Every few weeks I compile the questions you send in about blogging and traveling full-time and I answer them here. As I’m in one place for the foreseeable future (photos shown are from a recent trip to Paris in February), it seemed as good a time as any for the next round in this series. Last time we spoke about trip planning resources, shooting photos while traveling, and spring trip destinations (hopefully a possibility for next year!). You can catch all the posts from this Q&A series here.
How do you pack for trips? What do you take in your carry on? — Shelene
When I pack, I often use small bags and packing cubes to organize my suitcase. This helps if the weather varies on a trip, since I unpack only what I need. At home, I have one small suitcase and one large suitcase that I love and only replace when they’re falling apart. I’ve found this makes all the difference for being organized and decisive when packing. I used to buy oversized, cheap suitcases and would often pack way too much. Now, I feel more inspired to curate a collection of clothes for the trip. Quality over quantity! I always find myself grabbing the item I look and feel best in and re-wearing it. Lately I’ve been gravitating towards clothing brands focused on sustainability, like Arnhem and Sézane.
My carry-on always has these items: laptop, hard drives, kindle, camera and lens, notebook and pen, cosmetics bag, a small bag of essentials (eye mask, earplugs, vitamins), and one change of clothes if my other bag is checked (which it often is). It may seem like a lot, but everything on this list fits in my backpack. If I need to bring multiple cameras on a trip, I’ll take this backpack instead which has built-in inserts and is designed specifically for camera gear. The rest I’ll pack in my cross-body bag, which also fits my Leica camera. This post covers the camera gear I travel with most.
How do you handle communicating with people in a country who are speaking a different language? — Natalie
This varies by country and the type of trip. In major cities in Europe, you’ll almost always find someone who speaks English if you’re in need of it. For many people in the hospitality industry (hotels, tour guides, etc), basic English is common. We’re very fortunate because it is a world standard. Still, I try to learn a few basic words and phrases prior to a trip when I’m able to plan ahead.
My trip to Vietnam and Cambodia required a bit more planning. For transportation and finding restaurants, my girlfriend and I relied mostly on apps like Grab (similar to Uber) and Google Maps. That way, we always had a fallback plan if communication was lacking. Whenever I’ve been nervous about communication I’ve always managed to find a way with technology when I need it most. I’ve used the Google Translate app and held up my phone in some cases (if you turn it sideways it will show a translated word in large letters). When all else fails, lots of hand gestures and laughs with the locals always makes for a great story!
How do you get inspired for new blog ideas? — Michelle
My inspiration comes from a lot of different places: a topic on Pinterest, an article, a question received from a reader. This Q&A blog series began because I was getting similar questions from followers and I saw another blogger answer FAQs, so I thought — why not try answering a few questions at a time and see how it goes?
Typically, the more I write, the more possibilities and topics I find interesting. The biggest barrier in writing is often getting out of your own head. Putting something out there and getting feedback, whether from others or from yourself, will open you up to more ideas (I promise). Inspiration can also come simply from switching up your scenery. Besides traveling, this can mean re-arranging your desk, trying a new coffee shop, or shifting your daily routine around.
I don’t want to make it seem that there aren’t times that I find myself stuck and searching for inspiration. Sometimes I have weeks of non-stop inspiration and desire to write and travel, followed by a couple days lacking motivation (usually a sign I simply needed to take a break). During quarantine, I’ve had days of restlessness followed by an hour or two of motivation, immediately proceeded by exhaustion or negative thinking. I’ve learned over the years that feeling stuck is often a sign that we need to focus on our own needs. Take a step back, breathe, and know that inspiration will return. That couldn’t be more true today. Wherever you are, I hope you’re giving yourself time and understanding.