How to keep feeling sexy on the road

This is easily the most superficial post I’ve ever written, but gosh darn it, feeling good about yourself is important!  And despite the title, I’m not just talking about looks and sex appeal.  What I’m really getting at is this:  a positive self image helps you move through new territory with confidence, and confidence is so very important when you’re traveling in the ever-changing, complex and challenging world that is, well, the entire world.

There are many, many ways to feel good about yourself while traveling, everything from learning a new phrase in a foreign language, to successfully negotiating a complicated bus transfer, or simply having the courage to sit and talk with a group of strangers at a hostel.  But in addition to those more meaningful confidence boosters, the way you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror can have an effect on how you cope with the day.  Given the self-image roller coaster that is the daily life of a woman (or at least, the daily life of this woman), I’ve come to accept that there are some extra steps I’m willing to take while traveling so I can feel pretty, dammit.

Note:  I am not into makeup, fashion, etc. at home, let alone on the road.  Hell, at the age of 29 I’ve just learned how to blow dry my hair.    Therefore, the following tips may strike you as completely underwhelming.  Alas, I am the kind of traveler who brings three t-shirts on a five month long motorcycle ride, so these tips are pretty grandiose in my mind.  Either way, I hope they help you plan for your next trip!

Lightweight, breathable, super-cheap, comfy, pretty and doesn't show sweat. Win!

Lightweight, breathable, super-cheap, comfy, pretty and doesn’t show sweat. Win!

1.  Clothing:  I made the mistake on my first trip of taking clothing that was only practical.  After three months of the same three safari style t-shirts and the one poor-fitting pair of zip-off pants, I was about ready to corner the next pretty girl I saw and demand she give me her jeans and tank top.  Since then I’ve chosen clothing that is both functional and pretty.  For example, these Prana hiking pants are durable, zip-off, and easy to wash, but their cute cut doesn’t make my butt look like an amorphous blob.  I also choose shirts that don’t show sweat.  This has less to do with material and more to do with color.  I’ve had good luck with simple dark blue or pink t-shirts like the one above.  A black tank top is not only sweat stain proof, but it also doubles for a night on the town.  And a perk of bringing clothes you’ll actually want to wear for your whole trip:  less impulse buying.

This is not a picture of me, and it's definitely not a picture of me traveling.

This is not a picture of me, and it’s definitely not a picture of me traveling.  But look, no boob sweat!

2.  A good bra:  This one is so important, though maybe less so for you lucky girls with small breasts.  I don’t care how practical and comfortable sports bras are, I just can’t wear one for months on end.  After awhile I feel mannish and restricted, and then there’s the whole boob-sweat issue.  On the other end of the spectrum, built-in shelf bras are utterly useless when you’re toting around DD’s.  A good travel bra has to meet a wide range of demands:  comfortable to wear on long bus rides or while wearing a backpack; easy to clean and quick to dry; doesn’t show through your shirts; lifts and separates.  Is there any such bra?!  Why yes, there is.  My new favorite is the Madison by Paramour, shown above.  Awesome support, wide straps, flexible and breathable fabric, well-designed underwires that don’t dig in to my ribs, and the right color to be worn under anything.  Love, love, love.  Of course, I also take a sports bra for hiking, etc.


90% of pictures of me traveling are in a black tanktop and that beat up old skirt. They even make motorcycle oil changes look good.

3.  Black eyeliner:  This is the only makeup I ever take with me.  Travelers are blessed with natural beauty that seems to radiate from within.  Their confidence and healthy lifestyle simply shine through their skin and eyes, rendering makeup obsolete.  Still, I have days that I don’t see my natural beauty, and I assume this happens to other women as well.  Fortunately, after weeks or months without wearing a stitch of makeup, a single swipe of black eyeliner feels so dramatic!  Sometime after putting it on I even wonder, “Do I look overdone?  Is this eyeliner too gaudy?  Am I wearing too much makeup?!?”  Seriously, though, this is such a simple, easy, portable way to give yourself a temporary self-image boost.

Black tank, check.  Necklace and earrings, check.  Headband so I don't have to do anything to my hair, check.  Ill-fitting Mexican prescription sunglasses, check.

Black tank, check. Necklace and earrings, check. Headband so I don’t have to do anything to my hair, check. Ill-fitting Mexican prescription sunglasses, check.

4.  Jewelry:  Similar to the eyeliner effect above, a little bit of jewelry can do wonders for your self image.  After a few weeks of feeling stale and bored in my three outfits, I’ll toss on a pair of compact and portable silver earrings and voila, I’m a new girl!  I usually only take one pair of go-to earrings and maybe a bracelet or ring with me, and then I pick up jewelry during my travels.  Jewelry is a great souvenir and an easy, cheap way to change up your style on the road.

When all else fails, distract people by hiding a cat in your hair.

When all else fails, distract people by hiding a cat in your hair.

5.  Borrow and trade:  A couple years ago I found myself on a Caribbean island for two months instead of my planned one week.  This was in the middle of a mainland motorcycle trip, so I was not prepared for extended time on hot beaches.  But when another traveler left the island to return to her cold, wintry home, she gave me some of her beach clothing.  Ta-dah, new wardrobe for free!  Better yet, I passed those clothes on to another traveler when I left the island.  I’ve also temporarily exchanged clothing with girls in my dorm for a night of bar hopping, and permanently traded clothes with a traveler when we crossed paths between a hot climate and a cold one.  Getting a new wardrobe can be free and fun, and that way you don’t have to pack for every eventuality.


Those are just five of my tips for how to feel good about your appearance while on the road.   Practical and minimalist clothing doesn’t have to be a boring and depressing burden.  What are your tips for feeling pretty while traveling?   And I don’t want to exclude men from this discussion–any tips from the dudes out there?

(A a bonus tip, I have three words for you:  tweezers, razor, bobbypins.)


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