What To Wear When You Travel To Preserve Your Mental Health As Well As Your Style

Travel can be approached two ways. The first is to focus on preserving memories for after you get home, trying to ensure that you won’t lose the wonder and mind-expansion of visiting a new place. This is a good idea. Fondly recalling a trip is one of the great pleasures of life — the principle behind famous books like Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. However, carried to the extreme, this focus on the future can prevent you from truly entering the experience as it happens. Stereotypical tourists see the world from behind a camera lens, prioritizing documentation over living.

The other mode of travel is to let go of expectation and allow things to happen however they happen, appreciating the moment without worrying about being able to re-access it later. These travelers give the entire experience to their present selves, relinquishing the possible wishes of the future self.

Neither approach is inherently superior. It depends on the type of person you are, and what you want to get out of your trip. How do you want travel to function in your life? The follow-up question: How can you use fashion to promote the experience you desire?

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The goal is to be the chill dog who looks like a green fairy, not the extremely angry dog in the pink tutu. I find that emulating dogs is a good life strategy in most instances!!!

Travel is stressful by nature. You have to wait around a lot. The actual process of going from place to place is tedious whether you fly, drive or take the train. Unless you are already familiar with your destination, you have to cope with figuring out where to go, maybe trying to communicate in a foreign language, and spending most of your time out and about. Anxiety and fatigue are normal reactions! In the face of these difficulties, familiar clothes can allow you to hold onto some normalcy — enough to restore calm.

Packing for a trip often poses a challenge. Many travelers report that they over-pack, stuffing suitcases with items they never use. Others always forget something. For example, the first time my parents let me pack my own suitcase for a weeklong getaway, I didn’t bring any shirts. Not one. We had to hit up Target in the town we were visiting. On the other hand, sometimes you pack the right amount of everything — but forget to account for the unfamiliar weather patterns of your destination. Selecting clothes for a trip is fraught with practical peril.

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In addition to the tribulation of remembering to bring formalwear for that family dinner and slipping hiking shoes into the suitcase, there’s a more nebulous consideration: Will you be comfortable in the clothes that you’re bringing? Not just comfortable in a physical sense, but comfortable within yourself, feeling happy and confident. Dressing for and during travel is like picking a first date outfit; it’s better to opt for standbys instead of clothes that are new and unfamiliar. Travel, like dating, has inherent discomfort built into the process. Better to avoid also dealing with shoes that give you a blister and a bathing suit that constantly falls down.

And yet, I have to contradict myself — there’s something to be said for wearing new garments on a trip. When I visited Europe with my dance troupe, the summer before my junior year of high school, I packed a mint-and-chocolate striped tank top that I had purchased a few days beforehand. Now whenever I wear that top, I think of Germany and France. Luckily, the piece was flexible and easy-to-wear.

Fashion blogger Rebecca Stice suggests bringing or buying perfume, explaining that “after a long day tourist-ing it up on foot and stumbling into a dirty hostel, there’s nothing like being able to smell nice to make you stand up a little straighter — further, why not buy a perfume while you are there? [S]cent is the strongest sense tied to memory, so wear it while you’re away and it will evoke your travels every time you spritz it when you [get] back home[.]”

Everyone is broke, especially in their twenties, so a popular alternative to actually going away is the “staycation.” As defined by “Thehuckster” on Urban Dictionary, “staycation” means “staying at home during your vacation instead of traveling to a pleasure destination. This can be caused by high gas prices, or just a shortage of money.” The obvious attraction of a staycation is that it’s cheap. The delight of it, however, is getting to explore local sights and scenes that you’re usually too busy to appreciate. Another contributor to Urban Dictionary, “SVS,” encapsulates the latter principle, describing “staycation” as “a vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and [its] environs have to offer.”

Dressing for a staycation is the opposite of dressing for a va cation. During a staycation, like summer break back in grade school, it’s easy to default to whatever you normally do during your leisure hours. At first, it’s a relief to decompress in front of the TV. Vegging out feels great, but then you get bored and start to worry that you’re wasting the free time. After all, it’s not a break if you’re just running errands and surfing Facebook, right? The point of a staycation is to explore: Visit quirky museums and art galleries, go on beautiful hikes, attend gatherings of all sorts. Any medium-sized urban center, and possibly the smaller ones too, will have a wealth of weird and cool things to check out. Not tourist traps (which admittedly can be fun), but the local gems only known to obscure pockets of people. It takes some effort to find these — often you have to “know somebody who knows somebody.” I also highly suggest reading through event listings online and perusing local activity clubs.

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Pictured: Amanda Lepore, eternally fabulous, whose blonde glamor amps up the standards set by Marilyn Monroe.

So what do you wear to enter a mood of exploration? It depends on the kind of person you are, of course, but staycations are a good time to surprise yourself. Sartorially mark the occasion, as a reminder that it’s not just another week. Vampy lipstick on the daily. Lace socks. A very fine wool vest. Take a week off from your regular wardrobe, especially if you have specific “work clothes,” and put on something special to make yourself feel good.

I always love wearing a long, full skirt. The fabric swishes when you walk, and falls elegantly from waist to ankle. A long skirt is physically satisfying to wear; it moves softly and brushes your calves as you go about your day. Personally, I rate comfort very high on the list of sartorial priorities: Clothes that feel good as well as look good are important to me. Someone with different priorities might choose crisp, well-cut trousers instead of a swishy skirt.

As with all fashion decisions, what to wear on a trip — whether it’s a thousand-mile sojourn or an excursion to a nearby neighborhood — ultimately comes down to personal preference. This article lists the principles that I think about when I’m setting off to explore somewhere new. Hopefully my guidelines can help you travel in greater stylish comfort as well! Au revoir! Bon voyage!

Images: Fotolia; Instagram/aclotheshorse; Getty