When you start a project, what’s one of the first things you do? Like most humans, I bet you start buying the stuff you think you’ll need to complete the project. Marketers know this, which is why you can easily find a “must-have” list for every activity under the sun.
This impulse is totally normal, but I’d advise you to resist it! Why? It’s not just a matter of expense, although that’s certainly relevant. More importantly, your time and energy are precious, and it’s going to take more than you might realize to purchase, organize, and store the items you buy.
Let me give you an example: travel.
Travel is a big deal. It takes a lot of resources (money, vacation days, planning, stress) and there’s always an element of the unknown involved. As humans, we like control, and this combination of high cost and high risk makes us nervous. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we just buy all the right stuff, a trip will go well.
However, I encourage you to treat travel is just like the rest of your life: use things you love that serve you well, and organize them in a way that works for you. Here are a couple broad categories of travel specific products that are relentlessly marketed and commonly purchased - but that I believe you can substitute with things you already have, love, and use.
1) Slash-proof or concealed travel bag or wallet
There are surprisingly few places where you truly need to take extraordinary measures to protect your valuables on your person. Remember: almost anywhere you travel, people go about ordinary lives, so follow their lead! I generally carry a lightweight tote bag that zips or a small leather crossbody bag when exploring cities all over the world, and I have never been pickpocketed or mugged. I simply take common sense measures like staying aware of my surroundings and appropriately calibrating the amount of jewelry and type of clothing I wear.
2) Walking shoe
Walking shoes marketed for travel may be extremely comfortable, but they’re also heavy, bulky, and ugly. These shoes take up valuable space in your luggage (and in your closet, because you likely won’t wear them at home) and, like it or not, mark you as a tourist. Instead, pack the shoes you wear when you’re going to be on your feet a lot in your normal life! I’ll often bring my Nike Flyknit sneakers, which pack flat, add a streetwear vibe to variety of outfits, and can double as gym shoes.
3) Travel size toiletry containers
These sets are so cute, right? A set of tiny bottles all ready for your lotions and potions, and TSA approved to boot! In practice, when I come across travel bottles in clients’ homes, they are usually goopy and unidentifiable. These sets only work if you are willing to be diligent about labeling bottles, repurchasing the same products and decanting them before every trip, and cleaning up after each trip. And if you’re not, that’s ok! I keep a small stash of all the products I need in travel sizes so that I’m always ready to pack without having to fuss around with containers.
4) Travel clothing marketed as sun protective, wrinkle free, and/or multifunctional
You know what I mean: those lightweight, drab button down shirts and pants with zip-off legs that companies insist you need for of travel. Instead of thinking of “travel” as your activity, however, I suggest you think about the activities you’re planning for your trip and pack the clothes you’d wear for similar activities in your normal life. For example, for a sightseeing trip to a European city in the spring, I’d pack outfits I’d wear for a day of shopping or museum-going at home in San Francisco: a mix and match assortment of jeans, silk pieces, and lightweight sweaters. For a week long hiking trip, I’d include various pieces from my workout and outdoor wardrobe including Lululemon pants and Patagonia layers. I always feel prepared for my trip while at the same time feeling totally comfortable and like myself - which makes travel a lot more fun!
As you might have gathered, my philosophy on travel is that the best strategy to maximize both your personal safety and your enjoyment of the trip is to blend in, rather than mark yourself as a tourist. To me, travel is about expanding my perspective through authentic experience of people and places, and I can’t do that if I’m visually separating myself from my surroundings.
How about your favorite hobbies and activities: what things are we told we absolutely need but you know we can easily live without?