The difference between a good trip and a bad trip often comes down to a handful of bits and bobs, small things that keep a body comfortable in the unpredictable new environments that it passes through. The neck pillow, the travel size toiletries, the umbrella, the raincoat and the perfect pair of walking shoes are a few that come to mind. Of the items on this short list, the pair of comfortable walking shoes is perhaps the most important. This is also the item I have had to do without over the last few weeks. Instead, I’m squeezing the last sloppy kilometers out of my most versatile and sensible black boots, turning a numb sole to their less than ideal fit, and a blind eye to their ratty leather (shoe shopping, anyone?).
As for the rest of these items, I’m more than adequately prepared this time around, a fair consolation for the situation with the shoes. My MEC taupe brown raincoat blends nicely into almost every assemblage of clothing I’ve carried here, plus it rolls into a compact lump no bigger than a bottle of champagne, which makes for easy packing. The pocket umbrella has already saved me twice in the late-arriving Spring of the British Isles and is small enough to fit in my purse just in case. My new buckwheat neck pillow has brightened my morning more than once, particularly my arrival in Paris after the overnight coach from London (my neighbour, on the other hand, slept with his forehead resting on the rough carpet of the headrest in front of him). Yet the most delightful little bobs of this journey so far are certainly the no-spill 100ml squeeze tubes I picked up at U.N. Luggage before leaving. It’s here that I’ve packed my (essential) purple toning shampoo, my favorite hard-to-find volumizing conditioner, and my PH balanced face wash – an extremely difficult item to source abroad without a knowledge of the local cosmetics scene. These little “Go Toob” gems have a flip snap closure and a spill-free nipple that keeps my toiletries case clean and dry and also allows me to use just the right amount of product without wasting any precious milliliters.
Gone are the days of frizzy hair and dry skin, of soap spills in my make-up and airport security toiletry confiscation. Here are the days of dry walks through rainy cities, sleep en route, and reliable personal hygiene. These little bits and bobs make the road a little more like home, and the journey just a wee bit smoother. Tomorrow, I’ll be packing it all up again and leaving my retreat in the French countryside for a whirlwind night of forts, music and open galleries in Paris before heading to Salzburg on Sunday. The shoe shopping will have to wait.