A number of years ago, I went through a pretty bad stretch.* Something unfortunate would happen, and then something else unfortunate would happen, and then, as I tiptoed around hoping another ball wouldn’t drop, another ball would. After a while it got so comically bad that a close friend nicknamed me “The Girl Who Has Everything.” But as I’ve noted before, life’s ability to change is one of the things I like most about life, and eventually—as they so often do—the bad times got better. However, they also left their mark. I had needed to travel a fair amount for work during that time, and it had been excruciating. At a moment when even my comfort zone wasn’t the easiest place to inhabit, being so far away from home and the people I loved was its own special hell. And even after life got bright again, it took me a very long time to care to go much of anywhere. Even now, a tiny vein of dread still lingers—like I said, it left a mark—but mostly, I’m always happy to hit the road . And I’ve learned that it helps a lot to bring along a few comforts of home. This hasn’t made me the world’s lightest traveler, but I do somehow manage to cram everything in one carry-on. And when exactly did traveling light become such a virtue anyway?
A travel blanket feels obvious, but it’s good for more than just the plane. Once you arrive at the hotel, it can double as a bright and lovely substitute your bedspread (something you’ll put away immediately if, like me, you have watched one too many TV reports about the germs that linger in your hotel room, and are aware that the bedspread is one big hotbed of yuck). One of your bigger, prettier, scarves will accomplish the same objective just as nicely. Because I am always freezing on the plane, I usually travel one of these too.
True, pretty much every hotel room comes with its own nice, huggy terrycloth robe these days, but I find it deeply comforting to travel with my oversized men’s flannel version from LL Bean. For summer I’m contemplating the purchase of a nice light cotton number from John Robshaw, but keep thinking I can find the same thing cheaper somewhere. Thoughts?
Again, I know: travel candles = obvious. But bringing along a scent I like turns out to be huge for me. For years I underestimated how huge, and was constantly purchasing expensive, inferior versions in hotel gift shops. This Red Flower number takes up precious little packing space—it literally fits in the palm of your hand. And because it’s so small, it doesn’t last for much more than a few days. So you can toss it at the end of your trip instead of trying to pack its waxy, messy self up.
It’s perhaps not the most economical approach, but I love to travel with itsy versions of my favorite beauty products, instead of just squeezing what I need into drugstore travel containers like a more rational person might. Kate Somerville skin products are probably my biggest beauty splurge—I’ve got ridiculously sensitive skin, and it’s the first line that really worked—and so I travel with her Blemish Banisher kit, because it’s the one with all my products. That’s right. God forbid at 48 I should stop worrying about breaking out.
If I’m feeling especially motivated, I’ll bring along my own soaps and such, because almost everything is too perfumed for me. This wee little Dr Bronner’s will only set you back $2.99.
It took me years to understand the importance of packing a pair of really comfortable, worn-in jeans, even on work trips when I didn’t have any intention of wearing them out of the hotel. You’ve got to have something to lounge in.
*It’s a pretty interesting story, actually. But one for another day—and not especially soon.