Tell us a bit about yourself
Some years ago I decided to fully embrace the phrase, “The only thing that will ever be constant is change.” Yes, it’s an annoying expression. Nevertheless, since accepting this concept as truth I’ve been able to honor my passion for travel in unforeseen ways. My background is in architecture, but I didn’t spend very much time working in this field. I’ve bounced between quite a few jobs, most recently quitting my job as a project engineer in construction to be a flight attendant.
Working as a flight attendant brought me to New York City, where I quickly redefined my understanding of minimalism. I had to get rid of a lot – and I loved the challenge! In addition, I fly about 15 days in a month, which can be up to 45 flights. Minimalism in packing became directly proportional to my level of stress and exerted effort while working. It’s tricky because some days I don’t know where I’ll be flying, so I have to pack for ALL possibilities. Believe me, the one time I forget a swimsuit I will be sent to Aruba, it’s a no fail system. So through trial and error I’ve edited down to what I feel is necessary in order to make the most of an “on the go” lifestyle.
In my free time, I’m often flying standby as a non-revenue passenger to new destinations. I was go, go, GO for about a year and a half, traveling somewhere new almost every month. This took a toll on my mental and physical health. I realized if I wanted to continue enjoying this job and its benefits, I would to need to start taking better care of myself. As a result, I’ve become more interested in personal wellness. I was at risk of becoming a “list ticker” – those who see and do just to cross it off and move on to the next thing. I am striving to take better care of my mental and physical health so that I can be fully present in exploring each new place. When I’m traveling at my best, I gather and document details: stories, perspectives, bits of history unique to each place. This more intimate version of travel is what excites me. So I’ve added a “wellness kit” to my minimalist packing – and I think it’s well worth it.
What’s your favorite destination?
My favorite destination is Southeast Asia. A few places I love are Ko Lanta, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Nusa Penida, Indonesia. I lived in Thailand for 9 months, and it’s the only place in the world I’ve returned to thus far. I am inspired by the traditional architecture with such unique forms and details. I love scuba diving, and some of my best dive trips have been in Southeast Asia. Of course I enjoy the food adventures in this part of the world as well, each country has a strong culinary identity. The food feels healthy, flavorful, and so satisfying. Southeast Asia is also where I fell in love with street markets. All the entertainment and immersion I crave is right there in the market.
What are your “Trusty Three” travel items?
- My Wellness Kit: Which includes: herbal and caffeinated tea (Tazo Pan-fired Green and Yogi Detox, to name a few), coconut oil for skin hydration, roll on arnica oil for sore muscles, lavender spray, and herbal supplements to add to water. Having this wellness kit has helped me find my center while changing time zones, climates, traveling by all means of transport and lacking sleep. Having a sense of ritual or routine as if I’m at home really helps me feel grounded.
- Sketchbook and Pens: I buy a lot of hard cover, unlined, Moleskine notebooks. My favorite pens (pictured above) are from a convenience store in Japan but I have no clue what they're called! Pretty sure my architecture studies got me hooked on sketchbooks. I like to sit outdoors in a public space and draw the buildings, then make note of the interactions I see and hear all around me. This helps me to slow down, it’s free, and often encourages making friends. I’ve tried taking notes in my phone and this just doesn’t cut it. I need the pen and paper!
- A Big Scarf: This piece of fabric doubles as a blanket, jacket, skirt, changing room, satchel, and more. I’ve been through many big scarves, as I do tend to wear them out quickly.
What's your favorite travel hack?
I always keep an old plastic bag in my suitcase. They come in handy! Wet swim suit, muddy sneakers, sweaty clothes, you name it.
Also, Downy Wrinkle Releaser is my life! Ironing on the road is not practical. But I swear that with this spray you can smooth out your clothes just as nicely. The fresh smell also helps when you’re in a pinch and need to re-wear something dirty.
Are there any pieces of gear or travel technology you wish existed that don’t?
This probably exists, but I just haven’t found it. I want a collapsable, leak-proof container that can be used for both hot and cold liquid. I am very interested in cutting down on waste while traveling. I finally started carrying a camping spoon/fork combo which I find very useful. Carrying a water bottle as well as coffee mug helps with this goal of waste reduction. However, it takes up a lot of bag space and feels redundant to have both.
What item do you miss most when you travel?
My sister gave me a Pillow Pet as a birthday gift a few years back. At first I thought it was silly, but then I really grew to love sleeping with it under my arm. It’s the perfect size and so comfy! Unfortunately it is far too large and luxurious to bring with on trips.
What’s the weirdest thing you carry with you while traveling?
I recently started traveling with a lacrosse ball in my bag. It’s SO helpful for alleviating sore shoulders, back muscles, feet and calf muscles. I either lay on the ground face-up or lean with my back up against a wall and roll the ball around the muscles and knots. I also like to sit on a bed or chair and roll the ball around under my feet. It’s uh-mazing.
Any closing thoughts or advice?
It's easy to come up with reasons not to travel. Too expensive, not enough time, not sure where to go, afraid to go alone, etc. But try not to let that stop you! In my experience, you'll never look back and regret it.
Follow Kelsey's adventures on Instagram!