Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. I’m looking for more participants, so e-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
An interview with packing tips from Heart My Backpack
Tell us a little about about who you are, what your blog is called, and where you’re traveling now.
Thanks, Rachel! My name is Silvia and I blog at Heart My Backpack, chronicling my adventures through offbeat destinations like Iran and the “Stans” of Central Asia. Right now I’m in Asia, but I’m getting ready to start a slow (and cold!) journey through Mongolia and Siberia back towards Europe.
Do you use a backpack or rolley suitcase for long-term travel?
I would love to be able to use a rolley suitcase, but a backpack is just so much more convenient for squeezing into overcrowded buses, motorbike rides through dirt roads, and hikes up to the yurt I might be staying in for the night –haha.
I use a Deuter ACT Lite 75 liter backpack and I love it! It’s super light, and easily fits enough stuff for several months on the road.
Chinese Kyrgyz border
What shoes are your every day walking around, sightseeing shoes? And how many pairs of shoes do you pack for a long-term backpacking trip?
A travel with two pairs of shoes: flip-flops and flat, black leather ankle boots. I pretty much live in the flip-flops whenever it’s not freezing outside, while the boots work for hiking, fancy nights out (after I give them a good scrub, ha) and even snow boots when I wear them with the super thick Pamiri socks I bought at a market in Tajikistan.
When you’re pigging out trying new foods, other than typical walking & sightseeing in towns- what do you do to keep away the love-handles?
I used to be in a dance company, so instead of jogging or going to the gym, my fitness routine revolves around dance. I usually stretch every night, including some squats and ab exercises if I’m feeling ambitious, and then if I’m somewhere with a little privacy I’ll put on my iPod and dance around my room like a crazy person. Hey, it’s exercise!
When you’re traveling, do you pick up beauty & shower products while you go or are there products you can’t live without- what are they?
I usually pick up products while I go, though that can be dangerous in Asia, where most products contain miracle whitening ingredients (read: bleach). I recently fell in love with Lush’s solid shampoo, which is so portable and seems to last forever. I think some people have already raved about Lush in this series, Rachel, so I’m actually totally itching to go on a Lush shopping spree soon!
For those who think living out of a backpack is impossible, what tips do you have for saving space or what things have you learned you actually don’t need to pack?
I really love clothes and shopping, so the idea of spending five months with a tiny 10-piece wardrobe is really unappealing to me. I know this goes against a lot of people’s advice, but I skip the high-quality travel gear and instead try to travel with super cheap clothes that I’m happy to ditch along the way (travel wears them out quickly anyway). I usually have a couple of skirts and dresses I love, but the rest of my clothes are from local markets selling shirts for $2 or so. Though in Southeast Asia I’ve tried to avoid the elephant pants and beer tank tops so as not to be a total cliché, haha.
My next trip is going to take me through winter in Mongolia and Siberia to summer in the Balkans, so if I tried to pack clothes to keep through the entire trip I would go crazy! Instead I’ll just bring winter clothes and buy cheap summer stuff later on.
The Hippie in Heels has to ask, would you ever pack heels on a backpacking trip?
Um, I’m 5’9 and already tower above locals in many of the countries I travel through (particularly Asia and the Middle East), so I haven’t worn heels in years. I would love to be one of those girls who doesn’t care if her shoes make her six feet tall, but with my blonde hair and pale skin I often feel like enough of a freak while abroad!
What type of outfit do you take in case of a night out clubbing or going to a fancy bar/hotel?
I travel with a lot of cotton dresses that easily translate from casual beachwear to fancy nights out with a bit of makeup and jewelry. My favorite right now is a short black dress that I bought at H&M for $10. I’m also obsessed with wearing necklaces in my hair, which I like to think instantly makes an outfit dressy (in reality it probably just looks like I’m a kid playing dress up). If I’m going somewhere that doesn’t allow sandals I give my black boots a shine and go for the hipster ankle boots + dress look.
And for the girls, what are your absolute favorite make up products you take with you on a trip?
BB cream, tinted lip balm, and eyelash dye! I love how BB cream instantly evens out my complexion, I always carry pink lip balm on me to brighten my lips, and I bought an eyelash dye kit in London (sadly I don’t think they sell them in the U.S.) that that I use to dye my blonde eyelashes once a month instead of always wearing mascara.
Do you have a special skin care routine on the road to prevent breakouts from the stress, sweat, and humidity?
My skin care routine is drinking tons of water. I used to have awful skin and never really paid attention to the all those articles claiming hydrating and eating healthily will improve your skin, but I’ve finally caught on! If I do get a break out now it’s almost certainly due to a lapse in my diet (thank you, bucket of Halloween candy).
What does your most worn, daily outfit look like while you’re traveling?
In warm places it’s a maxi skirt and cotton blouse, mostly because I travel through a lot of Muslim countries and need to be covered up! In cold places I live in short skirts and woolen tights, which I find so much more comfortable than wearing jeans.
You can only pick one: iPod or Kindle?
iPod! I’m actually much more of a book person than music – my music library is pretty embarrassing – but I sadly get too carsick to read while on the road, so my iPod has saved me on many a long journey (including the 72 hours I spent on a hard seat on a train through China, UGH). Also: audio books!
Thank you for interviewing on Hippie in Heels, before you go can you tell readers that may be on the fence about taking a trip why YOU think they should go for it!
I’ve now traveled through over sixty countries and have met a LOT of travelers, and despite inevitable hiccups along the way, not one of them has told me they regret taking their trip. I can’t think of many other things in life with such a high satisfaction rate!
Silvia is half Norwegian, half American, and a full-time nomad. She blogs at Heart My Backpack about her adventures (and misadventures) around the globe, including backpacking solo through Iran, sneaking into Europe’s marijuana producing capital in Albania, and hitchhiking through the “Stans” of Central Asia. Connect with her on twitter, facebook, and instagram.
Shop Silvia’s Faves!
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Always good to know about other travelers who are discovering the world… looking forward to more….
A great snoop into a fellow travellers bag! Going from cold countries to hot can be a super packing pain: I’m a big fan of shipping stuff home or to onward locations (unless it has little value, then I’ll leave it).
I once travelled Middle East in winter to S E Asia then Australia/NZ. I sent my winter coat from Cairo to a family address in NZ so it was waiting for me when I arrived.
What company do you like best for shipping home? I’ve done it before but find it pricey and wanted to write about that on the site. From India it can be risky if you don’t do it properly
To be perfectly honest, I just go to the post office and use whatever service they have! Usually to save costs I send by sea and so far never lost anything.
I’ve only ever posted one parcel home from an Indian post office, in Darjeeling: we were sent to a little office across the road where a man wrapped the box in fabric, sewed it up and sealed it with wax. It was amazing to watch!
I’ve sent parcels via the post office, from Egypt, India, HK, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand with no problems. Usually do a bit of internet research/ask around first to see if the system sound reliable.
thanks for those tips! maybe I need to be less paranoid.
she’s def one of my favorite bloggers out there right now. Love this. I’m such a loser about packing with shoes…. I have 4 pairs and none of them are cute but I feel like I need hiking and running shoes. Chinese girls were dancing in my hostel last night so apparently its totally cool to do that here
The rule of thumb used to be- pack a few days ahead of time, give it a day, then look at what you packed and take half the stuff out because you won’t need it!