General Travel

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I secretly miss trick-or-treating on Halloween.  When I was a kid in Texas, it was a fun excuse to dress up in a crazy costume and have your parents escort you to the neighbors’ houses to gather a giant pillowcase filled with treats.

My brothers and I had a tradition where, after every trick-or-treat session, we’d convene a “meeting” upstairs in the game room and dump out all of our treasures to do inventory.  There would always be the usual suspects like Snickers, or healthy stuff given out by the “fitness mommies,” like granola bars, or the random toothbrushes given out by our older neighbors (I guess to send a message that candy would give us cavities).  Andrew, Taylor, and I would then operate a free market of sorts, bartering and trading away what candy we didn’t like for the ones we wanted.  We had it down to a science–Andrew didn’t like chocolate very much and I did, I didn’t really care for Starburst and he loved them, and Taylor would pretty much eat everything.  Those were my memories of Halloween.

Now, as other adults can attest, Halloween just isn’t the same.  Let’s face it–grown men or women going trick-or-treating is, well, a sign that you haven’t quite gotten the message that it’s for kids.  There are Halloween parties, of course, where you can still dress up in crazy costumes, but to me it just isn’t the same.

Thinking about Halloweens I spent as a child made me wonder about the actual history and international practice of the day.  So, I did some research.

According to the History Channel’s website, the history of Halloween goes back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).  The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in what is now modern-day Ireland, the UK, and northern France, and they celebrated their new year on November 1 (hence why Halloween takes place on October 31).  November 1 apparently symbolized the end of the summer, a.k.a. harvest time, and the beginning of the dark, cold winter.  The Celts believed that, the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and ghosts returned to cause all sorts of mischief.

To combat this mischief, the Druids (Celtic priests) would build giant bonfires for crop and animal sacrifices to try to deter the crazy ghosts, and the Celts would wear costumes and hang out by the bonfire.  Of course, instead of dressing up like Nicki Minaj or Charlie Sheen (this year’s most popular Halloween costumes), the Celts would throw on some animal skins and call it good.

From the rest of the research I did, it sounds like modern Halloween traditions in Ireland and Canada are similar to the ones in the U.S., namely trick-or-treating for kids and costume parties for adults.  Interestingly, in Ireland they still light bonfires in rural areas, much like their Celtic ancestors.

In Mexico, the rest of Latin America, and Spain, All Souls’ Day is celebrated on November 2 as a religious holiday to honor martyrs and the deceased; it involves a three-day festival that starts on October 31.  Some families in these regions build altars to the dead, namely deceased relatives, and decorate the altars with candy, flowers, photos, food, and drinks.  Candles are also lit “to help the deceased find the way home.”  As well, many relatives visit family graveyards and tidy up the areas to honor their predecessors.

Interesting to note as well:  In England, during the Protestant Reformation, Halloween celebrations pretty much faded out.  I did notice that, when I lived in London, people had costume parties and such, but it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is in the States.  Instead, the Brits tend to focus on Guy Fawkes Day.  On the night of November 5, bonfires are lit up all around England, and you might even see some fireworks shows.  Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the execution of the infamous traitor, Guy Fawkes, who was sentenced to death on November 5, 1606, after trying to blow up England’s parliament building. In some parts of England kids walk around asking for “a penny for the guy,” which is apparently their version of trick-or-treating.

Long gone are my days of trick-or-treating and convening the “Great Candy Barter” with my brothers, but I still look back on those Halloweens with fondness.  Halloween was a time to stay out past your bedtime on a school night, eat too many sweets, and frantically brush your teeth so that the next dentist visit would not be torture.  This year, Halloween falls on a Monday, and my crazy plans will probably involve getting home from work and going to bed early.  I might sneak in a few pieces of candy though.



The inspiration for today’s blog came, randomly, from my medicine cabinet.

To backtrack, last weekend was a busy, fun-filled time in Chicago and South Bend with my friend Esther and at the Notre Dame football game with Leon’s friends.  As I wrote in my last post, taking a trip to both a big city and smaller city can feel like you’re taking two trips in one, and this was no exception.  Leon and I did everything that weekend from chow down on Chicago deep dish pizza to tailgate to enjoy the sight of Indiana’s picturesque farmland.

When we got back to D.C., it was time to jump into another busy week.  Leon had a conference in North Carolina all week, and I had several things going on at work.  Not to mention that it rained all week in D.C. and the Metro was plagued with problems, meaning endless delays and listening to unnerved fellow passengers describe their frustrations in choice words.

Needless to say, Friday morning I was pretty tired.  I stood in front of my bathroom mirror getting ready for work, when I asked myself the question that I ask every morning:  What do I want to smell like today?

Scientists say that scent and memory are connected, and I can say without a doubt that it’s true.  This morning, for instance, I reached for my bottle of Shalimar perfume–sandlewood, vanilla, and musk blended into a warm scent that reminds me of my childhood in Texas.  My mother has worn Shalimar since she was a teenager, and I started wearing it as a child as well.  Whenever I miss my family or my homeland, it brings me comfort to spray on some of that scent I smelled so much growing up.

After I spritzed myself with Shalimar this morning, I thought about other scents that hold special meaning. There’s Love Spell, the body splash from Victoria’s Secret that my friends and I were obsessed with in college and that smells, according to my former coworker Ken, like “a Strawberry Patch doll.”  Whenever I smell smoky incense, I am transported back to Asia or northern Africa–I still have incense sticks that I picked up at markets in Egypt, India, Thailand, and Indonesia, and whenever I need a taste of the exotic I use one of those.  Smelling anything from the store Lush, especially the fantastic pink-hued “Rock Star” soap, makes me reminisce about graduate school days in London.  Lavender takes me back to France, where the purple stalks grow everywhere and perfume the air itself.  Prada’s Amber perfume reminds me of a girls’ trip with my mother and sister-in-law through Italy; its distinct scent reminds me of strolling through the winding cobblestone streets of Europe.

Those are just a few examples, but it underscores the notion that scents appeal to our deepest sensibilities, often comforting us when we need comforting, lifting our spirits, and reminding us of pleasant memories.

These days we live in a much more globally interconnected world, and it is common for one to have friends scattered everywhere.  Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier to keep up with each other than it used to be.  It is wonderful to know that, whether they live in London or Seoul,  I can Skype with friends and even see their faces over webcam.

One blessing of being a traveler, or being internationally minded wherever you live, is to have friendships with people from different places and different cultures.  Some of my best friends to this day hail from England, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mexico.  I’ve learned more from them than I can recount–Hae Chin teaching me about the intricacies of Korean culture, Kora taking me to her favorite drinking chocolate place in Warsaw, Sonja showing me the progress that Belfast has made in post-war years.  They are all dear friends, confidantes, teachers, and guides, and they have made traveling truly fulfilling.

This week one of my best friends that I met at King’s College London, Ileana, is coming to visit from Guadalajara.  We met our first day of graduate school, during orientation for the International Relations Masters students.  Olof, another close friend, Ileana, and I had struck up a conversation during one the breaks and ended up having lunch together.  After orientation we took a stroll and sat on a bench down by the Thames, talking about how excited we were to be in graduate school and how wonderful London was.

It’s always fun to reminisce about when you met a certain friend and what memories you hold of that individual.  With Ileana, after that first meeting during orientation came many adventures–exploring and getting lost in London, going down to Brighton for my birthday, fulfilling mutual lifelong dreams of visiting the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, going to Greece with our other friend Sy and riding donkeys down the caldera of Santorini, and many more.  I stayed with Ileana and her family for a few days in Guadalajara before reporting to language classes in Buenos Aires in 2008, which is the last time we saw each other in person and therefore means that we are far overdue for a reunion.  So, starting this weekend, it will be my turn to show her around my neck of the woods.

It’s always fun to visit friends overseas, and in turn to have friends visit from overseas. Friendships in general that are able to be picked up right where you left them, as if no time passed between visits, are truly a blessing in life.  Throw scenarios in which the friendships are international in nature into the mix, and you have even more of a unique dynamic.

Of course, if only plane tickets weren’t so expensive and time so limited, the unique dynamic of international friendships would be able to be enjoyed more often.  I guess what ultimately counts, though, is appreciating the time that you do have together.  And appreciating the fact that you have a couch to crash on when you do make the trip.


I’m what you might call a “quotes person.”  I love great quotes.  From Jane Austen to Jack Handy to Bible verses, I have different quotes scribbled in my planner and other notebooks.  Some are uplifting, some thought-provoking, and others humorous. The act of writing down quotes to refer to later, in my mind, is like gathering little scraps of wisdom or humor to create a literary collage.

Sometimes a gem of a quote will randomly appear, and in today’s case it turned up in my Twitter feed:

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” –Robert Stevenson

In typical 21st century style, I retweeted the pearl of wisdom and posted it as my Facebook status.  My friend Kora, also a quotes kind of gal, immediately commented that she was going to “steal” it for her status as well.  Other friends “Liked” the quote almost as soon as I hit the “Post” button.

This quote perfectly sums up what so many travelers struggle to explain when asked why they love to travel or why on earth they have wanderlust or, my personal favorite, why they still have the travel bug even after going on a trip.  Stevenson hit the nail on the head–we travel for travel’s sake.

Indeed, it is the act of traveling–the full experience step by step–that we love. From making travel arrangements to researching the destination to arriving at the airport, each logistic forms part of an adventure.  Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but I love airports.  I love knowing that it’s the place where you go to be transported to anywhere in the world.  When I get on the plane and settle into my seat, armed with fashion and celebrity magazines (my favorite guilty pleasure), I feel relaxed and my mind seems to automatically clear.  Then, while flying, it feels like you’re suspended above the entire world, literally and figuratively.  I’ve had some great moments of clarity and epiphanies on airplanes, probably because my mind truly has a chance to chill.

Travelers appreciate the process of adventure existent in the entire journey to whatever place you’re trying to reach.  One of my favorite memories is from a time when I was heading from Seoul to Rome via Paris.  It was, as Stevenson said, “the great affair of moving.”  I ate breakfast in Seoul and spoke Korean, grabbed lunch in Paris and attempted to dust off my French, and switched over to Italian upon ordering diner in Rome.  Every aspect of that journey was a rush, not just the act of arriving to my final destination.

Perhaps that is why travelers often struggle with that restless urge to take off somewhere far away.  In essence, I think Stevenson got it right.  We love the thrill of moving, and traveling allows us to do that.


This morning I woke up feeling incredibly excited.  September 1 was here, meaning that the month of August, with its seemingly long and drawn out days, earthquakes, hurricanes, and just overall “bleh” feeling was over.  A new month was here, meaning that a fresh, clean slate had arrived.

Not to mention that September marks the beginning of fall.  My friend Rose pointed out to me, as she loves everything there is to love about autumn, that the season technically does not commence until September 23 at 5:04 a.m. EDT.  However, the beginning of September, to many, means the beginning of fall–in some sense.

In the past, I always considered spring or summer my favorite seasons.  What student didn’t love spring break or summer break, after all–they were times to travel, hang out with friends, and take a break from studying or trying to figure out what to do with your life.  As I’ve gotten older, however, I have come to adopt a devotion to that season wedged between the months of beach vacations and the months of thick coats.

Autumn, for aficionados, is a very special time.  The weather begins to cool down, replacing balmy temperatures with the relief of crisp, refreshing air.  The trees know that it is their time to shine, showing off their amazing, God-given gift of changing their leaves from vibrant green shades to warm, orange-brown hues.  Light jackets and cozy scarves emerge out of storage, as do boots and tights and other fun fall fashion staples.  People begin to crave hot drinks as opposed to iced drinks.  Oh do they.

My friends and I, along with probably half of the country, are obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes.  Fall means that pumpkins are in season, and whoever came up with the idea of infusing pumpkin flavoring into coffee was beyond brilliant.  My first experience falling in love with fall (no pun intended) involved a pumpkin spice latte, so the beverage will always hold a special place in my heart.

Now, I love D.C. in the fall and think that it is gorgeous.  My favorite city to see in the fall, however, is New York.  My friends and I began a tradition a couple of years ago that, in order to commemorate our favorite season and have some time together, each fall we take a girls’ trip to NYC.  New York in the fall is a more chilled out version of the city, and it is fantastic.  One of my fondest memories is from our girls’ trip last year, when my friends and I strolled down Fifth Avenue wearing our cutest boots and scarves while sipping on pumpkin spice lattes, enjoying the glittery windows of Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.  Good times.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to New York sometime this fall.  I’m also looking forward to another joy of fall, a.k.a. the beginning of football season.  Next month Leon and I are headed out to South Bend, Indiana, to attend a Notre Dame game and enjoy the beauty of the campus during my favorite season.  Fall is the perfect time to travel to a new place, whether it be to Indiana (in my case) or to Paris or even Rome.  There’s just something about exploring a new place in autumn.

Even hanging out at home during fall, however, is a treat.  I’m looking forward to curling up on my couch with a hot beverage and snuggling with Leon.  That’s another good thing about fall–it’s the perfect time of year to snuggle.

So, even though it’s still technically summer, I’m definitely in a “fall” state of mind.


Human trafficking is a horrendous reality, as we all can imagine.  Many travelers who have ventured outside of the U.S. (although trafficking happens in our own country as well, sadly) have been to places where, outside of the safety of tourist havens or nice hotels, there are dark underworlds where countless people are trapped in labor and/or sex trafficking situations.  It’s truly heart wrenching.

The U.S. State Department released its TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report today, and it was interesting to read through.  The Department surveyed 180 countries, apparently the largest number ever studied for the report, and ranked countries by Tiers 1, 2, and 3.  If a country is labeled as a Tier 1 country, that means that they’re in compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards.  Tier 2 means that the country’s government doesn’t fully comply with the Act’s standards but is making “significant efforts” to enact compliance and is seeing improvement in human trafficking.  Countries who are blacklisted on the Tier 3 list are not complying with minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

This year, the following countries made the Tier 3 black list:

1.  Algeria

2.  Burma

3.  Central African Republic

4.  Congo (DRC)

5.  Cuba

6.  Equatorial Guinea

7.  Eritrea

8.  Guinea-Bissau

9.  Iran

10.  North Korea

11.  Kuwait

12.  Lebanon

13.  Libya

14.  Madagascar

15.  Mauritania

16.  Micronesia

17.  Papua New Guinea

18.  Saudi Arabia

19.  Sudan

20.  Turkmenistan

21.  Venezuela

22.  Yemen

23.  Zimbabwe

Last year, 13 countries made it on the Tier 3 black list, meaning that there are 10 more countries that have worsened in terms of human trafficking.  The Dominican Republic was the only country to get its name removed from the Tier 3 list.

There are many ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.  I am a big fan of the organization IJM (International Justice Mission), which does great work in combating human trafficking.  They work with locals in countries like those on the Tier 3 list to identify trafficking rings, rescue victims from slavery, prosecute the criminals who enslave them, and rehabilitate the victims.  For more information check out


After church on Sunday, my fiance Leon and I were craving Mexican food for lunch (okay, I was craving Mexican food and convinced him to crave it too).  We went on a mission to find a good restaurant nearby.

In the old days, I would have–I confess–driven around tirelessly to find a Mexican restaurant.  Or I would have sprinted to the nearest Taco Bell.  But , thanks to the gloriousness of modern technology, I was able to plug a Mexican restaurant search into my iPhone, find a listing of restaurants close by with brutally honest reviews of the food, and get GPS directions to the restaurant.

We ended up going to El Tio restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, by the way–it was pretty good, and the chips and queso definitely satiated the pain of Mexican food cravings.  As other Texans will understand (or those growing up in states with good Mexican food), Mexican food is like an energy source.  You might be able to function okay without it for awhile, but eventually your energy supply will get low and demand replenishment.

The experience of using Google maps and GPS directions to guide Leon and me to a good place for lunch reminded me of a favorite hobby of mine that I hadn’t done for awhile:  mapsurf.

Mapsurfing is fun, educational, and entertaining.  Just go to the Google main page and pull up a Google world map.  You can scroll around the map, click on countries to get a closer look, and have a visual of the exciting world in which we live.  It’s fun, interactive, and keeps a traveler–or aspiring traveler–geographically aware (we must fight the temptation to be geographically ignorant, my fellow Americans).

Whenever I get the itch to travel and can’t, or shouldn’t, whether it be the timing/finances/realities of being an adult, I find my solace in mapsurfing.  I learn something new every time.  As well, mapsurfing makes the things you hear about in the news come to life.

Case in point:  Yesterday, June 20, 2011, was World Refugee Day.  These days we’re constantly hearing stories on the news about Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey, the Italian island of Lampedusa being bombarded by immigrants seeking refuge in Europe from the unrest in Libya and Tunisia, and so forth.  When you actually know where the country is located, it makes the news stories much more real.  It just takes a little mapsurfing to understand why people in northern Africa would be trying to get to a little Italian island.

So, whether you’re having a case of wanderlust that won’t be cured for awhile, or if you want the international news segments to make more sense, try mapsurfing.  You’ll learn something new, and you might just find a unique travel destination along the way.

This week, my company had a work retreat in D.C. to discuss the direction of the firm and the need to utilize social media more often.  I was taking notes when all of a sudden the subject of Twitter came up.

My boss talked about expanding our Twitter usage, and he commented that he assumed that everyone had a Twitter account.  I stopped writing, and apparently I had a giant “guilty” sign on my face, because our tech expert looked at me and said, “You do have Twitter, right Lindsey?”  Silence filled the room, and I could feel myself turning a little red.  I answered that no, I did not have a Twitter account yet, and wondered if I would be flogged.

No flogging proceeded after that encounter, but I was asked by my boss to set up a Twitter account that afternoon.  My brain was spinning–between Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Twitter, I felt like I was on social media overload.  I was reminded of the Conan O’Brien joke that if you put all of the latest social media names together, you’d get “You.Twit.Face.”

My fantastic friend and co-worker Lisa gave me a “Twitter 101” lesson, and soon I was connected to the world of tweets, tweeps, and hashtags (oh my).  It was kind of fun to realize that you could “follow” tons of different people, and I signed up to follow everyone from Khloe Kardashian (I like reality TV, okay?) to the U.S. State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs to People Magazine.  I also signed up to follow foreign news outlets in Mexico, Brazil, Paris, and Rome, which was kind of cool.

When you think about it, social media has made the world even smaller.  I can Skype with friends in London and feel like they’re sitting next to me (except when their faces freeze on the computer screen).  I can write messages to my friends in Seoul and know that it will be in their inbox right after I send it.  I can get professional advice from friends around the world through LinkedIn, post a Facebook wall post for friends overseas to ask for travel advice, and so on.  You can look at pictures of destinations, read other travelers’ opinions about locations, and prepare for trips using firsthand accounts of what to expect.

So, in a sense, social media can make you feel like you’re mentally traveling to far off places, which is great when you can’t physically travel.  Nothing beats the real deal, to be sure, but there are realities that prevent most of us from taking off 365 days a year–jobs, paychecks, bills, and all of the other fun aspects of being an adult.

I’m still getting used to Twitter, and part of me is still on social media overload, but I do like the fact that even if I’m not physically in Rome, Paris, Rio, or wherever, I can still get real time updates of what’s happening there.  I might be in Washington, D.C., but Twitter can at least help me mentally travel to other parts of the world.

In the end, I think that I like Twitter.  I just have to make sure that I don’t mentally travel to Rio and forget where I actually am…




When I graduated from McKinney High School in 2001, I was dying to get out of McKinney.  Although I was only headed two hours down the road to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, it felt like I was escaping to a bigger world.  I wanted to get out of my hometown and see the world (I know, starting with Waco was a small step, but a step nonetheless).

Likewise, when it was time to walk the stage in 2005 at Baylor, I was aching to get out and see more of the world.  I had done study abroad programs or international internships during summer breaks, but I was ready to live full-time in a different country.  After I received my Bachelors degree, I headed to D.C. for a summer internship and then moved to London to begin the MA International Relations course at King’s College.

As the years went by, and I lived overseas longer and traveled more, Texas seemed very, very far away.  I found myself, however, missing my homeland and thinking of the teachers who had encouraged me to “get out” and explore my interests.

Things got busy, though, and before I knew it I was at my ten year high school reunion.  It was great to see familiar faces, many of whom I had not seen for a decade, but I also began to think more and more about my high school (and college) teachers who had made such great impressions on my life over the years.

So, I decided to take some time to hunt them down and tell them “thank you,” something that I should have done long ago.  Talk about a trip down memory lane.

I started with my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Chandler, who once put in a video to entertain our Humanities class and took me to the teacher’s lounge to get a Coke and listen to me vent about my confusion over whether I should go to Baylor or Wake Forest. Thanks to Facebook and Google, it’s easier than ever to find people that you’re looking for.  Soon Mrs. Chandler and I were Facebook friends and started to catch up on the last ten years.

I sat down and made a list of other teachers to touch base with and thank for their influence.  There was Mrs. Presley, my high school student council and government/economics teacher who, as student body president, I spent more time with than my own mother senior year (Homecoming, dances, leadership conferences–our student council was awesome).  There was Senor Place, my high school Spanish teacher who had encouraged me to continue studying Spanish.  I thanked him for his encouragement and told him that I had indeed studied Spanish, in Spain, Argentina, Chile, and other places, and that he was in part to thank for that.

There was also Dr. Hinojosa at Baylor, whose classes I loved–Latin American Politics and International Relations.  I found his university email and wrote him a note giving him an update on my life and thanking him for encouraging me to see the world.

As I thought back through the years, and those teachers who shaped my life without me even realizing it, I wished that I had looked them up earlier and given them the thanks they so rightfully deserved.  But, better late than never I suppose.

For many travelers, the most stressful part of planning a trip is not choosing the destination, booking the tickets, finding the perfect hotel, or carving out vacation time (well, at least for us overworked Americans).  On the contrary, the most headache-inducing part of traveling can be packing for your trip.

Over the years I have personally struggled, as have friends and family, with this simple concept:  you pack it, you carry it.  There’s nothing more tiring than dragging an overstuffed suitcase through an airport while worrying that the zipper will pop and your underwear will scatter for the public to see.  In London, I helped a friend of mine take her luggage to the airport, and we were told that her bag was too heavy and she had to shift items to her carry on or throw some things away.  Granted, we entertained everyone else in the airport check-in line (at one point we were both sitting on the suitcase trying to get it to close), but it sure wasn’t fun.  When I traveled to New York City for the first time, I took one backpack and a carry on, while my fashionable friend brought two large suitcase filled to the rims with shoes and extra outfits.  Needless to say, getting all of the extra luggage to the hotel took up precious time that we could have spent scouting for New York pizza or cheesecake.

Whether taking a weekend jaunt to a nearby city or spending a few weeks in a non-English speaking country, a valuable lesson to learn is how to pack for a trip.  And by pack for a trip I don’t mean throw in half of your wardrobe or items that weigh you down so much that you risk having a hernia on your way to the beach.  Travel 101 says that how you pack for a trip should include packing effectively.

Some simple tips for how to pack effectively:

–Stick with one color scheme.  My personal preference is to stick to a black palette and mix and match from there.  For a weekend or even a longer trip, I’ll pack black pants and/or a black skirt, dark jeans, and a black sweater for chilly evenings or to layer. From there you can take an appropriate amount of shirts.  I like to take a couple of different colors of shirts, plus a necklace or statement earrings that go with everything I packed.  Black shoes, usually flats, are my go-to shoes for travel, as they go with everything, you can walk around comfortably, and they look more fashionable than sneakers.

–Wear your heaviest clothing on the airplane.  If you need to wear a coat or heavy boots while traveling, wear them on the airplane.  It will take you a couple of extra minutes to deal with them in airport security, but it will keep your bag from being heavier than needed.  Plus a coat or sweater on the airplane is not a bad idea–some people take a blanket to keep warm, but that’s another thing to haul around.  You’ll need the coat or sweater anyway, so why not use it en route to stay warm?

–Roll, roll, roll your clothes…From underwear to pants, rolling clothes, in my experience, takes up less space than folding them.  It also seems to me that rolling clothes prevents wrinkles more than folding.  If you roll clothes and place them strategically in your luggage, you’ll have more room for other things.  General rule of thumb:  the more space in your bag, the more room for souvenirs.

–Throw away as you go.  One of the oldest tricks in the book is to take items that are on the older side (note: older side, not disgusting side), use them while traveling, and throw away as you go.  This goes for underwear, socks, shoes, and other clothing items.  One of my biggest coups was taking enough clothing for an almost two month trip to South America and returning home with about a week’s worth.  Think of it this way–we all do spring cleaning, or at least most of us do, and we throw old stuff away anyways.  There’s nothing more inconvenient, or unnecessary, than having to lug around a full bag of dirty clothes.  Just don’t do it.

–Take a cue from TSA on your toiletries.  Most of us know the drill–you step up to airline security, take out your little Ziplock baggie with your liquids and toiletries in it, and accept the fact that you’re limited in how much toothpaste and shampoo you can bring on the trip.  Regardless of my destination, I try to stick to a TSA-sized bag for my toiletry items.  Usually hotels will provide some toiletries, and if you’re staying with a friend or relative they probably won’t balk at loaning you extra conditioner if you need it.  As you use up travel-sized items, throw away as you go, and see more space open up in your bag.  I’ve seen too many friends pack family-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, and so on, even if they were going away for one night (I once asked a friend who packed like this how many times she was planning to wash her hair in one evening, and a light bulb went off).  Don’t waste precious space in your bag on toiletry items that, if you need more of them, can easily be purchased in your destination or are given to you where you’re staying.

–Consider ditching the suitcase altogether.  When I spent a few weeks traveling around Asia, I took a large travel backpack and my purse.  There was no way I was going to drag my suitcase around Thailand or India and scream even more that I was a foreign tourist.  After traveling with a backpack with my clothes rolled, my Ziplock baggie of toiletries, and old pairs of underwear/socks that I could throw away as I went, I got hooked on the suitcase-free experience.  Suitcases tend to bog you down, while backpacks are easier to maneuver with.  So, on your next trip, consider taking a backpack instead of a suitcase–eventually you might see others dragging their suitcases behind them, arms awkwardly extended, and you’ll be glad you did.

Packing effectively provides a traveler with countless benefits that enable the trip to be more fully enjoyed.  You’ll save money, since you often won’t need to check luggage and pay extra baggage fees (more money to spend on food or treats in your trip destination). You’ll take care of some spring cleaning on your trips, as you’ll rid yourself of older clothing as you go.  Your suitcase will end up with more space as you travel, making it way less stressful to grab that extra souvenir or splurge on a larger item to take home.

By following the tips outlined above, you’ll be a leaner, meaner traveler, and will feel lighter and freer as a result.  That feeling of being streamlined and uncluttered will leave you more relaxed and ready to face whatever adventures lie ahead.  And that, my friend, is the state of mind all travelers should aim for.

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