On a lighter note
So I realised today one of the “downsides” of travelling with less: we have been significantly underdressed, almost all the time, everywhere we’ve been for the last month or so of our trip. It certainly wasn’t something that we observed in the first month or so, but as we travelled through capital cities the dress code of some fellow travellers have been quite on the “dressy” side compared to ours.
Maybe we’re just perpetually underdressed or just bad dressers but we certainly chose to pack light with comfort in mind, but it really caught my eye as I observed the ladies wearing make up and we’re “dressy” especially at dinner and the men wearing collared smart shirts and chino pants. Definitely stood out from the local crowd, if you ask me.
It’s so easy for us to compare and look outwards and notice what’s missing, especially the superficial. This realisation would’ve probably bothered me before we started this trip but what surprised me is that I saw the lighter side to the situation. I was not bothered by it at all. A testament as to how much I have grown out of that way of thinking, the constant search for what is lacking and then, the instant need to have more.
A few months ago, I would’ve gone straight to the closest market or shopping centre to buy some dresses, kicking myself for not packing enough and muttering something along the lines of: “I should’ve packed some dresses!” Or “I shouldve brought some nice sandals!” Or even “I should’ve at least packed an eyeliner!”
Why would I need to buy new clothes? I have clothes, they are clean and they fit. I am not the clothes that I wear. I am perfectly comfortable travelling Asia in these clothes that I packed, no need for new ones. I am not buying new clothes to fit in.
You see, there’s a lot more thought that goes into it now before I make a purchase, any purchase. I am a lot more conscious and purposeful when I buy something. Here are some of the “Why?” questions that I reflect on:
- Am I buying this because I need it? Or because I want it?
- Am I buying this to replace something that is broken/lost?
- Am I buying this just because it’s cheap or on sale?
Then, I would give myself 24-48 hours to think about my answers and sit on it. There’s something liberating about giving yourself the power to choose, to consciously make a decision after some thought rather than impulsively.
I don’t have a single piece of cosmetic item on me. I only have gym clothes, a pair of thongs and a pair of runners. I had no intention of going to fancy places where I would need to wear a certain dress code. That’s not what I prepared for. That’s not what I packed for. I packed for an experience out of my comfort zone. I prepared to be comfortable to embrace the local culture, learn about their history, hike the forests, walk through the city streets, have a meal at the local street food market, stay at a local village and not worry about a dress code. The best experiences to date have been the exactly those, experiencing local living, where we slept on the floor of a bamboo hut with a local family, where we haven’t had a shower for 24+ hours, where we’ve sweated all day and night exploring the local surroundings.
So rather than going all panicky, going straight to the night markets to get me a new dress and/or nice pair of sandals – none of those thoughts actually crossed my mind, I just smiled.
I realised that people actually packed for experiences that they had in mind. Experiences that they had either imagined or maybe googled or both, you know, just in case 🙂
Sure, we did all that as well but we were very strict with our packing. We read up on the weather, checked with the tour company and read some forums but that was it. Most of the “just in case” items didn’t make it (except for clothing to keep you comfortable e.g. pants and jumper for warmth, rain jacket to keep us dry, medications and personal care items).
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a lot of the “just in case” with you, if that floats your boat, but we didn’t want to be lugging around the excess weight throughout the entire trip. Then there’s the realisation as well that you don’t actually need a lot to enjoy travelling, so most times, the “just in case” are a waste of time and effort. Mind you, we’ve heard similar comments from fellow travellers “Oh, I wish I packed as light as you guys”
The last thing that I also came to realise is the difference between long term travellers vs. holiday-makers. What they bring to their holidays/trips are in stark contrast to each other. One of the two seem to pack more of the just in case (you can have a guess who does what), perhaps the packing style differs based on their reason for travelling, what were they actually packing for? Are they ready to live with the basics and experience something different or do they need to be comfortable at all times so the “just in case” becomes a necessity? Are they packing to stay at a local village with no electricity or a week-long retreat at a resort?
The people that we have met throughout this trip has made such an impact. Their ages ranged from 18 to 72! We enjoyed talking to people from all walks of life and sharing experiences and musings about two common themes, travelling AND life back home. It has been such a great learning experience. They probably don’t even know it but they have taught us a lot about ourselves and inspired us to constantly improve.
Each to their own, as they say. We may not be dressed to be able to get in to some fancy places but we weren’t here for that. We’re ok to sit at the local street food market for dinner or the local food court. That’s where you’ll find us, armed with a map, chatting to our tour leader about local living, culture and customs, sweating it out while inhaling our food, embracing the sights, sounds, smell and the heat!
The older I get the more I realise that most situations do not require my reaction.
The older I get the more I realise that I enjoy life so much more by caring less about what other people think.faymeandmiguel