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. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.

An interview with packing tips from Paula Through the Looking Glass

Tell us a little about about who you are, what your blog is called, and where you’re traveling now.

Hi Rachel, and thanks for having me :) I’m Paula of Paula Through the Looking Glass travel blog. I’m originally from London and lived there most of my life until I decided to quit my job and go travelling around Southeast Asia at the beginning of 2014, which basically changed my life!

Since then everything has changed and I’m now about to set off on my second stint around Asia (starting in Sri Lanka in March), before stopping in Thailand permanently towards the end of the year!

packing tips from paula through the looking glasselephant waterfalls near Dalat

Do you use a backpack or rolley suitcase for long-term travel?

I use my Quechua Forclaz 60L air backpack. I’m pretty petit and a massive weakling (!!) so I need something small enough that I can carry, but large enough to hold all of my girly stuff…not an easy feat. It’s not the most attractive bag, but backpackers can be quite snobby, which means you need to blend in to the great unwashed if you don’t want to be looked down upon as a newbie traveller ;) 

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? 

Accessorize Plain Seagrass Flip Flops are my go-to hot weather shoes for most days, and they serve me well. I literally just bought a new pair for my up-coming trip actually. Of an evening I’ll upgrade slightly to a more glam pair of sandals such as a Wrapped Thong pair, again from Accessorize.

I usually try and keep the number of shoes I take away with me down to just 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of sandals for the evening and a pair of trainers for hiking etc.

packing tips from paula through the looking glassWhen 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 actually find that’ll usually do it, but so I don’t feel like a total bum I like to get a bit of yoga on the beach in where it’s offered, and I’ll happily try out anything that gets the blood pumping like a bit of Muay Thai training (Thai boxing) when in Thailand, or attempting to rock climb!

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?

There are a couple of must have items that I take with me like Batiste Dry Shampoo (I cannot live without this when travelling!), Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray to help style your hair, a GOOD deodorant like Sure Maximum Protection, and my Chanel Chance perfume (so I don’t smell like a backpacker!).

But I’ll usually get anything else I need out there as it’s cheaper and you will ultimately run out of things, so you can’t be too precious.

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?

OMG – the single best recommendation I can give is packing cubes. These little babies are the one thing you just have to have to organise your backpack. Taking three; one large for clothes, one small for underwear and another small for swimwear, means when you are unpacking and re-packing your bag, you only need to take out those three things and you’re pretty much set! No more rummaging around you bag for things at the bottom, or creased clothes! It also keeps clean & dirty clothes separate. BEST THING EVER!

A microfiber towel is also a space saver that works perfectly. Oh and a quick tip if you are planning on taking your War & Peace sized Lonely Planet with you; rip out all the pages you don’t need…Voila!

The thing I am still on the fence about is a travel hairdryer. I didn’t take one last year to save space and it was fine, but too be honest I didn’t really look my best, but it might just be too darn hot to use it when I’m in Asia…you’ll have to check my blog out for the final decision on that one ;)

For a full suggested packing list, check out my post on what to pack for Travelling Southeast Asia.

packing tips from paula through the looking glassThe Hippie in Heels has to ask, would you ever pack heels on a backpacking trip?

Erm, no…lol. On the backpacking trail in Asia I think I would have been the odd one out in heels, but saying that, if i ever ventured to more sophisticated countries I might have to indulge ;)

What type of outfit do you take in case of a night out clubbing or going to a fancy bar/hotel?

This is always a tough one, as the first rule of packing is to take outfit combinations that go with each other, and that you can wear in more than one situation to save space, BUT girls will be girls, and having a few evening outfits is a must!

In Southeast Asia I generally stayed on the less fancy side of the path, meaning a light (short!) colourful dress or just denim shorts & a black cami were my normal go-to outfit choices, but this year I want to hang out at some of the flashy bars in Bangkok, so I think I might treat myself to a more sophisticated LBD for such an occasion. My new evening sandals will suffice for both though ;)

What is the one material thing you miss most from home while you’re roughin’ it abroad?

My duvet. Being in a hot part of the world and usually sleeping with just a sheet or nothing at all, you really miss cuddling up in a cosy duvet. It just seems more relaxing!

packing tips from paula through the looking glassAirport style: love looking LA paparazzi ready or could care less? Do you pack “plane” or “relaxing” clothes for a long-term backpacking trip or would it take up too much space? 

Pah, you should see the state of me after a plane journey. LA paparazzi would run a mile! Flying from a cold country to a hot one always gives you the dilemma of what to wear to/on the plane. I even thought about buying disposable items, but that just seemed wrong. In the end I ended up wearing the clothes I brought with me for the cooler climes of Northern Vietnam; a light jumper and a pair of leggings! Not my best look but it did the job. 

And for the girls, what are your absolute favorite make up products you take with you on a trip?

I actually keep it quite simple when I’m backpacking; Bourjois Little Round Pot “healthy” blusher, Bourjois Mascara & eyelash curlers, and a baby pink lip gloss.

When you’re in the sun your skin needs much less make-up…plus it’ll just melt anyway ;) 

Do you have a special skin care routine on the road to prevent breakouts from the stress, sweat, and humidity?

Again I actually find being in the sun does my skin wonders if kept properly moisturized and protected. I used Nivea Daily Essentials Face Cream with SPF (very important!), PLUS suncream if out in the sun all day. I also made sure, as always, to clean my face at the end of the day with a face wipe to get off the sweat and muck.

What does your most worn, daily outfit look like while you’re traveling? 

I pretty much live in my short jean shorts from Topshop that I bought like 10 years ago (!!). I’ll couple that with one of 4 different strappy tops or a singlet. Oh and my trusty Accessorize flip-flops of course ;)

packing tips from paula through the looking glass Mui Ne Sand dunes 

Tell us the ONE thing you pack for a long backpacking trip & would never leave behind.

My unlocked smart phone. I wasn’t so sure about this before I left the first time for safety reasons, but I’m so glad I did. I was with me at all times and was used for so many things! Alongside the usual, it was my alarm clock, my music, a currency converter, a spending tracker (TrailWallet rocks), a kickass camera, a torch….the modern day swiss army knife. 

You can only pick one: iPod or Kindle?

Music, no hesitation! I’m not much of a reader actually, but music is just so emotive. My Southeast Asia playlist that I listened to religiously when I was travelling last year, now takes me right back to the beach when I play in on the cramped, freezing London trains.

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! 

OK, imagine this, you are lying on a white sandy beach looking out over the Indian Ocean just as the blood orange sun starts to dip into the sea. The warmth of the remaining sun washing over your newly tanned bod. There is no work, no responsibilities just that sun and that ocean…oh and maybe a cocktail in your hand. Sound like heaven? Sound like something you want to make a habit of?

Im going to make a big claim here, ready….travelling will change your life. It just will. This might sound dreamy and foolish, but quite simply there is no other experience in the world like travelling it. All of the different things you will see, do and experience will make you a different person, a better person, and will change your whole perspective on life! You will never regret going, but you may regret it if you don’t ;)

Worried that you can’t afford it? Take a look at my post Travelling Southeast Asia on £21 a day to see how you could make it work :)


packing tips from paula through the looking glassPaula of travel blog Paula Through the Looking Glass is a 30 something Londoner on the move.  With a focus on fun, easy travel for the independent traveller looking to have the time of their lives! Follow her (mis)adventures around Southeast Asia. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.


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