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Runway to (Things Just Got) Real Life: What to Wear to Go Backpacking
Monica Heisey provides style tips for life's lesser moments

Anyone can adjust what’s on the runway for use in their everyday wardrobe. Obviously this is ideal for an easy, breezy dog walk and this is a fun way to tap into the metallics trend while staying aware of your own mortality, but what do you wear when things turn–as they so often do–completely to shit? This column is here to help. Welcome to Runway to (Things Just Got) Real Life. You’re welcome in advance.

What to wear to: Go backpacking.

Backpacking is not what it was, and in a good way. Gone are the days where to see the world one had to stop seeing the inside of a shower, or a hairbrush, or clean bedding. Travel is wonderful and can be life-changing and affirming AND done on a budget, but hostel-hopping in 2013 does not necessitate dreadlocks and those drop-crotch pants that smugly suggest, “Yeah, I’ve seen some airports.” You can be practical and cheap and well-dressed while travelling, and with a bit of thought you can avoid looking like a hobo with a busy passport and also actually make things easier on your jet-lagged self. Let’s do this. 

Wheels, Ontario
Give it up. Backpacks are impractical and actually significantly more cumbersome/annoying/less practical than a solid, wheeled suitcase. They’ve got more space, look better, work easier as carry-on, and won’t leave your back all sweaty and your shoulders all sore. Unless you’re going hiking in the deep rain forest or camping in a tundra, get a wheely bag. Backpacks are for schoolchildren. 
No wrinkles no problem
Only pack clothes that you can fold up in to a ball and still put on the next day. If you can ball it, you can bag it, everyone. Wrinkles stink(les). Just because you’ve been sleeping on the stone floor of an Italian airport doesn’t mean you have to look like you have. There are going to be ITALIANS everywhere, for god’s sake. Keep it tidy. Cotton jersey is your friend, and many places sell no-wrinkle button down shirts, made of some kind of miracle fabric that does not wrinkle. In a pinch, run the shower on v. hot and leave your clothes in there for a few minutes to Jamaican shower away unsightly creases. 

Comfortable shoes
Repeat after me: you are not going to wear heels on your trip. You’re just not. Accept this reality and you will have more room in your suitcase for souvenirs or a good towel or like, a lot of cheese and wine. Some cute sneakers can go with just about anything, and Birkenstocks are a classic for a reason. (I said you didn’t have to look like a classic backpacker, but the options are still there, esp. if you’re into good arch support.) You will never regret bringing solid footwear on your trip. If you’re really bothered you can just crop your feet out of the pictures.

Dress nice, dummies
How else will you be able to lurk the breakfast areas and lounges of fancy hotels to steal croissants and wifi? What if you want to have a nice dinner one night? What if you don’t want to immediately alert everyone around you that you are a dirty North American? Put down the cargo zip-off short-pants and pick up some goddamn jeggings if you must, but there are lots of options–breezy dresses, sharp trousers, flow-y blouse-y tops–that accomplish the same things (ease of movement, minimal washing instructions, keeps the sun off, whatever) that don’t LOOK like that is their primary function. If everything you brought is made by a company with some nature element in its name, you’re doing it wrong. And don’t bring convertible shit. It’s bad pants and bad shorts. Just wear nice pants and change if you need to. WHO in history has ever really needed to go from pants to shorts that quickly? No one. Not you. Don’t worry about it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy suggests a towel as the ultimate object to bring on intergalactic trips. I would like to posit the over-sized scarf as the towel of global travellers. First of all, it can be used as a towel in a pinch, and can also function as a blanket, eye mask, head-covering, cleavage and shoulders disguiser, pillow and, duh, scarf, depending on your needs. So versatile, so crucial. Try sleeping in the illuminated bar car of an overnight train through the mountains without a sleeping mask/blanket combo, and tell me you can travel without a lightweight good quality scarf. THEN TELL ME. (You can’t.)
Bon voyage, fashion friendlies! Roll on out to the airport. xo 


Monica Heisey is a writer and comedian from Toronto. She has also written for VICE, Huffington Post, and She Does the City. Follow her on Twitter @monicaheisey

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