially when I can charm the Aesop guys into giving me extra - which is rare because my powers to charm anyone are basically non existent. But any kind of mini facemask, oil or exfoliant samples I can get, I bring with me. The exfoliant in particular because I've been known to stick my face in some gross things to get a shot (the grossest being a two week old elephant carcass I think...), and it's nice to be able to scrub whatever is under my skin, out.

9. Face oil is my new favourite thing! I use it daily whether I'm traveling or not, and then wipe the excess on the back of my hands to give them some extra care. I love this one because while it says it's rosehip, I think it smells more like toasted seeds or something. I got given a sample at an event one time and it's taken me about a year to track down which one it was. I've had other face oils before and they all felt too heavy - this one feels like magic!

10. Body lotion for me can be just coconut oil, if I put it on at night and sleep in it so it's off by morning. Although sometimes I find coconut oil and smell a bit gross after a while, and it's definitely not going to stay solid in a warm country so you risk getting it EVERYWHERE. Plus it can be bulky and hard to find way to carry it. So sometimes I just fill up one of those Muji squeeze bottles with some of this, it's expensive but it's a massive bottle and one usually lasts me about six months. Also I'm a fan of this hand moisturiser: 

11. Makeup! I don't wear it every day, and usually half way through a trip I give up, but if I'm feeling like I need to feel a little more together I use this mascara, because it's not quite so waterproof that it won't come off in the shower without needing to use a special cleanser, but it also won't come off when you get stuck in a monsoon downpour - I've tested that. And I use this shimmery cheek stuff when I feel like putting in any kind of an effort, would you call it a highlighter? I don't know - but with just these two things I definitely feel a bit more fancy, which is nice sometimes. Oh and this lip balm, because it can de-chap any lip overnight.

12. The rest is just toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers (because there's nothing worse than not being able to cut your nails!!!), hair elastics (these for topnots, these for everything else), and tampons or pads if you prefer along with a little bag you may have to keep them in if where you're staying doesn't have an easy way to dispose of them - yup, this happens.

And then here's a fun fact, I don't pack deodorant because I don't need it! I have a genetic variant called ABCC11 which means I don't produce whatever body odour bacteria like to feed on - which means I never produce that particular smell. It also means I don't really produce much ear wax. Bodies are weird.

Photos and styling by Tania

What's in My Travel Bag

A kind of home. Canada Photo Diary.

I left Canada when I was young with a broken heart and every intention of going back as soon as I could. I traveled to the north of England for university and cried every night for a month because I was so home sick - I missed my friends, I'd just sold my horse and it broke my heart, I missed my life. But slowly over time I built a new life for myself without even realising it. For the next five years I walked such a rocky, slippery path that was the most challenging part of my life up until that point, although I didn't realise it at the time - I was becoming myself.

I did go back to Canada. For a summer at first, and then a quick passing visit, and then a four year gap, and then I started dating a Canadian boy (spoiler alert: my future husband) who grew up a few streets over from me. It always makes me laugh that I traveled half the world to marry someone I met when I was eight.

But somehow between that first summer and now, over a decade has passed and I've spent almost no time roaming the city that held my heart so many years ago. It has been a long time since it felt like home and while I loved that time in my life, I couldn't wish for it back again - only because what I have now is so amazing. The life I've created for myself is so much better.

This visit I had a little more time to myself, and I wandered around taking it all in. A part of me realised I'd been holding it at arms length for so long because I almost didn't want to remember, in case it was painful. But it wasn't in the end. I just remembered how much I used to love it and how it used to feel like home. It doesn't anymore and that's ok, it doesn't always have to feel painful to let things go. It feels like a different kind of home now, mostly a home to so many people I love - and a wonderful place to keep returning to.

Be the Light

Some photos from a visit to France with the beautiful Tania and her family, as well as some thoughts on positive anticipation...

If there's one thing this year has taught me is that there is no sense in betting against yourself. It's so tempting to be humble, to say "I'd love to but I probably never will...", or to be down on yourself when someone asks you how you're doing.

If you never try then you'll never fail and there's safety in that. If you never go up against a difficult challenge, if you never put yourself out there to potentially fail and to try again, then you'll never know the heartache of feeling like a failure. But more and more I hear people limiting themselves with their language (me included, btw...) and wrapping all their positives in an ocean of negatives, just to temper expectations. 

Since going freelance I've noticed my tolerance for being defeatist has slowly ebbed away, and I'm the last person to be getting rid of it because I've probably been the worst culprit. It had to get worse before it got better, but I've learned that the words you speak and training your thoughts has such an impact. Saying "never" even if you're hoping for a someday... it means never. You're putting your "nevers" out there to dampen expectation and to be humble, but you're not doing yourself any favours because the more you speak it or think it... the more likely it is to come true.

You have to be your own light, your own biggest fan, and bet on yourself every day even if your only evidence that you may succeed is that you have a heartbeat. You have to be honest, and out loud honest, not just in your head honest. You have to intrust your fears to your closest friends and listen when they tell you why it's going to be ok - and then just let it go. Don't cling doubt like it's a life raft so in the event you go under you'll have that safety net of "I told you so...".

In my experience I've found it's about training my mind to think positive, being conscious of my thoughts and replacing every idea that makes me feel down or anxious with an idea that lifts me up. And the hardest part for me has been training my mouth to follow along on those thoughts - too often I give into sarcasm about myself and my abilities, even the way I'm feeling, and then I walk away feeling like I let myself down. 

I've been working hard every day to keep my mood up. Listening to podcasts, exercising, doing those things I know will keep me happy over being indifferent and tired. I've tried to keep myself in a constant state of "looking forward to" and even just typing that gave me a jolt of excitement for things to come - even if I'm not even aware of them yet, I know good things are coming.

Maybe this post should be the beginning of a new blog series about what I'm doing to slowly train myself to become an optimist... what do you think?