Disaster Tourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

When I was travelling through Indonesia, I happened to spend a day in the town of Banda Aceh. There is not much to do over there, my guide told me. The only tourist attraction is part of the trend of disaster tourism. Indeed, Banda Aceh was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. So, the main tourist attraction over there is to stroll through the memories of this tragedy: boats brought inland by the wave even though the sea is kilometers away, various memorials in honor of the victims, and the museum telling the story of this catastrophe. I have to admit, seeing the swarm of tourists snapping selfies made me wonder if this was a way to further understand what happened in this town, or just a grim tourist activity.

What is disaster tourism?

hurricane Katrina dark tourism

Disaster tourism is about visiting the sites of major catastrophes, either man-made or natural. It’s considered a subsection of dark tourism even though the two are very hard to set apart.

According to Erika M. Robb, in an article published by the American Anthropological Association, “dark tourism includes both places with violent legacies and those at which violence is an ongoing reality. It encompasses a wide variety of visitor motivations—educational, memorial, or recreational.” 

It is hard to have an opinion on disaster tourism because it encompasses a very wide range of different attractions: National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, Katrina Tours, slum tourism, the ruins of Pompeii, the house where JonBenet Ramsey died, the Memorial and Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, etc. 

Within those options, some seem like an important part of History, while others just seem unnecessarily gruesome and/or voyeuristic. But they all have one thing in common: violence.

Why does disaster tourism attract visitors?

dark tourism concentration camp

First of all, disaster tourism is supposed to be educational. Indeed, whenever you are visiting a place, you might want to learn more about its history. And even though you might have heard of the tragedy beforehand, it is clear that hearing or reading about something is completely different from seeing it with your own eyes. Most promoters of these kinds of tours are claiming they are raising awareness about the events in question.

Indeed, seeing the cells in Alcatraz federal penitentiary, seeing with your own eyes the skulls of the many victims of the killing fields in Choeung Ek in Cambodia, or even seeing the devastation caused by Chernobyl in Pripyat, Ukraine, can help you better understand the reality of the tragedy. Because even if you know about it, you don’t really fully understand it until you see it with your own eyes.

But it can also be part of a more solemn work of memory, of honoring the victims of the disaster in question.

But can you really fully engage in the educational and memorial part of the activity when you are on a vacation? According to Robb, “there is an obvious tension between undertaking important witnessing work and following a vacation itinerary. How might tourist activities before and after visitation to dark tourism sites frame the experience (e.g., going to dinner at an expensive restaurant, seeing a cultural performance, going clubbing). Dark tourism will, in some cases, result in the transformation of violence into one more attraction, wedged in between more typical tourist activities.”

In the end, it all comes down to your own motivations. Are you willing to engage and learn, or are you looking for a thrill?

Can it be useful for the local communities?

slums of mumbai

Organizing tours in areas struck by disaster can be useful for different reasons. It can be important for the community to raise awareness about the catastrophe and its consequences. It’s about remembering and teaching outsiders what has happened. It can be important for a community to tell their own story.

But it can also have an economic impact. In such areas, the money that tourism brings can help rebuild the community and provide employment for the local population. But then, you would have to be careful in choosing a company that actually helps the community or at least employs locals.

However, not everyone feels positively about tours in their own neighborhoods. For example, after hurricane Katrina, many tourists came to New Orleans to tour the most affected areas, which was not very well received by the residents. Indeed, some locals were shocked that people would actually come over for the sole purpose of snapping a picture of the devastation, as it felt disrespectful to the victims.

How can I choose an activity without causing harm?

Protect the local community

First of all, it’s never a good idea to go to a disaster area right after a tragedy struck. People are mourning, healing, and won’t want tourists taking pictures of their grief. You want to help out? There are many ways to do so from home! If you want to contribute, you can always make a donation to an organization that could use your help. Plus, if you go, you will probably get in the way, bother the local population, and participate in using possibly scarce resources.

You want to donate your time? Check if the community is actually trying to recruit volunteers. Otherwise, you will end up getting in the way. Indeed, you need more than good intentions to help, and you might make it harder for professionals to do their job.

To choose an appropriate activity, like always, research the subject. You will find out whether or not this type of tourism has been well accepted by the local community. You will read different opinions about this topic and you will be able to make an informed decision.

But most importantly, when you go to a disaster tourism site, behave appropriately. That is the main point. Whenever you participate in these types of activities, the way you conduct yourself is fundamental. Always act respectfully and with humility.

Protect yourself

If you need to make sure you are not harming the local community, you also have to make sure you will not hurt yourself.

Some sites might still be dangerous, such as war areas, or nuclear testing sites (like Bikini atoll for example), or even areas right after a disaster (think about the aftershocks of an earthquake for instance).  

But it’s not just about physical harm. Choose your activity wisely: some sites can be very hard to stomach and be very upsetting, be sure to be prepared. Tuol Sleng Museum, formerly S21 prison in Cambodia or Murambi Genocide Memorial in Rwanda might be extremely distressing. Be sure that you are ready for this.

So, should you engage in disaster tourism? I do not hold a definitive answer. It’s a personal choice and it comes down to your own intentions. As far as I’m concerned, you should avoid these kinds of activities if you are just coming for the story and if you are not willing to learn and honor. But I do recognize that it can be educational and important to remember some of the tragedies which have struck humankind. Just because you are on vacation does not mean that you should not learn.

According to Robb, “When atrocity becomes a recreational attraction, visitors are themselves inflicting further violence as they search out unique and “authentic” experiences. Ethically, we must question whether tours undertaken in the name of social justice or global awareness are actually experienced as such or whether they might instead work to mask the recreational, voyeuristic allure of violence.”

Again, it’s all about what you do with these experiences!

Sources :
National Geographic – Seven Years After the Storm, Katrina Tours Cause Controversy – Caroline Gerdes – November 6th, 2012 
Forbes – Dark Tourism: Are These The World’s Most Macabre Tourist Attractions? – Duncan Madden – September 25th, 2019
Tourism Teacher – Disaster tourism explained: What, why and where – Dr. Hayley Stainton – October 19th, 2020
American Anthropological Association – Violence and Recreation: Vacationing in the Realm of Dark Tourism – Erika M. Robb – May 5th, 2009
Women on the road – Dark Tourism: Should Tragedy Become a Tourist Draw? – May 1st, 2018 – Why Indulging in Disaster Tourism Could Be a Tragic Mistake

Should You Go ‘Slumming’ In Your Travels?

Have you already seen announcements from travel agencies offering slum tours? This growing trend is about offering you a way to experience the most underprivileged areas in the world, as a tourist. While many people are claiming this is plain and simple poverty porn, people responsible for this kind of tourism are claiming they are fighting stereotypes. And it seems to be working: according to Forbes, slum tours accounted for about 1 million visitors in 2016. But can this type of tourism really be ethical?

“Slumming” is nothing new

There are records of slum tourism as early as the 19th century when rich Londoners visited poor neighborhoods in order to observe how the other half lived. It even led to the entrance in 1884 in the Oxford Dictionary of the word « slumming ». It soon made its way into the US where visitors could experience the poorest parts of New York and quickly, most big cities.

Organizers were quick to realize the business opportunity it represented. In order to have tourists pay good money, the experience needed to be exciting, so the organizers started to hire actors to play drug addicts or even to fake shootings on the streets! Tourists came for a thrill so, the experience needed to be worth their money! 

These slum tours were obviously making a joke out of these neighborhoods and actively reinforcing stereotypes. However, nowadays, companies offering this type of experience are actually claiming the moral high ground.

Why are people organizing such tours?

No companies offering slum tourism could possibly be taken seriously if they were acknowledging the voyeurism and exploitation their critics often accuse them of. So, they’ve had to add moral justifications to what seems at first glance like a grim tourist attraction.

Generating income for locals

Another argument held by defenders of slum tourism is that it generates money for the community. So, not only would you learn about poverty, but you could actually help raise people out of poverty. 

In 2006, Krishna Pujari and Chris Way started Reality Tours and Travel to visit Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Mumbai (which you might have heard of, since it is the place where the movie Slumdog Millionaire took place). This company gives 80% of their profits to a sister charity, “We do this because a large percentage of our income is generated through the Dharavi tours and we felt that it was right to put most of the money back,” Mr. Pujari asserts to the BBC. 

If you listen to organizers of these tours, it seems like these attractions are a win-win. But are they?

Who really profits?

Giving back to the community seems like a good intention. But are those tours really making a difference in the lives of people living in slums?

According to Forbes : « As far as who makes the money from these tours, David Ways (a travel writer at TLWH) claims that, “Tour operators promise they give money to the people there but in comparison to what they themselves are earning, it’s a pittance.” Fabian Frenzel (professor at the University of Leicester) concurred that the direct economic stimulation in the communities from these tours is negligible ».

It seems like the argument of « giving back to the community » doesn’t hold much ground and looks more like a white saviorish dynamic, rather than a real way to empower a community. According to the National Geographic, the reality is quite far from what the organizers are claiming, as a resident of Dharavi state “We see foreigners several times a week. Sometimes they come and talk to us, some offer us a bit of cash, but we don’t get anything from these tours.”

Each travel agency has its own rules, but it is safe to say that not all of them will have a positive economic impact on the communities they use as entertainment.

Awareness raising

Most people defending slum tours claim it helps raise awareness about the living conditions of its inhabitants. Indeed, it can show the difficulties that people face, but it’s not just limited to that. 

In fact, most tours will stop by community projects, shining a positive light on the ways the community is working towards improving the situation or even on all the small businesses that are thriving. The point is to change the perception people might have of what slum life looks like, and most importantly, o

fn slum residents.

Harold Goodwin, director of the International Center for Responsible Tourism in Leeds says in a New York Times article: « Tourism is one of the few ways that you or I are ever going to understand what poverty means. To just kind of turn a blind eye and pretend the poverty doesn’t exist seems to me a very denial of our humanity ».

If you want to educate, you need to show the whole picture

Trying to show slums in a positive light can sometimes feel a little bit counterproductive. 

According to the Guardian, researchers at the University of Bath have studied Tripadvisor reviews for slum tours and the result is that most visitors seem to misunderstand the challenges faced by the population: « In recounting their experiences on Tripadvisor, the tourists regularly described the townships as productive, vibrant cultural spaces, rich in non-material assets, inhabited by happy and hard-working people. »

« Overall, the majority of reviews represented residents as satisfied with their circumstances, with several reviewers remarking that they thought the children in the townships had better lives than those from privileged backgrounds. »

Another study mentioned in the National Geographic ends up at a similar observation : « Analyzing more than 230 reviews of Reality Tour and Travel in her study, Dr. Melissa Nisbett of King’s College London realized that for many Dharavi visitors, poverty was practically invisible. “As the reviews show, poverty was ignored, denied, overlooked and romanticized, but moreover, it was depoliticized.” Without discussing the reason the slum existed, the tour decontextualized the plight of the poor and seemed only to empower the wrong people–the privileged, western, middle class visitors. »

So much for education! It seems like these tours really manage to show the slum in a positive light, which can help people get rid of some stereotypes. But if the structural issues of poverty aren’t addressed, then tourists are obviously missing a big chunk of the picture.

The main critic: the issue of voyeurism

How would you feel about buses after buses of people coming to your door to observe the way you live and comment on your house, neighborhood, way of life etc.? Some companies are only allowing small groups and forbidding picture taking, but is it enough to make residents feel like they are not watched like circus freaks? Plus, not all travel companies take such precautions.

It is possible to educate yourself about poverty, without visiting a slum in the way that you would visit a zoo. Yes, there are a lot of misconceptions about slums residents, but there are ways to educate yourself about this issue without robbing its people of their dignity. 

Indeed, many people in India are fed up with poverty porn: according to the National Geographic: “Mumbai resident Hemanth Gopinath says: “The educated urban Indian is a tad sensitive about how certain attributes of Indian history, society and culture are portrayed in the western media […] criticism against the tour company in question, is that they highlight a negative aspect of the country to foreign citizens and also possibly engage in profiteering at the expense of the underprivileged.”

Are there cases in which it can be empowering?

A few examples seem to contradict the negative light of slum tourism. The difference lies in a very important distinction: these kinds of tours are initiated by locals. In South Africa in the 1990’s, Black South Africans began offering tours of their own townships to raise awareness about their living conditions and point out the reality of segregation. 

When the idea as well as the execution comes from the community itself, it’s a very different story. The point is to show the whole picture: it’s about fighting stereotypes as well as addressing the larger issue of wealth distribution, politics, racism etc. 

Learning about the hardships of locals is important when you travel and you should absolutely do it. However, using them for your own benefit is a totally different approach.

Planning an interesting and ethical trip is not that easy and you have to think about many things in order to abide by your own moral standards. But we have to do the work to reshape the industry of tourism so that everybody can benefit from it without losing anything on the way, including dignity.

Sources :  
The Guardian – Slumming it? Township tour reviews ‘gloss over poverty’ – Jamie Doward – August 16th, 2020 
The New York Times – Slum visits: tourism or voyeurism? – Eric Weiner – March 9th, 2008 

What You Need for a Safe and Rad Covid Roadtrip

I’ve done A LOT of travel. I not only love it personally, but have a career that affords me copious amounts of paid travel and digital nomadism if I want it. When friends text me, they start by asking, “Where are you at right now?” 

While the pandemic has put a real damper on that movement, I’ve found a safe haven in my 2008 Ford Escape. I’ve always loved a road trip for clearing my mind and working through what’s going on between my ears, but during 2020, it really was a lifeline to friends and family and peace of mind when I needed to make sure the world was still out there. I am so grateful to be able to afford and manage a car in NYC. 

So here’s my list of things to bring along on your road trip, starting with the most important thing during these times. 

Mask | Hand Sanny | Gloves

Cuba,,Missouri,,Usa,-,May,11,,2016,:,Bob's,Gasoline

Duh, a mask. Have several stowed away in the glovebox just in case. 

I don’t stop much on a road trip, unless it’s to get out on a backroad and take a deep breath over some stunning scenery, but when you have to fill up or use the bathroom, wear disposable gloves and/or use that hand sanitizer. I recently got these Everyone bottles of spray hand sanitizer, which come in aromas that aren’t Nail Polish, Vodka That’ll Burn Your Stomach Lining and I’m Choking.  

Snacks

People don’t think about this enough when they’re packing for a road trip. 

Look, I like stuffing a McDonald’s chicken sandwich and greasy ass fries in my face every now and then, just like the best of us gluttons, but I save that kinda thing for short trips. When you’re in the car for a significant portion of the day (my longest is 16 hours), it’s key to eat something other than junk, because your digestive system is already gonna be unhappy and you need both your mind and body to be in the game. And you know, gas stations, even the impressive ones like Buc-ee’s, just aren’t gonna have things that make you feel good about yourself. 

Here’s a typical snack assortment: 

Trail mix – Nuts, dried fruits and this is the kicker, I break up some dark chocolate bars to mix in.

Fruit – No brainer, although you know, maybe not oranges unless you peal them beforehand. 

PB&J – Easy to make, easy to eat. 

Yogurt – I drink those little Activa cups like a smoothie, especially as they get warmer, they’re a bit more liquid. I promise, it still tastes good. 

And do not forget the water!! I take a large reusable water bottle, but also pack 2-3 extra water bottles. It doesn’t go bad, and it sucks to be stuck on the road, not wanting to stop and lose momentum, just because it feels like you just consumed a wool sweater. 

Pillow

After,Sunset,On,The,Pacific,Ocean,Looking,Down,The,Famous

I, for one, cannot wait for our autonomous car overlords so I can really use a pillow in the car, but until then, it’s still good to pack. 

One of those small, decorative ones on your couch can be used behind your back to adjust a little and relieve some pressure and pain. Your favorite from your bed, throw it in, because no matter whether you’re saying at a hotel or crashing with a friend, they don’t always have the right cushion for your pudum. And you want to get a good night’s sleep for another day of driving tomorrow. 

Collapsable Trash Can

Changed my freaking life. Before I had one of these, I’d get off a road trip and have a whole day long cleaning session ahead of me, which you know, sucks when you’re getting off of a long drive and just want to relax. 

The flexibility of a collapsible one means that you can stuff it in between seats and suitcases and it’s not as wobbly as a hard, plastic bin. 

Utensils | Napkins

Aerial,View,Of,Countryside,Road,Passing,Through,The,Green,Forest

Look, the snacks, they’ll keep you going for a good amount of time, but if you’re anything like me, after five or six hours, I’m gonna have to eat a warm meal. Especially in the era of covid-19, you’re either going through the drive-thru or ordering take out. Who says you can’t eat enchiladas or lo mein on a road trip? 

That said, if you’re gonna turn your center console into a table for flimsy take-out boxes, you need plenty of napkins and a sturdier set of utensils than most restaurants provide. I have the K-Bar Tactical Spork in my glovebox. Who doesn’t love all the utensils in one utensil! 

First Aid Kit

Also the name of a great band, but this is something you should just always keep in your car. While you probably won’t use it that often, you’ll be stressed and annoyed in a time of (hopefully) small crisis that you don’t have one handy. 

And you might as well throw a thermometer in there now too. I check my temperature like it’s an OCD tick nowadays, and it gives me peace of mind that I’m not gonna be a patient zero. 

Understanding Cultural Appropriation

In the last few years, you have probably heard of cultural appropriation. But do you really understand what this debate is all about? From Victoria’s Secret models walking the runway wearing Native American headdresses to you wearing a piece of traditional jewellery acquired from your most recent trip overseas, where can we find the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t? 

If the basic concept is quite easy to understand, the difficulty in grasping what it really means lies in the details, and even more, in the context. You are not entirely certain how to navigate this sensitive issue? You want to make sure you’ll be able to avoid any pitfalls during your next trip? Here are a few things you should know about cultural appropriation.

What is cultural appropriation?

man dressed in kimono with fan

If this photo makes you cringe, then we are off to a great start! Let’s start with some definitions. The Oxford Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as: “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

If you want to be thorough, here are a few more definitions which will help you understand the whole debate:

  • Cultural exchange: a mutual exchange or sharing of some elements between two cultures.
  • Acculturation: a process during which a person or a group of persons adjust their own culture/traditions/beliefs by adapting or borrowing traits from the dominant culture.
  • Assimilation: when a person absorbs elements from the dominant culture, to a point where this person is indistinguishable from the dominant group. It is the most extreme form of acculturation.

In the end, in order to know whether borrowing an element from another group’s culture is acculturation, exchange or appropriation, you need context.

According to Maisha Z. Johnson, cultural appropriation refers to a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group”. In other words, to understand cultural appropriation, you need to understand the power dynamic at play.

Cultural appropriation vs. acculturation

To understand the difference between cultural appropriation and acculturation, let’s take an example from the same author, about the use of the English language “When the last living survivors of massacred Indigenous tribes are fighting to save their language before it dies when they do, and Native students are suspended for speaking in their own Indigenous languages, mirroring the abusive US boarding schools that tried to wipe out Native American cultures up until the 1980s, it’s clear that not every person who speaks English does so by choice.

Usually, when elements of the dominant culture are absorbed by minorities, it is seldom by choice.

cultural exchange vs. cultural appropriation

Cultural exchange becomes cultural appropriation when the people whose culture is being “borrowed/appropriated” is left out of the discussion. 

For example, it’s when Valentino uses traditional African hairstyles for their new collection, while having no black model on the runway. It’s when Urban Outfitters uses Native American inspired designs, without any regards to the significance of such designs, and without giving credit to the people who originally created them. 

Basically, it boils down to taking without asking, dismissing the possible meaning of the elements being appropriated, and most of all, forgetting the creators.

Why is it such a big deal nowadays?

woman wearing Native American headl dress

According to PBS, “The concept of cultural appropriation may seem, at first glance, like yet another way we are constructing barriers between people at a time when we desperately need to be building bridges. But, as we look more closely at the entrenched inequality in the history of cultural exchange, it becomes clear that the term “cultural appropriation” is simply giving a name to the exploitation that has always existed and continues to this day”.

Cultural appropriation is about naming a phenomenon that is not at all new, but has been going on since colonization. Whether we are talking about objects stolen and now displayed in European museums or aspects of the culture, the logic behind it is the same.

Nowadays, discussions about power dynamics (whether it’s about gender, class, race, etc.) have left the sole reign of the academic world and made their way into the public debate. Basically, it’s become a mainstream issue. Nowadays, more and more people get called out for doing something that has always been done, but has now stopped being acceptable.

How to avoid cultural appropriation

woman dressed in Mexican clothing

When you’re travelling things can get a little complicated. Because you are immersed in another culture and you probably want to engage in that culture. Therefore,  it might seem hard not to borrow, and thus, appropriate from this culture. But you need to be mindful in order to appreciate, and not appropriate.  

Here are a few practical situations which can seem sensitive:

I want to take part in a celebration or cultural tradition:

Taking part in a traditional or religious celebration can be acceptable depending on whether or not you were invited to join. If you were invited to participate by locals, then by all means, take part! Many people you meet throughout your journey want to show you their culture and traditions, and it can sometimes be rude to refuse.

But just because you were invited doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want. You might not know the rules, and you definitely don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. So, engage as a humble guest, with respect for the traditions and never as a joke. And if you want to take a few pictures, it is essential that you first ask for permission.

I want to buy a souvenir:

First of all, try to only buy from local artists or artisans. You want to support the local population and not big corporations making money using traditional symbols without giving back to the communities they originated from. If you want to be respectful and support locals, then spend your money accordingly!

Be mindful of what you want to buy. You want to buy a traditional outfit to wear as a costume? You want to buy a sacred object to use as decoration? You might want to rethink those choices!

I want to engage in the culture:

If you truly want to engage with the local culture, then first, try to learn as much as you can before your trip. This will allow you to understand a few rules and avoid offending anyone. You want to be as respectful as you can be, and you can never guess what the cultural rules are going to be. If you engage respectfully, then you have the possibility of having  an equal exchange.

Outside of these practical examples, there is a risk of cultural appropriation in many other situations. In order to appreciate without appropriating, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Has the culture I want to borrow from been exploited? Have the people from this culture been discriminated against, been at a disadvantage because of their ethnicity? Are there stereotypes about this culture?
  • Before using an element of another culture, try to understand it first. Learn about its sacredness, its history, etc. The more you know the more respectful you can be.
  • Consider your motivations: if you want to use something from a culture that is not your own, consider whether or not you are going to benefit from it. Are you honoring or are you perpetuating stereotypes?

If you are able to ask yourself the hard questions, then you will be able to navigate cultural exchange without appropriating. And when in doubt, either ask, or just refrain. Avoiding cultural appropriation doesn’t mean that you can only experience your own culture, it means you respect others and their traditions enough to view things from their perspective, and yes, sometimes, abstain from doing certain things.

If your first instinct is to be defensive whenever you hear mention of cultural appropriation, that’s probably a sign that you should question your motives. Most people have already made at least a few mistakes along the lines of cultural appropriation, I know I have! 

The main advice that I can give you is, learn and next time, do better, because in the end, it’s never been about you. According to Maisha Z. Johnson, “It’s about a centuries’ old pattern of taking, stealing, exploiting, and misunderstanding the history and symbols that are meaningful to people of marginalized cultures. The intentions of the inadvertent appropriator are irrelevant in this context.”

So let’s educate ourselves, and eventually, we will collectively manage to do better!




Traveling From Home: The Basics of Google Street View

You know Work from Home, but have you considered Traveling from Home?

From navigating to your favorite coffee shop to taking that roadtrip to the beach to seeing how far that new Tinder match actually lives, you use Google Maps all the time. And even locked down in your house, for avid travelers and world explorers, a feature of Google Maps can offer some respite.

This summer, I was supposed to be breaking down on the side of dirt roads in Kosovo or Turkmenistan as part of the 10,000+ mile overland adventure, The Mongol Rally. Instead, I was utilizing Google Street View to offer anti-depressant effects after that was canceled.

Google Street View displays interactive panoramas of places across the globe. During my web series, Mongol Rally 2020: From The Couch, I used the feature to virtually travel  the route and brought on guests from each country to discuss the best sites to see across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The above image is a jaw-dropping remote landscape bordering Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. But you can also look up famous landmarks, like Florence’s Duomo.

Google Maps Street View of Florence, The Duomo

I was initially very sceptical about the concept of traveling from home (even though I had thought of it myself!), but the experience was actually incredible. Never in my life have I felt so small, has it been obvious how big and bold and vast the Earth really is. It was so surreal. You’re never going to make it everywhere, so in between actual travel, I’ll continue to spend days dropping into beautiful locations using Google Street View. 

Here are the basics to seeing the world from the comfort of your couch:

Infographic detailing how to use Google Street View to travel from home

To navigate the panorama smoothly, you can also use the arrows on the compass. This is located on the lower right hand corner.  I love checking out the Photo Spheres (the blue circles). Since Google Map users have taken the time to share their photos, you can typically count on Photo Spheres offering amazing views. My biggest piece of advice is just to experiment — bounce around, click all the buttons and pretty soon you’ll be a virtual travel pro. 

If you need a little inspiration to get started, I can suggest Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as amazing beautiful places that caught me by surprise. Also check out the rad story of Jacqui Kenny, the Agoraphobic Traveller, under the Instagram handle @streetview.portraits

Stay tuned for our next part in this series where we dive into some of the advanced features on Google Street View. 

About the author

Bailey Reutzel

Bailey Reutzel

Journalist, writer and traveler, Bailey wears many hats. Amongst her many adventures is a 48-state drive covering money and politics for over 6 months.  Bailey currently lives in Colorado.

How to Dress When You Travel to Cambodia

Every time you are planning for a trip, the question of what clothes to pack lingers.

On one hand, you want to feel comfortable. On the other hand, you want to be respectful of local customs.             If you are a female traveler, the choice of clothes is rarely a trivial matter, wherever you are in the world. 

Let’s take an example: Cambodia. As this Asian country attracts more international tourists every year, the different rules for locals and travelers becomes more apparent.

why is this topic hot right now?

Girl in yellow dress standing on stairs with outstretched arms

In July 2020, the Cambodian government proposed a draft legislation imposing certain limitations on what people will be allowed to wear in public. If this law is passed, women could be fined for wearing clothes which are “too short” or “see-through”. This law would also ban men from going outside shirtless.

The government explained that this initiative was a way to preserve national traditions and customs and “maintain public order”.  It is not the government’s first try. Indeed, measures to prevent women from wearing “sexy” clothing are a common occurrence in Cambodia.

what is the context of this bill?

Female in black bikini sitting on a swing overlooking a water body

Back in 2016, after posting pictures of herself in a revealing outfit on social media, music video actress Deny Kwan was called in by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to be “educated”. According to the Phnom Penh Post, Ministry Secretary of State Thai Norak Satya explained that “Khmer culture is about modesty. . . it is not affected because of one or two women wearing sexy dress. But if someone inflates or exaggerates [her dress], it will become a big problem.” Satya then added that the ministry could not make anyone dress conservatively, they can only advise.

In 2018, according to a Bangkok Post article, Prime Minister Hun Sen pointed fingers at online vendors wearing revealing outfits, saying that they were “encouraging sexual assault and disgracing Cambodian culture”. 

In February 2019, a woman selling clothes and cosmetics on a Facebook Live session, was judged for wearing “sexy outfits.” She was sentenced to 6 months in jail for… pornography!

These are only a few examples explaining the context surrounding this draft legislation. 

cambodia may be more conservative than you think

Group of tourists standing outside a temple in Cambodia. Some are adjusting their clothes, some are taking photos, while some are standing under the shade of umbrellas.

If you have already visited Cambodia, you may be surprised to learn about this issue. Indeed, in most touristic areas of the country, it is very common to see women wearing revealing outfits. However, Cambodia remains a conservative country. 

The perception of traditional gender roles in Cambodia is rooted in the Chbab Srey (literally, “women’s code”). This code of conduct, taught in the form of a poem, defines what is expected of Cambodian women. There is also a Chbab Proh, explaining how men should behave.

This poem was taught in schools up until 2007 when the Ministry of Women’s Affairs demanded it be withdrawn from the school’s curriculum. However, this text remains quite influential as it is still passed down from mothers to daughters. This code of conduct is problematic in many ways, as it mostly teaches young girls to be quiet and to obey their husbands or fathers.

This code still remains important in the country, as stated by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women : “While commending the State party for its efforts to revise its school curricula and textbooks with a view to eliminating gender stereotypes, the Committee remains concerned that the Chbab Srey, the traditional code of conduct for women, is deeply rooted in Cambodian culture and continues to define everyday life on the basis of stereotypical roles of women and men in the family and in society.”

However, women are increasingly challenging this traditional vision of gendered roles in society.

my body, my choice

female wearing a short black skirt and a white blouse

While the government seems to be at war with short skirts and crop tops, many women are fighting back.          As a response to the proposed law, women on social media have started a campaign posting pictures of themselves in clothes that could soon become illegal, with the hashtag #mybodymychoice. A young woman even launched a petition asking for the withdrawal of this bill.

Many organizations, such as the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, have protested the government’s policing of women’s bodies and the limitations to their self-expression.

Reprimanding women for their clothing choices serves to reinforce the notion that women are to blame for sexual violence they suffer, and thereby further entrenches the culture of impunity which exists in relation to gender-based violence,” said Ming Yu Hah, deputy director of Amnesty International in the Asia-Pacific region to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

WHERE DO YOU STAND IN ALL THIS?

So, what does it have to do with your trip?

We are not saying that you should lead the charge against the policing of women’s clothing in Cambodia, or that you have a say on what local Cambodians should wear.  As a traveler, you are unlikely to be summoned to a government office to be “educated”. However, this is a reality you should be aware of when you are choosing what to pack in your suitcase.

The truth is, as a traveler, you don’t really have a say in all that. But learning about those things allows you to better understand the country you’re about to visit, and specifically the situation of women.

There is only one thing that you can do: support your Cambodian sisters in doing what they want, whatever they want to do. Clothes in this country, just like everywhere else, are in fact, deeply political.

Queer Travel: Tips for your First Solo Trip

Traveling solo always comes with its own joys and its own obstacles. That fact is no less true for a queer person. Within the LGBTQ+ community, there are dozens of different intersections and experiences that can factor into how your experience traveling solo might pan out. If you’re about to embark on your first solo trip as a queer person, there are a few key things you should bear in mind to make sure your first foray into traveling alone is as safe and as much fun as possible. Here are some tips and tricks I picked up traveling solo as a queer woman.

Safety First

queer travel billboard graffiti

I would love to tell you that, no matter where you go, your identity will be accepted and you will be safe to travel authentically as you please, and hopefully one day, I will be able to. For now though, there are unfortunately some areas in the world that are not always safe for LGBTQ+ people. Whether there is a lack of laws in place to protect queer people or whether it’s based more on cultural attitudes, there are some ways to work out where is safe and what sort of measures you might need to consider in advance.

Equaldex.com and 76crimes.com are two free online resources that can give you some expectations in advance of which countries are safe and ones where you need to be more careful. Remember that different regions can have different attitudes too. For example, major cities can often be more accepting than rural regions. Another great way to scope this out is to ask on LGBTQ+ networks that you might be a part of, like a Facebook group for travelers. Getting someone else’s recent, relevant experience there is often really helpful, especially if it’s for a more remote locale.

Once you have the information, it’s up to you what you do with it. Many queer travelers choose not to travel to areas where LGBTQ+ lifestyles are not supported, reasoning that they don’t want to spend their travel budget somewhere that doesn’t respect their human rights. Others believe that laws don’t always represent the people. I have had many wonderful trips in places where my sexuality is technically forbidden. The important thing to remember is to only do what you feel comfortable, and be aware that you may need to hide certain aspects of your identity if you want to go to places where being LGBTQ+ is still illegal.

Find Community

pride event with flag

One way to make solo queer travel easier, even if you are in a country where attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people are less than friendly, is to find a safe space and a community before you even arrive. Look for LGBTQ+ friendly hostels or see if there’s a cluster of queer-friendly bars and restaurants which might make a good spot to book an Airbnb. Although I am a big fan or supporting local businesses, sometimes chains can be safer. A US- or European-owned chain, even in a country that might otherwise be unaccommodating for LGBTQ+ people, will likely be a more friendly place to call home while you’re there,

No matter where you are, remember that not all LGBT+ experiences are treated equally. LGBTQ+ friendly might apply to gay men and lesbians, but you might need to take different considerations into account if you are trans, as one example. Try searching specifically for what you need: type ‘trans woman friendly accommodation [INSERT CITY HERE]’ and see what comes up. This is another time where community-driven advice is great; see what others in your community have to recommend if you’re heading to a new place.

Learn Key Phrases

traveler in park with queer rights sign

If you have any accommodation that might need to be met on your travels, such as explaining gendered documentation at airports, knowing a few key phrases in the target language in advance might save you time and potential stress in airport queues. In countries where less progress has been made at having gender-neutral options on forms or where officials have less experience in processing passport photos where you might look different in real life, try and have some words or phrases ready to go. These could be:

  • I am transgender.
  • I am gender non-conforming.
  • I need to speak to an official.

I’ve also had non-binary and trans friends of mine create little cards in the target language explaining their identity. It might seem like overkill, but it can save you an exhausting and potentially triggering debate at airport security – vital if you’re as bad at timekeeping as I am!

Know when (and when not) to educate others

If you’re traveling somewhere that doesn’t have a particularly open LGBTQ+ community, it’s likely you’re going to get a few probing questions, often entirely well-meaning. No matter how kind the intention, remember that it’s never your job to educate other people. Your identity is your own and being queer is not synonymous with being the world’s friendly LGBTQ+ teacher. Always feel within your rights to politely say you don’t want to answer a question if it’s too personal, you’re too tired, or you just plain don’t want to. You’re on vacation, after all!

If you do decide to chat or explain certain things while traveling, be sure to take care of yourself at the same time. It can be exhausting to have to explain your sexuality or identity over and over again. Sometimes people don’t realize how probing or intrusive their questions can get. Set some boundaries for yourself and don’t be afraid to make other people respect them.

Be an Ally

pride flag with heart hands

Whether you’re a cis, straight person reading this or a member of the LGBTQ+ community yourself, allyship is one of our biggest assets as queer travelers. Even a solo traveler doesn’t need to walk alone all the time. If you travel with any level of privilege, try and be in tune with ways you can use this to help other people to feel more comfortable and safe while traveling.

Give as much as you get to queer communities you find while traveling. Be ready to lend a helping hand, step in to help another queer traveler if they’re struggling, and treat those you meet along the way as you would like someone to help you out if you needed it. Solo travel is one of the most rewarding things we can do in life – but it doesn’t mean we can’t find friends and community along the way.

Voluntourism: A Good Deed or a Harmful Fantasy?

Going on a holiday and spending some time helping out an NGO seems like a good way to use your vacation time to both enjoy yourself and give back to the less fortunate. You could experience another culture, help local communities, add a line on your resume and enjoy an authentic experience during your stay. What could be wrong? As it turns out, a lot!

 

Voluntourism has come under fire over the last few years. This kind of travel which combines volunteering and tourism, can actually have a very negative impact on local communities. Let’s explore the main reasons why this kind of travel is heavily criticized, and the ways you can actually help while still getting the adventure you crave.

Can you offer more than good intentions?

woman volunteering serving food

Volunteers are very often young people, who are taking either a gap year or using their vacation time to do meaningful work. However, humanitarian and development work are actually highly professionalized. To work in this field, you need very specific degrees and/or experience, and an expertise that requires training.

According to Daniela Papi, founder of Learning Service, who wrote in a National Geographic article: “[voluntourism is] about selling an image of poverty to Westerners and saying that—just by being them, without any responsibility to learn, shift, or qualify—they can ‘help.’”

But without any specific skills, can you really help? Are good intentions really enough to make a long lasting impact on local communities?

In a Huffington Post article, Pippa Biddle recalls one of her first voluntourist experience: “Turns out that we, a group of highly educated private boarding school students were so bad at the most basic construction work that each night the men had to take down the structurally unsound bricks we had laid and rebuild the structure so that, when we woke up in the morning, we would be unaware of our failure.”

If your work is not very useful, that’s one thing. But you might unknowingly disrupt the local economy by depriving a local laborer the opportunity to get this job and get paid for it.

If you have a specific skill that you think might be helpful, then coordinate with an organization which works with local communities: you think you can improve their website? Maybe you can fundraise using your own network? Would you be able to teach a specific skill to the local workers? If so, then you might manage to make an impact.

In any case, the most important thing that you need to remember is: Do no harm.

Do no harm

You especially need to keep this in mind if you are thinking of taking a voluntourist trip working with children.

Orphanages barely exist anymore in wealthy countries, and there is a good reason for that: decades of research have proven that children can’t develop well when they grow up in institutions, even if they are well run. Instead, governments all around the world prefer to give support to families so they can keep their children with them. And if it is impossible, then, they look for foster or adoptive families. It is even a cheaper option compared to keeping children in institutions!

So why are there still orphanages? Because tourists are willing to pay to visit them, or to work in them, and it has become a very profitable business. Voluntourism actually creates the institutionalization of children. According to the NGO Lumos, 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. But families tend to send their children to these institutions because the only support system funded (by tourists), are orphanages, when this money could go to better child care solutions. 

Not only are institutions bad for children, but the constant coming and going of volunteers is detrimental to children. According to the NGO World Vision, short term visits to orphanages by international volunteers will create separation anxiety and unhealthy short-lived attachment. Volunteers will give love and support to the children, and then quickly break the bond until another comes, and the cycle repeats.

If you are thinking about a volunteer trip involving children, you need to thoroughly research the organization and refrain from working directly with the children.

The bigger issue at play: the white savior complex

The question of voluntourism seems to be a symptom of a much larger issue: the white savior complex.

You might have heard of white saviorism in many different conversations: this term has been most recently used to criticize the portrayal of minorities in the media (for example, in the movie The Help). But it is also used internationally to criticize international relations. When it comes to voluntourism, white saviorism is especially blatant.

Historically, white saviorism comes from colonization and the idea that Europeans were invading foreign countries in order to “conduct civilizing missions”. Today, white saviorism has more to do with power dynamics: someone privileged, without any real understanding of the cultural, political or economic background, “saves” (or thinks they save) the underprivileged and thus, becomes a hero.

This narrative is an oversimplification of the very complex issue of poverty. Indeed, the story really should be about the root causes of poverty: global economics, geopolitics, history, etc. as well as about the local communities. You can provide support to them, but if you are at the center of the narrative, then you are probably missing the point. White saviors are often accused of using the less fortunate as props for their own self gratification.

Actually, voluntourist companies appeal to the white savior in you by having you believe that you can become a hero, without any specific skills! While, as Andrea Freidus says in an article in The Conversation, “If volunteers can understand the people they work with as citizens with rights rather than objects of charity, they can begin to think about long-term partnership, justice and structural change.”

If you have trouble grasping the concept of white saviorism, try to think about it the other way around: would you feel comfortable with inexperienced tourists coming to work in group homes or foster families for a few weeks in your own country? Would it be ok for you to see tourists taking photos of the underprivileged communities in your hometown?

Should I pay to volunteer?

woman bathing elephant

On the surface, you may think that if you are getting on a plane and giving your time that at the maximum you should pay would be for room and board, but paying a profit? No way. 

Hopefully after reading more about white savior complex, it won’t come as a surprise when we say that paying for an experience shouldn’t be an outrageous idea. If you can’t bring a valuable, unique and needed skill and especially if you can’t commit to a long stay, then you will be taking up employee’s time and resources that could otherwise go into their organization.

Money you pay to volunteer is not always going to scams. There are legitimate for-profit and non-profit businesses that can help you get the experience you want, help boost your resume and gain some skills, and do all the leg-work to be sure that your presence boosts the local community rather than endanger it. They make your experience easy, ethical and that money you pay goes back to the community to actually  help. In fact, some organizations rely on this type of voluntourism.

How can I help?

If good intentions are all you have, then you probably need to rethink your project. If you really want to get involved, there are many ways to do so in an ethical way. But to make sure your project will really help, you need to ask yourself:

          Why am I going? I am going to help or to feel good about myself or to travel cheaply?

          Who is in charge of the project: is it led by local communities? Are they the ones asking for support?

          What does the community or organization actually need? Do I have the skills and experience to provide it? Would I be able to do this work at home? Can a local laborer do this job? If not, can I teach a member of this community the necessary skills?

          Are you sure the organization is doing no harm? Are there any protection measures for vulnerable people (children for example)?

Keep asking yourself these questions and you will end up finding a project of which you can be proud!

 

Resources
https://www.worldvision.ca/stories/voluntourism-the-good-and-the-bad
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/-voluntourism-harms-not-h_b_11653292
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/intelligent-travel/2015/02/04/unpacking-voluntourism-five-myths/
https://theconversation.com/volunteer-tourism-whats-wrong-with-it-and-how-it-can-be-changed-86701
https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-reality-of-voluntourism-and-the-conversations-were-not-having
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/little-white-girls-voluntourism_b_4834574

Your Beauty Products Could Be Making You Sick

Tinkerbell perfume, Bonnie Bell lip balm, Aqua Net. These items and so many more became my “pretty” arsenal growing up in a society where its marketing tentacles dug deep into my psyche and planted themselves there, making me believe they would help me look better and feel better about myself.

For the past 23 years, I’ve been writing about and promoting beauty products. I started off as a beauty editor for teen magazines and eventually opened a PR agency representing beauty brands from all over the world to the media. I guess like so many women, I was prepped for this job ever since I was a little girl.

Until the last few years with the whole “clean” beauty trend (products made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human health) did I really start waking up to the reality of what I – and most of the cosmetics-loving public – was actually doing to ourselves every time we spritzed, lacquered or rubbed into our skin some fancy, often-times, scented formula concealed in pretty packaging. We were exposing ourselves to potentially harmful chemicals that may not be in the best interest of our health.

little girl putting make up on

Quick fact: When you see the word “fragrance” listed on a product, it could basically be any of the 3000 synthetic or natural chemicals formulators mix into their recipes to make something smell amazing.

Beauty Industry Accountability

This new level of accountability in the beauty industry can be applauded thanks to the rise of consumer consciousness and their demand for transparency. If you’re reading this, you probably make a point to scan the list of ingredients on the back of your face lotion. Kudos to you! We all have to be our own mini czars these days with what we put on our bodies. 

But in all seriousness, do you know the difference between Phthalates and Methylsilanols? FYI…the first one is a harmful chemical that makes plastic soft and flexible and the second one is a safe derivative of silicon and protects skin from free radicals among a host of other good-for-you functions. The thing is, they’re both in many cosmetic products and you can’t pronounce either one. But one is toxic (phthalates) and the other isn’t.

Here’s the reality; in the United States, the law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients to be approved by the FDA, making the beauty industry the wild, wild west. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 hasn’t been changed since it was passed by Congress. That’s 82 years ago! To date, the U.S. only bans 30 harmful chemicals and ingredients from being formulated into products whereas the European Union bans around 1,400 and Canada bans approximately 600. Who knows what’s in your favorite face mask? Even though it may claim to tighten, refresh and smooth your skin, there’s no guarantee it will do any of those things. In fact, it may be doing more harm than good.

woman putting makeup on traveling

The Toxic side of beauty

Recent research findings have shown many toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, triclosan, lead, mercury, toluene, hydroquinone, parabens and talc found in everyday products linked to disease and even death. This brings me to the documentary Toxic Beauty, which I had the privilege of helping promote to the media earlier this year. 

Toxic Beauty takes a deep dive into the ingredient dangers lurking in personal care and cosmetics’ products, especially talc. Director Phyllis Ellis follows the class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and the plaintiffs, specifically whistleblower Deane Berg, an American woman who turned down a $1.3 million settlement from J&J in order to take them to court and publicize the health risks of their talc-laden products.

Another plot line throughout the film is the story of how medical student and beauty product fanatic Mymy Nguyen treats herself like a guinea pig as she studies the chemical burden her body undergoes with all the products she uses on a daily basis.

I remember when I saw the film for the first time,  just sitting there in the darkness of the theatre shaking my head back and forth and feeling sick to my stomach by the lack of transparency the behemoth corporation Johnson & Johnson has displayed throughout the years with their talc-laden baby powder, as endless women have lost their lives to ovarian cancer from using their products. Again, I knew talc wasn’t great, but even I (someone who has worked in this industry for almost half of my life) didn’t know to what extent. If this movie shook me, I could only imagine what it would do to all the women throughout the world who don’t have the faintest idea that their daily dosing of baby powder could end up killing them.

beauty products travel and woman

Quick fact: Talc is not just reserved for baby powder. Just about any personal care or cosmetic product that absorbs moisture can contain talc including deodorants, face powder, blush or eye shadow. Talc is also super cheap, which makes it even more attractive to formulators.

Just this past May, something incredible happened. A news story that had nothing to do with the pandemic came out, almost as if it were trying to slip through the cracks…”Johnson & Johnson is stopping the sale of talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. Two weeks after that, Chanel, Revlon and L’oreal – three of the biggest brands in cosmetics – quietly move away from including talc in their products as well

Being part of this movement and creating a push for change in this industry has been monumentally rewarding for me and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. However, in the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database alone, there are still more than 2,000 products that contain talc out there for sale today. And Johnson & Johnson readily admit that they will continue to sell its products in other markets. They sell in over 175 countries, so do the math. There is still plenty of work to be done on this front. 

Back to the trend of clean beauty – which itself has to be handled with scrutiny because again, anyone can claim they’re clean and not be -the rise of clean beauty brands has skyrocketed, with revenue slated to hit $22 billion by 2024. 

The next time you need to stock up on shampoo, SPF, deodorant or you’re looking for a better mascara to try, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep website, which has vetted 1676 products with the EWG VERIFIED mark, deeming them free from chemicals of concern or download the ThinkDirty App, which allows you to scan products for toxicity level.

If this information makes you mad and you want to know how to push the need for change along, a couple things you can do right off the bat is write to congress and sign the Toss the Talc Petition.

Interested in checking out Toxic Beauty? It’s available on The Starz Network, or you can download it here for $4.99. You can use the discount code SOFE25 to receive 25% off.

girl on beach with sunscreen

My List of Clean & Travel Friendly beauty products

For those of you engaging in safe travel these days, I put together this round up for clean travel friendly beauty products worthy enough to take with you on your escapades!

Mermaid dry shampoo

Captain Blankenship Mermaid Dry Shampoo
Housed in a mini 2 oz. cardboard shaker, this talc-free dry shampoo absorbs oil and adds volume to unwashed hair ($14).

rahua shampoo travel size

Rahua Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner (Travel Sizes)
This Amazon rainforest grown beauty hair brand houses their strand quenching shampoo and conditioner in perfectly portable 2 oz. bottles ($9 – $9.50).

C'est Moi sunscreen

C’est Moi Sunshine Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50
Enjoy the sunshine without 98% of the harmful rays with this reef-friendly, non-nano zinc oxide SPF face stick. Formulated with hydrating skin soothing shea butter, this water resistant sunscreen miracle promises to leave no ghostly white cast ($10).

Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF 30 Travel Size – 3 oz. 
You gotta love a continuous mist sunscreen that’s clean and effective. This one provides physical block from UVA and UVB quickly and effortlessly without an oily residue ($20).

travel beauty products

RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek
Multi-tasking beauty at its best and brightest, Rose-Marie Swift’s eponymous brand has been at the forefront of clean beauty since 2009.  These lip & cheek stain formulations are available in 9 beautiful shades and come housed in mini pots to pop into any girl’s cosmetic case $36).

beauty products for travel

Shea Yeleen Coconut Peach Lip Balm
Made from 100% pure, unrefined shea butter, these toxic-free lip balms not only moisturize and nourish your lips, they also empower the female producers in West Africa who source and make the shea ($3).

Zit No More travel size

The Better Skin Co. Zit No More
Maskne sucks, but Zit No More can help. This zit zapping roller ball is formulated with a clear tree-oil/ salicylic acid wonder potion that attacks, banishes and soothes pimples on the go ($18).

Type A Deodorant

Type: A Aluminum Free Deodorant 
These cream to powder formulations have so many things going for them (they’re non-toxic, cruelty free, carbon neutral, and stain free), there’s no reason any traveler should suffer from B.O ($9.99).

Rosebud Ritual Travel Kit
Made with impeccable plant-derived ingredients, these intimate wellness products are a welcome addition to any wanderluster’s travel bag. This set comes with the brand’s four signature items; Cleansing Wipes, Calming Cream, Stimulating Serum and Everyday Balm ($28).

Elliot's Herbal Salve

Kellerworks Elliott’s Herbal Salve
Got a bug bite, scratch, rash or dry patch? Welcome to your new best friend. Made with beeswax, grapeseed and coconut oil, shea, zinc, lavender, peppermint and tea tree oil, there’s nothing this uber clean salve can’t solve ($8).

About the author

Robin beauty writer

Robin Tolkan-Doyle

Robin Tolkan-Doyle runs the boutique agency Charmed PR in Los Angeles, CA and recently created the site Beautyologie, a platform to highlight how we all find and create beauty in life.

Packing with Style: Tips from an Expert

How can you pack in less than an hour and still look effortlessly fabulous while on vacation? As a solo female traveler, it’s about building out that wardrobe over time. It’s important to understand what fabrics you should invest in, while focusing on building a diverse wardrobe that caters to all of your travel needs. I am Beverly O., and I am an international style consultant. Here’s my guide to help you start!

Fabrics

cotton for style guide

The fabrics you wear play a major role in your comfort and style. When traveling to areas that are more humid and hot it’s especially important to pack lighter fabrics with natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, high quality rayon, or linen. These fabrics are breathable, allowing heat to escape the body, so you don’t end up a walking puddle of sweat. It’s also easier to use wrinkle resistant spray when travelling on fabrics that are natural fibers than synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and lycra.

How to Pack

packing for vacation

While there’s so many ways to pack, the most efficient and wrinkle preventative way is the roll method! Rolling your clothes not only helps keep creases away, but also maximizes space in your suitcase or backpack. I have designated packing cubes (a travel must) for categories like day-time casual, evening, and lounge wear so I can see what I’m packing and already have an outfit in place for every occasion.

For shoes and accessories, store them in a shoe bag to keep germs and dirt away from the rest of your things and your shoes in great condition.

Invest in a travel jewelry bag to prevent necklaces from tangling, keep earrings from getting lost, to make it easier for you to get ready and start your day!

Keep it Chic

chic packing guide

Scarves

I usually pack 3 scarves on vacation. One I can use as a sarong over a bathing suit. A smaller silk scarf I can wear as a turban or cute head scarf, and one I can wear in the evening that’s a lighter weight as a shrug. I usually go for either a neutral color or a fun bold print, depending on how colorful my wardrobe is.

Jewelry

Layer, layer, layer! I wear it all, anklets with charms, a stack of bangles and sometimes beaded necklaces. Your jewelry finishes the look and adds a playful element to your ensemble. Especially if you’re rocking a neutral color wardrobe, adding that hint of blue or green from a necklace can take your outfit from a little drab to style queen!

Eyewear

This is where you’re allowed to have the most fun. There are so many different shapes, colors and styles that make wearing sunglasses fun and stylish. I always try to pack 2 pairs – an aviator with a fun reflective mirror and a more quirky style that’s a bold color.

Tennis shoes

While on vacation we want to feel comfortable and sometimes sandals can make your feet achey on long walking days. I always pack a cute, simple white tennis sneaker. They are comfy and go with almost everything. Pair it with a romper, a floral print dress or a pair of denim shorts, and it just works.

I hope this guide helps kickstart your travel wardrobe adventure. Remember to start with what you already own, fill in the pieces that are missing and elevate your look with accessories. Most importantly, getting dressed for vacation should be fun!

About the Author

Beverly Osemwenkhae

Native NYC Fashion Stylist BeverlyO is best known for her trendy, innovative and bold style decisions. 

Coming from a public relations background, Beverly has worked with iconic fashion brands such as Lanvin and Christian Louboutin. Shortly after her transition from PR to styling, her editorials were featured in international fashion publications such as Vogue Italia, Elle Vietnam, Made in Brazil, Fault UK and Jones Magazine.

In founding ProjectBee, Beverly sought out to create the ultimate style destination. She offers personal style consultation for women around the world.