Just recently I participated in an internet challenge seeking the advice of seasoned travelers as to what it is that we like wear while galavanting about the planet. I consider myself a seasoned traveler. I’m also kind of fat. So I decided to share a post about my ideal “wanderlust wardrobe” from the perspective of someone whose total number of miles traveled is nearly on par with their daily caloric intake. In other words, the kind of guy you hope you’re not seated next to on the plane.
For me, the greatest trial when traveling isn’t the foreign languages or jet lag. It is all about trying to stay comfortable when crammed into a tiny airplane seat for ten hours or waiting for a train with a humidity level of over a million. Travel logistics can be uncomfortable and/or fatiguing even under the best of circumstances. Tight shoes and a rigid waistband don’t help matters. Below I’ve listed some elements of my ideal “wanderlust wardrobe” for achieving both comfort and style. Feel free to comment with ideas of your own.
1) Pants with an elastic waistband
I guess you can say I have a classic hourglass figure with between twenty to twenty-five minutes shoved in somewhere around the middle. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating (about the hourglass part), but for those of us with a little ‘cushioning’ located around the equator, an inflexible waistband makes the already-challenging act of finding a comfortable position while on a transcontinental flight a real nightmare. Loose pants may sound appealing, but unless they’re accompanied by a sufficiently-strong belt, they can make for some very embarrassing moments while running through the airport. And if you have to wear a belt (and take it off getting through security) you’re back to square one. With elastic waistbands, those who carry their share of famine insurance around the midsection can have the anti-gravitational support they need while still being able to properly contort into a coach class seat.
2) Moisture-wicking shirts that breathe
When traveling to tropical or warm weather locales, I have long suffered from being drenched with sweat – often on my way between getting off the plane and the terminal. With today’s technology, synthetic materials can wick away some of that self-produced moisture and allow your overheated torso to breathe without taking your shirt off. If, like me, you fit the description listed in the point above, then you’re probably doing everyone else a favor by keeping it on.
3) Slip-on shoes with comfortable insoles
Since I’ve already substituted my belt with an elastic waistband, I see no point in having any delays at airport security due to my shoes. Being able to slip them on and off at will also comes in handy while on the plane or upon arriving at the beach. As for the comfortable insoles, just consider the long walks between the terminal and baggage claim in your average international airport – and that’s before you even take a step outside. And if you’re traveling to a place with great vertical range, such as the Amalfi Coast and its endless stairs, buying comfy insoles will cost you less than a visit to the podiatrist.
4) The right t-shirt
When it comes to buying a souvenir t-shirt I admit to being a bit OCD. As I mentioned before, the right t-shirt would not be 100% cotton due to stickiness and shrinkage issues (I mean the shirt, of course), though it is in this arena that form outweighs function. The design should indicate where the shirt was purchased without looking like it was picked up out of the clearance bin. The image should represent a distinguishing element of the place visited without being tacky or overly-busy. Understatement works well in this tiny, under-served niche of the fashion industry. I’m actually quite proud of my collection of t-shirts from around the world, and in almost every case their purchase was the result of a protracted search and intense elimination process. Those who have traveled with me can attest to my scrupulous efforts to seek out the right t-shirt. They can also attest to the validity of points 1-3 while waiting for me to choose.
5) A wide-brimmed, crushable hat
My travel hat is one of my most prized possessions. Not only is it a vehicle to showcase my exhaustive travel pin collection, but it serves any number of useful purposes; like protecting my eyes and scalp from the sun or covering up my messy hair. You can also throw in looking like an experienced traveler to dissuade any charlatans who might be thinking about running one of their scams on the wide-eyed foreigner. Just be sure that your hat is wide, weathered and stylish enough that you come across as a traveler, not a tourist.
Form Vs. Function
Naturally, there’s a form versus function aspect to all this. A shirt can be the most comfortable article of clothing in the world, but if it looks hideous, I still have enough vanity not to wear it. And those mud-stomping, gel-filled, air-cooled, super-dope-looking hiking boots with 4.7 miles worth of laces certainly do have their place, but that place is not in the airport security line. I guess it all depends on the nature of the trip, how much you want to lug around, and of course, who you’re looking to impress. Personally, I go for the Indiana Jones & the Temple of Comfort look – part adventurer; part lazy bum – on travel days. After that I seek to return to my normal, style/weight-conscious self, who is happiest when filling in immigration forms and stretchy t-shirts around the globe.
Do you have an item of clothing that you won’t leave home without? Share it by leaving a comment below!