Gaia Conceptions is traveling throughout India, Bhutan, Burma, and Japan this Summer/Fall to research sustainable fiber farming, natural dye techniques, and to simply be inspired and nurtured through travel. Along the way we will be photographing new designs in some amazing locations. Our goal is to post a new design series each week.
We will also be posting on where to eat, where to sleep, and what to do in many of the amazing places we are visiting. Our goal is to have a healthy mix of hard work, philanthropy, and learning, with a big dash of rejuvenation and adventure tossed in for good measure.
When I set out on a journey, I take no more than what I can carry on my back. This means I have to get creative, while still remaining efficient. The biggest challenge is making sure that you have everything that might be difficult to find in remote travel destinations without overdoing it. So, I thought I would share what my essentials are for a 3 month trip to India, Bhutan, Burma, and Japan. I fully intend to buy things that I might need along the way, such as a sweater for Bhutan's mountain vistas or sunscreen for Kerela's beautiful beaches. What you see here are, in essence, my fundamentals. Everything you see fits easily in my backpack and purse. This allows me a speedy check-in at the airport and insures security on any mode of transport. I have especially come to appreciate its compactness when running to catch a bus or navigating large crowds common to the Indian Railway System.
So now for the fun part... what's inside!!!! This is a shot of everything...and yes...it all fits in my super cute and super functional Ellington purse and my new Voodoo Tactical S.R.T.P. backpack from Harry's Army Surplus. The purse was originally tan in color when I purchased it 4 years ago. I decided to dye it with Gaia indigo to give it a fresh look, and I am thrilled with the results. It can transition from an over the shoulder purse to a mini backpack, making it perfect for day excursions. I found the backpack, on a site dedicated to military grade supplies. I love it, because there are no logos or bright colors. It has all the functions of a top-of-the-line backpack, such as: internal frame support, tons of compartments, a built in rain fly that stores easily at the bottom of the pack, and a mesh back rest for keeping the pack load lightly off your back. It was the best combination of visual simplicity and modern design that I could find. Now, I'm going to break my packing essentials down into three parts to make it easier to share: gadgets, self care, and Gaia Gear clothing of course!
Modern technology is amazing, ya'll. There are three things that I always take with me no matter where I travel: my smartphone, my Macbook Air, and my PowerShot Canon camera with wi-fi technology. Obviously, in order for these gadgets to function you have to bring along their corresponding power cords and foreign plug adapters to make them work overseas. I also generally pick up a surge protector upon arrival for protection against power surges. A great 'travel hack' is to use the USB port on the TV in your hotel to charge your phone, camera, or I-pad. I also always bring a large capacity jump drive to store all of my images. This insures that my computer doesn't get overloaded and remains efficient. The cute little guy that you see on my computer is actually a super small, but bright, l.e.d flashlight. Its moveable, bug-like legs make it attachable to various surfaces, which is extremely handy since power outages are common in India and Burma. I like to keep it in my purse just in case the power decides to fail in the middle of the city at night. It can also be helpful to use to find items in the bottom of my bottomless purse, or can be used as an impromptu book light when your travel buddy would rather be asleep. The camera you see featured below my phone is actually a modern version of the classic Polaroid camera. I am so excited about taking this on my trip, because it is digital, but also gives you the ability to choose any photo and print out a stickable image. I love the fact that I can store my photos as I would with any camera, but I can also give a copy of some of those photos to friends who I meet along the way. The little 'Sling' pouch that you see expands into a cross-body, water resistant shopping tote. This is perfect for packing extra snacks for the train, or just to haul all of those goodies from a day's adventure back to your hotel room. Not so modern technology, such as a compact umbrella, zip-ties, a pen and pencil, daily planner, and those ever important travel books, can be even more amazing. Another not so modern piece of technology that is truly invaluable when traveling through India is a lock and chain. I prefer a cable bike lock. It is strong, light-weight, and doesn't take up much space in your pack or purse. I have found this is the best way to secure your belongings on the train. I will reveal my favorite travel books in more detail, both fiction and non-fiction, in later posts.
First of all...the best offense is a good defense. As morbid as it sounds, I always try to think of all of the ways I could possibly get sick while traveling. This forces me to pack defensively when it comes to my health. I focus on only packing those items that would be difficult, or, in some cases, impossible to find in the locations that I am traveling. A must-have is any over-the-counter pain medication that also reduces fever. Unfortunately, the most common illness I have encountered in the countries where I will be traveling is mudbutt, more commonly known as diarrhea. I like to treat this with a combo of Imodium and Pepto. Imodium is better at stopping the mud flow, but Pepto actually has the active ingredient that treats the problem. A great preventative measure for me, is to have some yogurt or local milk, once I arrive, to familiarize my gut with the bacteria it may encounter in a new location. A new addition to my health regime will be to try Amazing Grass, powdered Green SuperFood, which has loads of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics, and can be easily added to my morning juice. It dissolves well and actually tastes delicious. I also bring along an antibiotic...just in case. Obviously, you should talk with your physician about what's best for you before embarking on a trip to a foreign place, and check the CDC website for the recommended vaccinations for your destination. Another important medication that is recommended when traveling to Southeast Asia is malaria meds. I personally opt out of this medication, because it makes me, for lack of a better word, crazy. However, getting malaria is a genuine concern, so I take along a powerful mosquito repellant that I would not normally use, because it contains deet. Because I don't like to put toxic chemicals on my skin, I often just spritz this on my clothing instead. Be sure to pack a small, reusable water bottle so that oral medications are easy to take and you can stay hydrated on the go. I also like to take a small collection of Band-Aids in multiple sizes, as well as a small tube of antibiotic cream. Essential oils can be a traveler's best friend. If I could take my whole case of doTerra oils with me...I would, but I narrow it down to 4 or 5 powerhouses. For me, that is typically Lavender, Oregano, Sandlewood, and an oil that doTerra calls Deep Blue. The Lavender is great to use as an anti-septic and a few drops can be added to your bath or pillow at night as a sleeping aid. Oregano can be used for a number of things, from ridding yourself of internal parasites to a topical hand sanitizer. Sandlewood is my scent of choice as a daily perfume. Its grounding effect has always helped me to stay focused, alert, and calm while navigating foreign territory. The Deep Blue is a blend of oils designed to alleviate sore muscles, which are bound to occur with extensive walking and unfamiliar beds. The Deep Blue also works really well as an aromatic decongestant. Another thing I always carry in my purse are biodegradable wet wipes. Toilet paper is virtually nonexistent in India. While I have mastered the Indian practice of washing for #1, I have not mastered it for #2. And, if you have the mudbutt of which I spoke earlier...these are even more crucial. Just make sure that they are biodegradable, as the sewage systems are not designed to handle anything else. Another item I am really excited about and fully foresee becoming a travel favorite is the Schick Quatro for Women Trimstyle Razor. This excellent find has a battery powered, electric razor on one side and a regular razor on the other, making it extra easy to stay bikini ready for the beach portions of my trip. Since I really only need it for photo shoots, I take a minimal amount of makeup when traveling abroad. I do use Suki Skin Care Nourishing Facial Oil on my face everyday. When in front of the camera I use tinted moisturizer to even out my skin tone, various colors of eyeliner to bring out my eyes, Perricone MD No Blush Blush on my cheeks, and Smashbox Halo Highlighting Wand around my eyes. I also like to use the 2 ounce GoToobs by Humangear to bring along my favorite shampoo, face wash, lotion, and handmade natural deodorant. This obviously won't last me for the full 3 months, but it's size meets airline regulations and provides me with enough product to last until I can find alternatives in my destination.
As you might have guessed... almost all of the clothing I will be taking along is made by hand at Gaia Conceptions. I will talk about the exceptions to that first.
1. SHAWLS - I picked up these 2 handwoven and naturally dyed shawls in previous trips to India, and they are perfect for adding modesty to a Love me 2 Times Design, while still staying cool in the heat. They can be used to cover your head and shoulders, often a requirement for entering temples or sacred spaces, and will add extra warmth as a scarf in Bhutan's colder climate.
2. A SWIMSUIT - I found this lovely blockprint swimsuit at Anthropologie a few months ago. I love it because the print is similar to one of our blockprint designs making it easy to blend into my Gaia Wardrobe.
3. A HAT - I prefer the Asian style hat. It is great for both sunny and rainy days. While, it is certainly not the easiest style to keep up with when traveling and sometimes draws a little more attention than I'm in the mood for, I haven't found a hat that I love as much as this one. My best advice for a travel hat is take your favorite !!!
4. JEWELRY - I only take the jewelry I have on the day I leave. For this trip I have chosen a body chain ( which we will be offering soon at gaiaconceptions.com) and an arm bracelet. Jewelry is my favorite thing to collect when traveling and it makes for a lightweight and easy-to-pack souvenir, so there is really no need for me to bring along more. I'm sure to find lots of beautiful pieces as I travel.
5. SHOES - For traveling to India during Monsoon season waterproof shoes are the way to go. I'm bringing 2 pairs of flip flops with a heel strap, and a sandal with a little more arch support for big walk days. There are also lots of great shoes to be found in India, so I'll likely find a couple of pairs along the way if I find I need something warmer.
6. JACKETS - I will be taking 2 Belted Cocoon Jackets. The Belted Cocoon Blockprint Jacket and the Belted Cocoon Tunic Jacket in tissue cotton, which also makes an excellent robe or swimsuit cover up.
7. I have decided my base layer is going to be our Love me 2 Times Wanderer Long Dress. I'm taking 5 different colors of this dress. Some are made out of tissue cotton and some are made out of our light hemp/organic cotton knit. This dress is perfect for India, because it offers modesty and protection from mosquitoes, with its long length and it's easy for me to mix and match shirts, shawls, and dresses over top. I can also triple fold it for a different look or wear it on it's own in less conservative cities, such as Mumbai or Bangalore.
8. Another great item while traveling to Southeast Asia is our Harem Pant. This design is perfect for traveling on the trains, as it's closed bottom design allows for easy lounging and movement without any embarrassing peek-a-boo accidents.
9. I'm taking along an assortment of Apron Wrap Shirts, Tube tops, and boob tubes (blockprint and standard). These all layer well over the Love me 2 times Wanderer Long dress to create different color combinations and silhouettes. Simply adding the Apron Wrap Shirt for example makes this dress look more like this dress.
10. A TOWEL - I prefer a linen towel, mostly because it drys fast and takes up less space.
11. POPOVERS and KAFTANS - I find a loose item to cover my shoulders works best for the humid heat of Asia and layers easily over the Love Me 2 Times Wanderer Long Dress I have chosen as my main base. For my purposes, I chose the Kaftan Shirt in light hemp/organic cotton knit and our Popover in tissue cotton.
12. THE STASH BELT - This is a new design that we will be releasing soon !!! Essentially, it is our stretchy wasitband with a zippered pocket. The perfect place to keep your passport, credit cards, or even your phone while gallivanting the globe. I like to keep my passport attached to me most of the time and wouldn't want to leave it in my hotel room or purse. The Stash Belt is a simple, highly functional way to keep your passport on you at all times without making it obvious that you even have on a belt. Because this belt is the same size and design as our waistbands, it almost disappears.
13. TUBE TOP SARI SHIRT - I adore this shirt and again it is an easy way to add a new silhouette to my base layer. The Tube Top Sari Shirt is our tube top with a long piece of fabric attached. Basically, a tube top with a built-in shawl. It will turn this dress into this dress or can easily be worn with any skirt or pant.
If you have made it this far you are amazing and thanks so much for reading my post. We will be listing in-depth travel posts on the places we visit over the next 6 months, so check back in or join our blog for more post like this one !!