Advice From a Traveler

This post is also available in: Spanish


Isabel arriving in Madrid on a recent book tour with her carry-on bag and a smile.

Isabel arriving in Madrid on a recent book tour with her carry-on bag and a smile. Sure that bag looks big BUT you have to understand, Isabel is tiny.

I always wonder how Isabel travels the world with such seeming effortlessness. For example, I once took care of Isabel’s dogs when she was in Chile. My goal was to be out of sight before she arrived home. I had just taken the dogs for a walk and there were leaves in my hair and my clothes were covered in paw prints; I was completely disheveled and Isabel, as you know, is never disheveled. I didn’t want her to see me, so my goal was to be gone before she got back. Of course, she arrived home just as I was leaving. But after a long flight, Isabel should be disheveled, too, right? Um…no. She arrived straight from the airport looking refreshed—in fact, she looked stunning, with perfect makeup and her clothes magically unwrinkled. She even looked well rested. I was flummoxed.

How can anyone look so good after a long trip? Especially given how little Isabel takes with her when she is on the road. I’m not kidding. Her travel bag is practically the size of my purse! I asked her for some advice on travel and here is what she had to say:

I travel a lot. Mostly I travel for work. The worst traveling is the book tours, because then you are in 14 cities in 17 days and there is different weather and different audiences and different times of the day and it is just very hard. The good thing about a book tour is that you can repeat the same clothes. Each day is a different audience, which is an advantage. I always travel with a small carry-on, very small, because I am so short that I cannot put my piece of luggage in the overhead compartment and I am embarrassed to ask for help, so it has to be something that I can lift easily. I have prepared (and it is always ready) a bag with all my makeup and cream and soap in little containers, very light and flexible, so I can tuck it between things. Then everything is rolled up, which it keeps my clothes smooth, not wrinkled. I choose one color, mostly black, because I will bring only one extra pair of decent shoes. And one bag, one purse. I also carry one little embroidered bag, one that my friend Pia made, where I keep my passport and money and glasses and essentials, and that is always on my body. All my clothes, as I said, are one color and are made of silk so they are always layered. Most of the time I am indoors so I don’t have to worry about packing warm clothes. Finally, I lighten things up with bits of color, an array of pretty scarves, light and bright, that I can wear with black. When I travel for pleasure, it is a totally different matter. But I still bring very few clothes. 

Someday I will ask Isabel’s advice on dressing for day-to-day living because I am pretty sure I am doing something wrong. Isabel always looks completely put together. Come to think of it, I have never once seen her in anything that is not silk. NEVER in anything like a casual T-shirt and jeans, or, horror of horrors, sweat pants. I have even seen her walk her dogs dressed head-to-toe in Eileen Fisher and wearing heels that should never be worn by any woman—they’re much too high—and Prada sunglasses. (In all fairness, that was just one time.)

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