What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!

coco3

3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.

Emma

4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.

MM

5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.

The Secret World of Pompeii

Okay, y’all ain’t ready for this.  I wasn’t ready.  As you know, I like to give you a little flavor along with the history of the sites I visit.  Well, when our tour guide gave us the background on what life was really like in Pompeii before it was destroyed, it was like I was listening to “E True Hollywood Story: Pompeii”.  There is just so much.

First, the excavation site was visually more stunning than I expected.  Second, I was amazed that so many ancient homes were still somewhat intact.  I can’t even imagine my house being around thousands of years from now.

As we are walking, the guide tells us about the people of Pompeii.  I’m listening kind of lazily while taking pictures.  I mean, I’d just hiked up a volcano so my attention span was on a downward spiral.  Anyway, the guide says a series of things that capture and hold my interest for the rest of the day.

1.            Pompeii had an open sewer.  That’s right; Pompeii’s theme song was “Funkytown”.  I know…I couldn’t really believe it either.  I had to ask for clarification because it just seemed too nasty to be real.  Feces and urine would run down the streets and they would wait for the rain to wash it away.  Sorry for you if it happened to be a dry month.  You can see in this picture that there are huge stones that the people would use to cross the street (I like to call it “Doo Doo Crossing”) so they wouldn’t have to step in that crap (you know they only wore sandals which meant if they stepped in it, then they got the full effect).  I am sure that folks inevitably fell off the stones.  Maybe that is where the saying “Oh, sh*t!” came from?

2.            The rich folks in Pompeii were pompous.  Apparently, the good citizens of Funkytown liked to show off their wealth.  When you went over to Titus’s house, he had his treasure chest open on the front table so you could see how rich he was.  Also, they had a tiled mosaic of a big dog with “beware of dog” (in Latin) in the foyer.  So, basically, they invited you over and said, “Hey, look at all my money…but don’t try to take it because Fido will kill you.  More wine?”  This was well before the time of Occupy Pompeii Street.

  

3.            Pompeii was full of freaks.  Apparently, Pompeii was where the party was at.  They had 80 bars and 25 brothels.  With the open sewer.  I am not able to get past the open sewer so let’s just address that now.  It’s gonna come up…often.  Anyway, the freaks did come out at night and they were doing things that Rick James couldn’t even dream of.  Modern Pompeii is full of people selling erotic calendars, statues, playing cards, etc (see below).  Now, I originally thought these sexual position scenes may have been their version of “art” back then.  But, the guide pointed out that they posted these scenes in the bedrooms of the whorehouses as a “menu of services” (just like McDonald’s).  You know I was looking to see what the “goings on” were (purely for research purposes only).  You ain’t ready for that.  A menu of sexual services.  Seriously.  After getting your drank on at one of the 80 bars then crossing and falling into the open sewer, you go over to Octavia’s and ask for a #3.  Love it.

 

4.            Funk is a theme.  Now, the good people of Pompeii didn’t have bath tissue back then so they had to make do.  The lower caste folks would just wipe their booty with the left hand and eat with the right (they didn’t have forks or spoons back then which means they really needed both hands).  The rich folks would use a communal sea sponge for the family.  I’m gonna let that marinate for a minute.  Imagine you and your family all using the same sponge to wipe after doing #2.  I guess if they can deal with the open sewers, they can deal with a communal sponge.  They also used urine to bleach their clothes.  Really?  My dog would love that.

5.            They had cafes!  We found these bars with counters.  People would come in during the day and have bread and wine.  They paid their money and would sit at tables to socialize.  I never imagined an ancient civilization with marble counters!

 

It broke my heart to see the castes of the human & canine remains that were preserved from the lava and ash.  You can see the remains below of a man, dog and slave.

  

Overall, Pompeii was fascinating!  I highly recommend a visit if you ever plan to be in the Naples or Sorrento area.

        

Hiking Mt. Vesuvius

If you have never been to Mt. Vesuvius or Pompeii, I highly suggest you go!  These 2 places are AMAZING!  Mt. Vesuvius is about 5 1/2 miles east of Naples, Italy.  My brother and I decided to take a hiking tour up Mount Vesuvius.  That sucker is brutal!  It’s a steep incline but the views are absolutely amazing.

          

It was surreal hiking to the top of a live volcano and seeing something up close that caused such mass destruction thousands of years ago.  As a refresher, Mt. Vesuvius is the volcano that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii in 79AD.  According to the tour guide, the volcano (which has been dormant since 1944) is due to erupt again soon and will probably be as devastating as it was in 79AD.  They have tons of monitoring devices which they say can alert them 3-4 days before an eruption and they can enact the evacuation plan.  CNN was there filming a documentary about the volcano.  The further up the volcano we hiked, the darker it got as we were well into the clouds.

You can see smoke rising up from inside the crater in this picture.

Overall, it was a great experience and really helped to put some context around our subsequent visit to Pompeii.