Interview with Carly from Lipgloss and a Backpack

This week I would like to introduce Carly from Lipgloss and a Backpack. Carly has travelled extensively, having covered 30 countries across three continents! What I find amazing about Carly is she always travels stylishly (even to the point of having amazing manicures and pedicures), and doesn’t compromise when it comes to style. She travels “Off the beaten path – with high heels, a straightening iron and a whole lot of lipgloss” Find out below how she manages to get that all into her backpack

Your website is called Lipgloss and a Backpack. Do you really always travel with at least these two items?

Absolutely! I have backpacked to thirty countries in Europe, North Africa and Central America. I like to stay in hostels because it’s a great way to meet new people and extend my budget, but I’ve also showed up at five-star hotels and all-inclusive resorts with my trusty backpack. I’ve definitely had some doormen and front desk staff look at me strangely when I arrive with my big backpack! Carrying a full beauty kit- including lots of lip gloss- means that I can adjust my look no matter where I’m staying.

 You’ve mentioned that you travel with what I think of as style arsenal – high heels, lipgloss and hair dryer/ straightener. How do you manage to carry it all in your backpack? And what inadvertently has to get left behind in exchange?

I am not exaggerating when I say I travel with a lot of clothes  and beauty tools. Last year I backpacked from Albania to Estonia with eight pairs of shoes! The biggest trade-off for me is definitely technology. Most of the other people I meet on the road are traveling with either a laptop or a tablet, while I rely on the shared computers in hostels or internet cafes. I actually love traveling this way because I know I don’t waste time mindlessly surfing the internet or chatting with friends back home when there are new adventures to be had in the city I’m visiting.

How has your style evolved from when you first started travelling?

The first time I went abroad by myself I bought a plane ticket from Canada to Spain in hopes of finding work in Barcelona. Because I knew I might have to move elsewhere to find a job, and because I’d been planning to move to Europe permanently, I packed two huge suitcases full of clothing for every possible climate. By the time I returned to Canada two years later I had added another entire suitcase full of my European purchases! Today, I’m much better at simplifying my wardrobe with pieces that can be mixed and matched for any situation.

How different would you say your travel style differs from your daily style? What are the big differences?

I don’t believe in buying clothing especially for travel. The things I wear when I backpack are the same things I wear to work and play when I’m at home. However, I often pack older clothes, or clothes that I don’t love, so that I can go shopping in other countries and find unique replacements. I found a great leather jacket at Stradivarius in Tallinn, which is a chain we don’t have in Canada. I was only able to buy the jacket because I had a few old dresses in my suitcase that I didn’t feel too bad about leaving behind. I leave the clean, old clothes behind with a note in the local language saying I couldn’t fit them in my bag, and I like to think the housekeeping staff are able to take the American brand names home to their teenage daughters!

What other items do you bring to help jazz up an outfit? (apart from lipgloss? =))

I’ve never been a big accessories person, so I usually turn to makeup to add interest. I bring a few different miniature nail polish bottles with me so that I can match my manicure and pedicure  to my mood (I once did a full manicure and pedicure on a train from Warsaw to Gdansk… nobody else was in my carriage!). I also like to play with the texture of my hair, pairing beachy waves with casual outfits and straight, sleek hair with dressier looks. Finally, I never travel without an old black sock or two to make sock buns!

What would you consider to be a fail safe travel outfit?

My fail-safe travel outfit is definitely a high-waisted skirt with a t-shirt or tank top. This is really easy to dress up (try a lace tank or pencil skirt) or down (look for basic cotton skirts and cotton crewneck t-shirts). You can do this look with flats, flip-flops, wedges or heels. A lot of high-waist skirts can be pulled down if you need to cover your knees to enter a church, and if you need to cover your shoulders you can throw on a cropped cardigan. When I worked in Mexico and would walk to work in forty-degree heat I wore a variation of this outfit almost every single day for eight months, keeping a couple of blazers and closed-toe flats at work and putting them on once I was safely inside the air-conditioned zone.

skirts(I’m not joking about my love of high-waisted skirts!)

What would you say are the big lessons you’ve learnt from all your packing and travelling?

Trust your gut. I know that I worry about having the right clothes for any situation, and I know that I enjoy experimenting with different makeup looks, so I tend to pack a bit more than most people. And I’ve never regretted it. If bringing souvenirs home, or carrying your laptop, or keeping your bag carry-on size is important to you, then do what feels right. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to travel.

What kinds of fashion ‘disasters’ or fashion emergencies have you faced before?

I lost my bikini top after diving into the sea in Sarande, Albania! Albania is about 60% Muslim and I was terrified of getting out of the sea and baring my breasts to the locals. I wasn’t worried about being harassed as much as I was worried about being disrespectful! Fortunately the water was beautifully clear and my bikini top was bright pink, so after five minutes of swimming around desperately I found it! A lot of my fashion disasters seem to involve swimsuits, actually. On another occasion I went to spa in Austria that I’d been looking forward to for years (really!). I was so excited to finally be at the spa that I was the first person to arrive that morning. I found a place to store my bathrobe and jumped into a whirlpool in just my bikini. A few minutes later one of the employees came and started yelling at me in German, pointing to my bathing suit. I thought she was telling me that my bikini was too skimpy and I needed to cover up. There was such a communication barrier that she finally just gave up, and I sat in the whirlpool in shame. A few minutes later more guests started arriving, taking off their robes… and taking off their bathing suits! Bathing suits were prohibited at this spa, and I was violating the rules by wearing one in the whirlpool. I definitely hadn’t expected that!

bikini (1)(My bikini actually staying on when it’s supposed to, for once!)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel stylishly?

For a long trip, the most important thing is to bring clothes that you know are attractive, comfortable and washable. You don’t want to buy a whole new “travel” wardrobe only to discover that a new shirt has an itchy seam or a new pair of jeans dyes all your other clothes blue when it first encounters foreign laundry detergent . If you’re just going away for a week or two you have more flexibility- it might be worth packing that “dry clean only” dress if you know you’re going to have one special night on the town. Regardless of how long you go for, make sure you’ve packed your essential hair care items and a makeup kit including sunscreen and a hydrating lip balm.

Carly is a young professional in her late twenties from Canada. She began her career working overseas, and now that she’s returned to Canada she saves her money and banks her vacation time so that she can take long holidays abroad- beautifully! Carly writes at  Lipgloss and a Backpack