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Archive for the ‘Flying’ Category

Photo love: Pulp Covers

For some reason (see: bank account balance), my international trips always require no fewer than five flights and at least one painful layover (there’s also the four-hour drive to/from Denver International Airport, which is but one reason for my forthcoming move to Austin). I’m not complaining: I love travel so much that I’ll fly in a cargo hold if that’s what it takes (Pass on the overhead bin). Last month, seven consecutive flights were required for me to get from southern Patagonia to Denver, which is less a commentary on my endurance than it is the size of the Americas.

Before sharing my duty-free pillaging hacks, allow me to explain why I’ve stepped up my pre-flight skin prep game. Five years ago, I had a rather traumatic experience while obtaining a Bolivian visa at 3am. I’d been in transit for a day and a half and didn’t realize I’d have my picture taken on the spot.

I’d include a copy of my visa photo here, but I’m single and need all the help I can get. Let’s just say I now know what I’d look like as a cadaver.

With apologies to Paramount Pictures

But. I have problematic skin (dry/”mature”/cystic acne- a lovely trifecta) and maintain a care routine at home, but I can’t afford the really good shit. So, before I board a long-haul flight destined to suck every molecule of moisture from my body, I hit a duty-free shop and slather myself with samples of costly serums, essences, creams and mists. I marinate in these luxurious products in-flight (I also try and drink as much water as possible, but the downside of Xanax is that I sometimes sleep too much and wake up feeling like/resembling a piece of jerky).

I took these photos during a day-long layover in Istanbul a few months back- it was part of a grueling, 40-hour journey home from Zimbabwe. After a month spent camping, rafting and trekking, I was pretty tore up and duty-free was a glittering oasis of redemption.

Step-by-step, here’s how to prep for a long-haul flight if you’re a broke-ass dirtbag:

During layovers or before a red-eye, I first cleanse my skin with micellar water (duty-free aside, I also carry this stuff in my daypack, as it’s perfect for camping, mid-flight and realllly long bus rides). I then begin my greedy regimen, experimenting with new products each time (the more costly, the better). Psst, this is how I discovered the miracle that is Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate.

Yaaaaesss.

Regardless of your age, your eye and neck areas will suffer in-flight; by the time you deplane, you’ll resemble an FBI age-progression image. Heavy eye creams can cause clogged oil glands (ew), so I use an antioxidant serum followed by a light moisturizer. I then slather my neck (thanks a lot, Nora Ephron) with lifting cream followed by an overnight mask. These steps are critical: Since starting this routine, I no longer want to put a bag over my head upon landing.  I draw the line at wearing a sheet mask in-flight because…I’m not a fucking supermodel.

This photo just confirmed my worst fears about my nose, which I broke twice over the course of two weeks last year. Tip: Turn on the light before you stumble to bed after a Netflix binge- sometimes the wind blows doors shut. Ow.

I highly recommend you only use skin care samples housed in pump dispensers, because…germs. I can handle being a walking biohazard, but other people’s pathogens? Nope.

Okay, so your face is primed, but what about the rest of you? You know that gross feeling, when you haven’t done laundry in two three weeks and you’re only halfway through a 30-hour journey home? No? Anyway. After an-insert-ethnic-slur-of-choice shower (aka baby wipes) in the restroom, I mist my clothes and hat with a light cologne from duty-free (hats are mandatory for travel- if I’m coming home from a backpacking adventure, I likely have quasi-dreads due to my fine hair. If there are hair products, I work some leave-in conditioner or oil-based serum into my ends to undo the damage).

Yes, really.

Don’t forget the sunscreen if you’re on a daytime flight: UV rays are brutal at altitude, so I always pack a lightweight scarf for my neck, as well. Pop a Xanax, don a pair of shades, cinch a hoodie around your head and drift off, with the happy knowledge you’ll wake up to better skin. And yes, you are correct: I won’t wear a sheet mask in-flight, but I’ll willingly look like the Unabomber. I’m vain, but not that vain.

And there you have it. Follow these steps and I promise you’ll arrive at your destination looking…passable. You’re welcome.

Got any duty-free beauty hacks to share? Comment, por favor.

I’m not a complete animal. Here I am brushing my teeth while camping on the Zambezi River. Stash a travel-size toothbrush, paste and floss in your daypack, in case your luggage goes missing. Or, you know: Mile-High Club.

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Ready to head to Africa in September!

You know you’ve made it as a travel writer when you’re headhunted to write about diarrhea.

 

 

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This is not the kind of dog you'll meet in foreign bars.

This is not the kind of dog you’ll often find in foreign bars.

As a rule, I don’t kiss and tell in writing. Despite my propensity for blabbing self-deprecating, often humiliating stories about my childhood and adventures on the road, one thing I’m notoriously tight-lipped about is my romantic life (mainly because it’s historically involved oft-humiliating stories).

But, I guess we all have a price and after 25 years of solo travel– much of it occupational- I’m sufficiently experienced at road sluttiness to merit an editorial request for an essay on travel flings.

Without further ado, my Refinery29 post on how to be whorey whilst wandering. Read, learn, enjoy. And if you follow this blog and are a friend of my parents, for the love of god, please don’t send them this link. ‘K, thanks. Safe travels.

La Paz humor

La Paz humor

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Nepal, April, '15

Nepal, April, ’15

Backpackers are, as a species, short on money and space. We’re also often short on time, what with needing to make tight bus (see above), train, and janky plane connections, awakening still drunk at check-out time, or urgently needing a toilet (or bush, rock, or roadside) after eating dodgy street food.

Thus, things like showers, laundry, and basic hygiene often fall by the wayside. In my 15 years as a travel writer, I’ve oft found inspiration amongst fellow nomads- as well as come up with a few genius ideas myself- with regard to repurposing items or turning specific-use products into multitasking workhorses.

Presenting my top five travel hacks for dirtbags, tested and approved by yours truly. Happy holiday weekend!

Photo love: Elite Daily

Photo love: Elite Daily

1. Airline-size booze bottles for shampoo and body wash

While it’s shocking I didn’t come up with the idea myself, I recently discovered this hack after several dirtbag chef friends crashed at my apartment. I wasn’t remotely surprised to find a mini bottle of bourbon in my shower; what amazed me is that it was filled with castile soap (perhaps the most epic multitasking product on earth). Brilliant.

Photo love: Amateur Outdoorsman

Photo love: Amateur Outdoorsman

2. Carabiners to carry extra items on your pack

I draw the line at stuffing sweaty, smelly, muddy hiking boots in my pack. That’s why I like to clip ’em to my day pack for transit (because only fools entrust their pricey footwear to the random sketchballs who handle checked baggage). Does it piss off my seatmates, who are forced to huff the fumes (see Hack #5)? Of course. Tough shit. ‘Biners are also ideal for holding wet swimsuits, shopping bags, and other stuff.

Photo love: ToysR'Us

Photo love: ToysR’Us

3. Baby wipes

Not just any brand will do. It’s Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes or nothing (especially if you have, you know, sensitive skin…or a vagina). It was my tentmate on the Inca Trail who turned me on to this basic travel hack. Not only ideal for an improved version of the so-called Mexican (insert minority slur of your region’s choice) shower, they’re also aces at removing road grime, makeup, sunblock, deodorant marks from the tank top you’ve been wearing almost daily for a month, degreasing hair, and blotting up the gallon of cooking oil (?) that exploded all over your pack while it was in the hold of a clapped-out Cambodian bus. Wiping the backsplash from your ass after using a fetid squat toilet? Priceless. If you travel with nothing else, make it these puppies.

There is a point to this photo. Keep reading.

There is a point to this photo. Keep reading.

4. Sarong

For a few bucks, you have a lightweight, non-bulky souvenir/beach towel/bath towel/blanket for over-AC’ed buses/sunshade/pillow/sling/tourniquet/face mask for choking developing nation pollution/on-the-fly changing room/padding for the hematoma on your tailbone from an ill-fitting pack. Bonus: It will last forfuckingever.

Your average Bolivian toilet

Your average Bolivian toilet

5. Free sample sizes of perfume/cologne

Beyond handy for travel hook-ups (carry in your pocket!) and destinking clothes, stanky hostel rooms, befouled restrooms, sweaty shoes, midewy backpack interiors, your hair and bod after one too many days on the road, and to use in place of deodorant when you run out, mid-trek.

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Photo love: Mike, Flickr

I know. You’re thinking, why would I not want to climb? I get it, you obsessive slab-clinging freaks. But honestly carabiners aren’t just for climbers, and they’re one of the most reliable travel companions you’ll ever have. And, unlike climbing partners or significant others, they don’t get grumpy when they haven’t had their coffee yet.

  • Speaking of coffee, one of my favorite uses for ‘biners is to carry my travel mug. It’s tough to find versions with handles for some reason, so if you see one at the store, snap it up. Then snap that handle onto a carabiner, hitch it to your day pack, and you’ll never have to worry about wasting paper on cups and Java Jackets again. Also works well with water bottles.
  • Tote your groceries. I always carry a nylon shopping bag with me (check out Chico Bags– shout-out to my alma mater- which are lightweight, and about the size of a computer mouse). After I hit the farmers market or grocery store, I clip my bags onto the carabiners on my daypack, and I’m ready to walk home.
  • Make a kick-ass key chain. I get a lot of grief from friends for using small carabiners to carry my keys…probably because I’m a petite, heterosexual girl, and I clip them to my belt loop. Does it bother me that this is apparently dykey/dude-like? No. Because when my friends inevitably lose their keys (or purse containing keys), I can say, “You should really get a carabiner for those.”
  • Haul your shoes, wet swimsuit, or baseball hat. Or ski/snowboard/bike/skate helmet. Whatever. When I fly, I usually don’t have room in my full-size pack for my running or hiking shoes, so they end up clipped to a carabiner on my carry-on. Yeah, I’m sure it’s a bit of a bummer for seatmates after I’ve worn them on a trek, but that’s what travel-size Febreze® is for.
  • Jerry-rig a broken zipper, or use as an emergency closure on bag. I’ve used carabiners to hold together the handles of overstuffed tote bags brimming with alpaca-wool textiles and other travel souvenirs and as stand-ins for broken zippers on duffel bags. Plainly put, ‘biners rock.

 

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In travel industry parlance, a “staycation” is a holiday at home.  As in, you’re broke, but you need to use up those paid vacation days, so you opt to sleep in, putter around the house, and visit that fascinating local museum dedicated to the history of widgets.

Until yesterday, I was thisclose to cashing in the 180,000 frequent flyer miles I’ve been hoarding for years, and book a trip to India or Southeast Asia for Christmas. I get antsy when I don’t get my hardcore travel fix on a regular basis, and in this economy, that means once a year.

The thing is, money is tight right now, so I’ve been waffling on committing to a major trip, no matter how down-n-dirty the destination. But, as sometimes happens, a miracle arrived in the nick of time, alleviating my financial woes and stress, and making my holiday dreams come true.

This was shot from my doorway. Suddenly, my bathroom seems very far away.

The photo at right is the five-by-three-foot pit now located just outside my front door (note that I have no back door in my glorfiied studio). My 100-year-old building’s sewer line burst the other night, and turns out the problem was a tree root in my yard. I came home last night to a back hoe, crew, and assorted onlookers watching my walkway get ripped apart.

Things got really exciting when I was asked to go inside, and turn on all of the faucets to make sure the blockage was clear. The crew had removed the bad section of pipe, so I effectively have an open sewer outside my door. We watched as wads of toilet paper, and one of my neighbors’ recent meals floated past.  Yep, seemed like things were all in working order.

The catch is that until the city certifies that the line is fixed, the missing section of pipe can’t be installed. And you know how cities are with expediting permits. Perhaps the groundwater contamination that’s occurring as I write will motivate them?

The crew bade me good night, adding a cryptic, “See you sometime next week!” I now have an open sewer instead of a patio, and that’s when I realized: Why the hell blow my miles and money to visit a developing nation? I have my own little slice of Bangladesh right here in Boulder. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to unpack my sarong.

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