Although I found it in the “best-seller” section of the travel aisle in a Barnes and Nobel, I knew it wasn’t my kind of travel book.
I had opened at random a National Geographic Publication entitled The 10 Best of Everything and scanned the text under the heading Travel Safety and Useful Tips:
“Many savvy readers have their more treasured rings, bracelets, and necklaces duplicated with hand-cut laboratory-grown diamonds and precious stones. These gems, known as Russian brilliants are brighter and better cut than diamonds. Any cut stone can be manufactured and set in your design, giving peace of mind to the smart sophisticated traveler.”
“Travel Safety and Useful Tips?”
“Peace of mind?”
“Smart, sophisticated traveler?”
One would think it would be cheaper and easier just to wear a cardboard sign inviting others to “Feel free to rob me, kidnap me, then, when no one produces the ransom money, kill me as slowly and painfully as you like.”
Now, back to my packing problem, I was well aware that more than six weeks of my fourteen months traveling ATW would be spent on cruise lines and one was, after all, expected to dress. I pictured myself apologizing to my table mates after the first night’s dinner toast stating that, since I was in the process of backpacking ATW, my glamour wardrobe might be limited to quick-dry capri pants and Crocs clogs. Then it occurred to me that I would have my light-weight slinky black Chico travel-wear top and bottoms. Even better, a glittery scarf or two and cubic zirconia costume jewelry would be relatively lightweight compared to an evening dress and high heels. This thought cheered me up considerably and I felt a little better about the “Russian brilliants” tip. Sometimes we’re just so quick to leap to judgment.
As early as 1891 a few literary adventuresses were starting to get a fair shake. They might not be virginal but they were given their due for courage, resourcefulness, and brains, not to mention pure human decency and generosity of spirit. Of these Irene Adler of A Scandal in Bohemia and Mrs. Erlynne of Lady Windermere’s Fan come to mind.
Irene may have been "the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet” but it was her intelligence and character that made the greatest impression on Sherlock Holmes. Still, Irene would have had to be a genius indeed to win the mind and heart of the great detective had she gone about dressed like my Texas friends who show up for the opera looking like they couldn’t make up their minds whether to paint the house or drop by the beach. And, since you could land an Ultralight in their dressing rooms, they don't have the excuse of having to streamline. Wardrobe is a problem for the would-be adventuress traveling light. It is to address this very problem that I now unveil the “FMR”.
I won’t hold you in suspense any longer. “FMR” stands for “fabulous microfiber raincoat”. Yes, this baby can hide a multitude of sins and don’t for a second think you are limited to dreary taupe or khaki or gray. But even in a heavenly blue that matches your eyes, the FMR can’t do it all alone. This is the moment to go root around until you find that stunning Hermes or Ferragamo scarf your grandmother left you, the classic thirty-five inch silk square with all the gorgeous colors, the one you’ve never worn, preferring to schlep around in a forest green acrylic infinity scarf from Target. Now, with bright lipstick, a great haircut, your FMR cinched gracefully at the waist, Grandma’s impeccable scarf draped jauntily around your throat, and some twelve millimeter simulated pearl stud earrings, what does it matter if you’re wearing the same old tired Columbia travel pants and Clarks walking shoes? One important thing to note – if your FMR has a discreet but roomy hood that will cover your cheeks and forehead, you will on more than a few occasions have cause for gratitude. Even the lightest umbrella is more extra weight and bulk than you want in your backpack. What’s more, if the FMR is as thin as it should be, you can stuff all of it, including earrings and scarf into a one quart ziplock baggie. Yes, it is great to be living in the 21st century.
Well that’s all well and good, but what if my travels have taken me where it’s a hundred degrees in the shade with no rain in sight?
Ah! Now you’re talking’! The adventuress is in her element in a Mediterranean climate. Let us fly to a watering hole on the Italian Riviera or the Red Sea or perhaps Africa’s cape.
I have four words for you – white gauze crinkle pants. Okay, a few more words – black one-piece swimsuit, and large, superfine, Indian cotton shawl/scarf/ruana preferably in a black and white print.
Obviously the white crinkle pants are worn over the swimsuit. The large scarf/ruana is worn like a shawl with one end thrown over the opposite shoulder to lightly cover your shoulders and upper arms (pin it if you have to.) Add dark sunglasses, the same twelve millimeter simulated pearl stud earrings that finished off the FMR look above, black flip flops (the same ones you bought to escape horrid diseases in budget accommodation showers), and you’re all set. You’ll be pleased to know that this outfit will also fit in a one quart ziplock.
Wait a minute, you ask, “What’s so classy about wearing black rubber flip flops?
Well, it has to do with a thing called “honesty of purpose”. That’s a high fallutin’ term for “it’s their appropriate environment”. Rubber flip flops were not designed to wear to the mall or the office; they were designed to wear at the beach and will never look wrong there. Enough said.
I would, however, like to mention the fact that the washable superfine, Indian cotton shawl/scarf/ruana can do extra duty as a skirt, sarong, pareo, picnic cloth, pillow case, or escape rope.
Now I know you are going to insist on throwing away good money on a floppy straw hat and huge straw tote bag and I’m not going to try to talk you out of it. I won’t even insist that they be black and white. This is your movie and if you want your hat and tote to match your shell pink lipstick or your seagreen eyes, it’s your affair. I, for one, gave up instant gratification years ago in favor of instant regretification, said “instant” occurring when I found out I could have bought the exact same black straw hat and black and white striped tote at Walmart for one-fifth what I paid at the boutique on the beach. My point is, if you are doing an ATW, you’re going to have to ditch this stuff at some point so you might as well not go too crazy. But if you do, it’s not a problem. We adventuresses just chalk it up to a coup de coeur, the thing we couldn’t resist, since we always live in the moment.