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 House to Laos
Tell us a little about about who you are, what your blog is called, and where you’re traveling now.
We are Sergey and Jenia – explorers, collectors, and storytellers. We’ve recently completed a 14-month adventure across Asia and Southeast Europe, and we can’t wait to get going again! We share our travel storytellers over on House to Laos blog.
Do you use a backpack or rolley suitcase for long-term travel?
Jenia: Eagle Creek Flip Switch 22 rolling suitcase, which converts into a backpack. There were exactly two situations where I had to wear it as a backpack, so I am glad that option was available to me. But I REALLY prefer to roll my luggage – for fashion reasons, and physical comfort. So, I am pretty happy with my choice overall. I will say that after 14 months of near constant travel the bottom of the suitcase – near the wheels – is disintegrating a bit, so I am looking for a new bag. Given that there were so few instances when I needed to carry – rather than roll – my suitcase, I am considering a switch to a rolled duffle.
Sergey: I use REI backpack. It’s perfect – with one exception, it would be great to have a few straps on the outside of the bag if I want to add my jacket or a sweater without putting those items away. The fit is great, the top pocket is very useful for small items like spork, pocket knife, etc, and it’s super slim and portable.
Sergey ready to travel at a train station in Russia. He alone can probably take all of our traveling luggage – not that we tried that or anything
** Between the two of us we also carried a camera bag, a travel purse, and a daypack – for documents, money, and technology. In addition, we ALWAYS pack a foldable tote, we use BRICS, which comes in super handy if we need to store our luggage – we can put several smaller items, such as camera bag, heavy books, misc items from our daypacks that we won’t need into it, lock it up, and turn it over to storage as one item.
Sergey and Jenia technology packs
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?
Jenia: I pack four pairs of shoes. Hiking shoes, shower/ beach / summer evening out sandals, and two pairs of city walking shoes – to account for cold and hot weather. I tried really hard to narrow down my footwear to three choices, but couldn’t do it.
I have two pairs that are my absolute MVPs – they split the prize. My most versatile shoes are the Ipanema Maya Thong Rubber sandals, which I wear in the shower if we are staying someplace with a shared bathroom, to the beach, and out on the town for a dressy evening. The other MVPs are my Columbia Descender hiking shoes, which literary ticked off all the boxes on my ‘must have and nice to have’ list: they are stylish, comfortable, water resistant (but dry fast if they do end up getting wet), weigh nothing, and have excellent grip. I LOVE them.
Jenia in train travel uniform – ipanemas, leggings, windbreaker
I also pack two pairs of city walking shoes. Bass leather oxfords, Chrissie, which have excellent sole support and can be worn in cold to moderately warm weather. The two big downsides is that they fall apart after four to five months of daily wear, and are currently out of production, so almost impossible to find. I have worn through three pairs, and my last one I purchased on ebay. The other shoes are Corso Como perforated leather ballet flats for warm to hot weather city walking. They have about as excellent sole support as you can get with ballet flats.
Jenia’s travel shoes + accessories
Sergey: I have three: Haviana flip flops, TOMS, and Columbia Descender hiking shoes. Havianas are legit – the hard rubber is great. I had to get replacement ones on the road, and ended up with a fake pair – it was the worst, the rubber was soft, the thong portion kept popping out. Toms are great because they are slim, light, breathable, and can be worn with everything from suits to shorts. And Columbia hiking shoes – same as Jenia’s – are great for hiking, or if it’s raining / cold.
Sergey in travel uniform – Columbia walking shoes (for the cold weather!), jeans, button down
Sergey’s travel shoes
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?
This is when you get to see our “oops face.” We don’t exercise. We are big time walkers, however. It’s not unusual for us to walk a couple of hours per day – we rarely take taxis even when they are inexpensive. And we don’t shy away from a good hike, our proudest achievement has been climbing 54 kilometers of stairs up the holy Emei mountain in China. Jenia occasionally does a yoga class here and there, but not regularly enough to classify as legitimate “keep fit” routine.
Climbing stairs up Mt Emei in Chengdu, China — for three straight days this was our view
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?
We pick up almost everything on the road, except for sun protection! We learned the hard way to bring sunscreen with us – we had super difficult time in Thailand finding any sunscreen that didn’t promise to make us “more white.” And when we did find what seemed like regular sunscreen, whatever chemicals were in it, it gave us terrible skin rash. Finally we just gave up and sought shade wherever possible / wore hats and long sleeves. That’s one of our biggest tips for Southeast Asia – bring you own sunscreen! All the other products were more or less easy to replace.
Going to the beach in Hoi An, Vietnam
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?
Packing cubes are big time helpers when it comes to saving space. They are kind of like a magic bottomless container that you can continue to shove things into and it can still fit more. Also, roll your clothes for optimal space saving.
If you are packing for multiple climates and activities I would invest in a shrinking packing cube, which squeezes the air out and really shrinks your stuff down to minimal size. It would be annoying to unpack and pack that thing day in day out, but if you have say hiking pants and small down jacket that you aren’t wearing at the moment, it’s a brilliant solution.
Also, try thinking about your shrinking wardrobe this way: traveling is no regular life — it’s not like you are seeing the same people at work or school – so you can really get away with wearing the same outfit day in, day out.
Same outfit different country – Albania
The Werkenntwen has to ask, would you ever pack heels on a backpacking trip?
YES! Stylish, comfortable shoes are hard to shop for! If we were traveling to a part of the world where high heels would be the expected dressy shoe – anywhere in Eastern Europe, for example – then high heels are a must.
What type of outfit do you take in case of a night out clubbing or going to a fancy bar/hotel?
Jenia: I always pack a dark-wash skinny jeans and a fitted black t-shirt that can be accessorized with jewelry and a scarf for going out to a club, bar, or fancy restaurant. I love my ipanema rubber sandals – they are dressy enough on a warm summer night for pretty much any occasion. A mani/ pedi before the event does wonders for feeling fancy too.
Sergey: Dark skinny jeans and a freshly ironed button down. My city walking shoes – Toms – do double duty for any fancy events we’ve got.
What is the one material thing you miss most from home while you’re roughin’ it abroad?
Our couch. First of all our couch is super comfortable, so any old couch just won’t do. Secondly, our cat loves to hang with us on the couch –he is obviously not around when we travel. But really, our couch is what we associate most closely with ‘home.’
The other big thing for us is all of our fancy coffee making equipment – we’ve got the coffee beans grinder, Turkish brass ibric, the pour over, the French press, an espresso maker, and Vietnamese tin filters – you just never know what you will be in the mood for. When we travel though, it’s too often the case that it’s Nescafe. Uff!
Airport 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?
We usually go for a “comfortable, but still looking good” style. We don’t pack anything specific for the plane, but usually wear what we normally would for a bus or train journey – jeans, tee, an extra layer and a scarf. Always bring socks in your carry on. ALWAYS. Jenia also packs a sleep mask and ear buds for transit.
And for the girls, what are your absolute favorite make up products you take with you on a trip?
Jenia I am really minimal on makeup – I don’t put anything on my face except for SPF 15 lotion, and occasionally chapstick. I do pack a bottle of good red nail polish – whenever I get my pedicure done, which is often, I bring it with me and ask that they use that. Then I can always do touchups between my sessions.
Hanging out in Budapest, Hungary
Do you have a special skin care routine on the road to prevent breakouts from the stress, sweat, and humidity?
Jenia: I use a mild cleanser on my face in the shower, and it helps a ton with preventing breakouts. That, and a gentle SPF 15 lotion during the day that allows my skin to breathe.
Sergey: Nope. I wash with soap and water and I am good to go.
What does your most worn, daily outfit look like while you’re traveling?
Jenia: Skinny jeans and a breton t-shirt, which I accessorize with a scarf and jewelry. If it’s too hot for jeans, I like a mini-skirt with same t-shirt. Or a knee-length summer dress (I picked up a few excellent ones in Hoi An, Vietnam) and either a fedora or a wide-brim straw hat. Rayban sunglasses. Raketa watch. I usually pack a three-quarter sleeve light tunic in my day purse that can be layered over the dress if we are going into a Church / Temple, or an air-conditioned museum.
Jenia exploring Bagan, Myanmar
Sergey: Dark skinny jeans, t-shirt, light weight scarf; flip flops or Toms depending on the climate. Raybans. Hat. Normal watch. Black hoodie from Uniqlo if the weather calls for it.
Sergey jumps in India
Tell us the ONE thing you pack for a long backpacking trip & would never leave behind.
Swimsuit! You never know when an occasion for a swim might come up.
You can only pick one: iPod or Kindle? (not literally an ipod, just music or books)
Jenia: Kindle – I am a voracious reader and a planner – I must have my novels and Lonely Planet guides J
Sergey: Ipod – Spotify has changed my life.
Thank you for interviewing on Werkenntwen, 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!
Life’s too short not to travel!
Shadow in Angko Wat, Cambodia
Sergey and Jenia are a couple of explorers, collectors, and storytellers. They share their adventures over on www.housetolaos.com, a blog about wanderlust and quest for a sustainable travel lifestyle. You can find HTL over on , , , and insta/gram.
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