Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How I'm prepping #1

Logistically, a lot of people wonder how in the world one can prep for a 6-7 month trip where you live out of a backpack. I'm not sure I have the answers yet, but with a little research and my previous experiences of long trips, I'm beginning to come up with my own plan. 

I've been being thoughtful about the types of clothing I've been purchasing and I've already started making changes to my personal beauty regimen (not that I've ever really been that high maintenance, let's be honest) to prep myself, including...

Shampoo Bars:

Easier to carry, able to pass through airport security without a plastic baggie, less wasteful and SLS-free, shampoo bars are just like bars of soap that you lather into your hair then rinse out with water (and once every three weeks or so after the transition period, I use a rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar to cleanse the whole head. Shockingly, this doesn't even smell like vinegar once it's dried.)

From my understanding (and I am NO expert), Sodium Laruryl Sulfate is in most liquid shampoos, conditioners and soaps. It's a detergent and an irritant. I'm not someone who is going to get all preachy about what we're putting on our bodies, but this to me is just a plus of this switch over. 

The way normal liquid shampoos and conditioners work is they coat your hair to get rid of the natural oils to make it silky, untangled and smooth. That's why our hair gets SO greasy not long after washing it: our scalp is fighting back against the shampoo. A SLS-free shampoo will not rid your scalp of all it's natural goodness than coat it with something else, it will get rid of the gross stuff and allow your natural oils to do their work and make your hair healthy and grease-less. It takes a few weeks  (and lots of vinegar rinses) for your hair to regulate, but once you're there, it's great! I've had many compliments on my hair and love that it takes less time in the shower (A+ in SoCal where we're in a major drought), and I need to wash my hair less often. My first bar lasted me about 2.5 months with a shower every 2-3 days, which is comparable to regular shampoo. Plus it'll be SO much easier than buying, storing and carrying on the road, partly because of the handy little travel carrier I got as a part of the deal.

My hair remains luscious, soft and beautiful,
even after 4 months with only bar shampoo! 
I use J.R. Liggett's Coconut & Argan Oil Bar and after using their "original" bar for the first few months, I must say I'm very happy with this product (the other one was great, too, for the record). I'm surprised, with my long, wavy-curly hair, that I'm not missing conditioner. Especially with this coconut oil-based bar, I've never had trouble brushing the tangles out of my hair and it still feels silky and smooth. This is a small vanity which I was admittedly worried about giving up. 

The Diva Cup (For the ladies only):

I have transitioned from tampons to using the Diva Cup and I can report after 4 cycles that everyone, and I mean everyone, who can wrap her mind around using a tampon can and should use the Diva Cup. It saves money, you don't need to think about it during the day, no need to carry anything extra in your purse and with my experiences being abroad and not being able to find the personal products I'm used to and comfortable with (most tampons outside of the US don't necessarily come with applicators, if you can even find tampons for sale, for example) I'm happy to have something that will take up much less space, as well as be usable the whole trip. Their website is great for answering all questions and calming all uncertainties. 

Seriously, ladies, just get over the mental block and try it.

(I also use a couple Party in Your Pants Pads for night times or end of cycle times. I've got 2 on rotation and they feel clean and usable with a quick scrub and air dry.)

What's in my medicine bag?

I purchased a new medicine bag with a small mirror attached, for putting in contacts, as well as a hook on top so that I'll be able to hang it in crowded or sparse hostel bathrooms. Besides the normal medicine bag stuff (toothpaste, deodorant, contacts and prescription meds for 8 months - because who knows? - Advil, etc) I've been collecting a small batch of things specific to traveling which will be easier to use on the road or needed for those just in case situations.

Ta-Da! Earring Magic!
Small hair brush
Earring magic is the term I've coined to describe the genius way to keep your pairs of earrings together while traveling - put each pair through a button! I'll be able to keep everything in one little bag and not worry about too much tangling to loosing each morning while getting ready!
A used tic-tac box for bobby pins
Travel clock with an alarm and a light
Power adapter
Ear plugs for, you know, super crowded hostels or loud buses
Sea bands wrist bands with pressure points which help with motion sickness but don't make you sleep for 2 hours like Dramamine does. I'll also probably stock up on a bit of ginger, which I dislike the taste of, but also helps with seasickness.
Imodium my stomach is my least favorite part of traveling.
Tide-to-Go sticks
Sink stopper for doing my laundry (probably mostly underwear) in hostels.
Dr. Bronners Magic Pure-Castile Soap which will clean anything, like my body or my clothes, depending on the need. I use the eucalyptus scent at home, but I'll have peppermint on the road since I anticipate more clothes washing with this.
Quick Drying Towel and Washcloth
Bar soap in a plastic tub
Aroamas I just discovered these excellent hard perfume sticks which are great for traveling because they have no liquids so no spills or TSA issues, and much like a chapstick, they last forever. I ordered a sample pack and liked Parisian the best.
Neosporin, Bandaids and Moleskin for cuts and blisters (read about my shoe options in a follow-up planning post).

What kind of purse will I use?

This won't be the first time I say it: I'm not going to give a damn about how fashionable I look, which may not be very common for Europe. I've simply given up. I believe that in some ways and on some days I will be very fashionable, but in others, like my purse, it's just a battle I'm letting go of now.

My purse is a little shoulder satchel I got from my sister for Christmas which I was inspired to ask for after meeting a Canadian teacher in Peru who spends 6 weeks of every summer in some awesome foreign country and had something very similar. I like that it includes pockets for cash, cards and a hiding space for my passport. Inside, I'll have:

My Kindle the sort of device I was against for a while, on principal as a writer who loves used book stores and the idea that one day I will be able to hold my own published book in my hands, see it on a few shelves and sign it for others. However, after living in Venezuela where getting a book in English was very expensive and before my move to LA I realized that carrying books around the world with me is not actually that smart. And I have grown to love my device, with it's pretty leather case with which I'm admittedly trying to disguise it a little bit. 
A new notebook I am very very picky about what I write in and on, and I recently purchased a new notebook that would suit my needs for this trip - small lines, large pages, but it fits into my not-sexy purse. There will be a lot of note taking a'comin'. 
Passport protector that little notebook with the maps on it? That's actually my passport. I love the holder because I can be carrying it or flash it around and it doesn't look like the most important document I have on my person at any given time.

Plus I just really love maps.

There's (always) more for me to talk about when it comes to planning! Follow up post about clothing and packing in my big pack to come!

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

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