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What kind of traveler are you? Are you a fan of souvenirs, or do you collect only memories? Is your entire house a travel museum dedicated to your adventures, or do you once in a blue moon purchase a necklace or ornament here and there? Sometimes, along with the photos and blog posts, we decide we would also like to have tangible mementos of the journey. Souvenirs always seem like a good idea, that is, until you have to get them home. Then what?

Every traveler is different. There are as many shopping, packing and traveling styles as there are travelers and each is in a constant state of flux. The more you travel, the more your needs, wants and packing strategies, change. In my younger years, I think I bought a t-shirt in every city I visited. Not including the t-shirts I bought for friends and family, if I didn’t follow the rule of ‘buy one t-shirt, donate one t-shirt’ my pack would have surely knocked me over by day five.

There have also been times that a trip, a moment or an item touched my soul and there was nothing I could do to convince myself not to buy a souvenir. There was that brilliant candleholder and fragile vase in Israel, a large wooden giraffe in South Africa, artwork in the Dominican Republic and essential oils in glass perfume bottles purchased in Egypt. The last thing you want is for your keepsake or gift to break, be taken at customs or to find yourself with an entire bag filled of peppermint oil. How do you manage to bring home a part of your travels while maintaining their safety and your sanity?

Today, I’m a different kind of traveler. I take pictures, send postcards and buy magnets, but there are still those times that something catches my fancy that makes me willing to jump through whatever hoops necessary to get it to its destination (that’s how I felt about Gregory the giraffe and that silver candleholder). Even though one travel mindset might be, ‘don’t buy any souvenirs’, we know that’s not always realistic. Perhaps more realistic would be to say, travel lightly, leave room for extras, have a plan to get all non-carry on purchases home and remember, there is always the risk that your item might not make it through customs.

Here are some helpful hints for how to pack souvenirs that can’t go in your carryon: Click to continue…

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Standing at the baggage carousel, I shifted my weight. The machine spit out bags at random intervals. Each time the rubber curtain moved, dividing the interior machine from the belt, I held my breath.

Perhaps my bag would be the next lucky one spinning from the machine’s dark mouth.

One by one, the crowd surrounding me hauled their bags from the conveyer belt until it was only me and three others still waiting, anxiously watching the conveyor belt. It kept churning out empty air with a straggler bag occasionally popping loose, its the owner sighing in relief. My watch said I’d already missed two trains headed downtown.

As silly as it seems, I felt like the last kid selected for a softball team. The kid that couldn’t hit a ball to save her life. All because of a bag filled with stuff that I believed would make or break my trip.

Finally, my black suitcase broke free of the rubber curtain. Hauling it off the conveyer belt, on my way out to catch the next train, I intentionally hit it on a few sharp corners.

I hate waiting. For anything. That’s why I now pack in a carry on.

When the plane lands, I simply pull my bag down from overhead storage, sling it over my shoulder, and catch the first train. Forget about waiting.

To make that possible, I mined my existing closet for clothes to fit my new carry on lifestyle. Just because you’re a woman, that doesn’t mean you have to overpack. Have you ever wanted to pack as light as any man, still look good, and not have to buy a new wardrobe?

By the end of the guide, you’ll have a selection of clothes to mix and match which complement each other and will pack lightly for your next trip, in your carry on.

Examine Your Closet

Chances are you wear the same favorite clothes over and over, with some variations on pants or jackets. These are the clothes you want to take on your next trip.

Identify Favorites

Here are two strategies for figuring out which are your favorite (most worn) pieces of clothing:

  1. Move your entire wardrobe into an empty closet. Over a couple months, move only the clothes you wear back into your main closet. Congrats, your favorite clothes, those you most often wear, have now been identified.
  2. Rotate your hangers so the hooks face you, rather than facing the closet’s back wall. Over a couple months, as you wear your clothes, switch the hangers of the worn items so that they face the correct direction. After a few months, you’ll have a good visual of exactly which clothes you regularly wear and which ones just take up space in your closet.

Click to continue…

By the time I got to Bali I was ready for a break. After nine months of slow travel in Southeast Asia, through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, then road tripping two of Indonesia’s tougher islands, and hating Jakarta, Bali felt like a long slow exhale.

You see, Bali doesn’t feel like the rest of Indonesia. With a big Hindu population, the culture has a different vibe than the predominantly Muslim rest of the country. On top of that, the tourist infrastructure is well established, so it feels “easy” after road tripping the back forty of Sulawesi and tumbling the length of Borneo the hard way. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat one more plate of nasi goreng, or mi-anything, Ubud emerged from the mists and with it: salad. Salad is in short supply off the beaten path in Southeast Asia.

Bali is a digital nomad hotspot (the recent establishment of Hubud making connectivity that much better) which is transforming it’s sleepy expat status faster than some would like. For Australians and Kiwis the island is a quick and affordable getaway (Australia finally lifted their travel advisory a decade after the nightclub bombing). The beaches are amazing, the interior of the island is stunningly beautiful, and the unique culture makes Bali a place that calls many back, repeatedly. For me, it was mostly about the salad. Ubud has some great restaurants.

In terms of what to pack for Bali, the climate is fairly constant, so whether you’re going April- October, in the drier high season, or traveling in November- March when the weather is wetter, the temperature isn’t going to change much. Higher altitude will be cooler, if you plan to trek, pack accordingly, and in the wet season, add a light rain jacket.

What to Pack for Bali: Cultural Sensitivity

In spite of the influx of foreigners in the past years the local Balinese culture is a conservative one. You’ll notice that both men and women tend to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. There is a relaxed attitude towards foreign visitors and you’re unlikely to have any trouble wearing what you would wear at home, bikinis on beaches are not a problem.

However, to enter the temples you’ll need to cover your shoulders and your knees, both men and women. Pack a sarong so that you’re equipped to cover, otherwise you’ll be provided with one and probably charged for it. Click to continue…