When you think of a backpacker, what do you visualise? I see the classic printed traveller pants topped with a printed jumper, an arm full of locally made bracelets, and endless t-shirts.
And this style is not without its advantages. Not only are these clothes practical for any activities you choose to do while travelling, they are also cheap and available in the majority of markets around the world.
While the general style tends to remain the same across the globe, some elements change depending on where you are travelling. In South America, it is customary to retain all your wristbands from the party hostels you have stayed in, as if you had attended hundreds of music festivals. Everyone owns a printed jumper from Peru (basically letting everyone know that they were in Peru).
In Asia, light printed pants take precedence adorned with an elephant or paisley pattern. Anklets are a necessity for anyone who wants to give the impression of being well travelled.
Despite being a full-time traveller for the last five months, I have steered clear of these garments not because I don’t like them but because they are not conducive to my own personal style.
And, I suppose, I don’t want to look exactly like everybody else.
Instead, I have filled my backpack with a wardrobe of items that I actually like and want to wear, even after five months of travel. Here are seven ways to retain your personal style while travelling long-term.
1. Keep It Simple
The best way to put together a wardrobe that is accessible and easy to wear is to only buy items that all go with each other.
There is no point in having a pair of shorts that only work with one other top. Instead only buy things that you can mix and match with several different items in your bag.
Keep everything in a similar colour palette and try to limit the amount of extreme patterns you purchase (unless that is your thing!). Having a carousel of various items that go well together gives the impression of having endless different outfits which will benefit you on your travels.
Rompers, jumpsuits and playsuits are also things that will be indispensable to you when you backpack long-term. Easy to throw on and endlessly trendy, these items can be paired with a belt and t-shirt for an updated look.
2. Keep it practical
It is imperative to buy durable, comfy, and quality items for your travels.
There is no point in investing in cheap clothing that will fall apart after two washes. The laundry services in most countries tend to use extremely high heat and tumble-dryers so it is important that your clothes can sustain this or else they simply won’t last.
Buy clothes that are practical and can be worn for a number of different activities from hikes and tours to days spent exploring new cities.
For hot destinations, you will want airy clothes that don’t cling to close the body. For cooler climates layers are key.
3. Keep it light
Keep an eye on the clothes you are wearing day to day and discard anything you are not wearing. Try not to throw clothes in the bin as this creates unnecessary waste.
When I am discarding clothes I try to give them to my fellow travellers. There is always someone around who will gladly take items off your hands.
I ask around in my dorm rooms and sometimes leave a bag with a note on top. You can also bring your clothes to a second-hand shop; most will let you swap some items for new clothes in-store.
Anything you discard along the way can be replaced with items that you actually need and will get great wear out of. And anything you discard will hopefully find a great home with someone else.
4. Keep it fresh
If you can afford it, try to buy one to two new pieces every month that will breathe new life into your existing wardrobe. Or simply buy one new thing every time you discard a piece of clothing.
I try to avoid cheap shops and well-known stores and opt instead for second-hand shops and artisan markets.
By shopping in second-hand shops you are not only avoiding the support of the fast fashion industry and exploited labour, but you are also hopefully contributing to a charity organisation or the local economy.
Artisan markets with locally made clothing or second-hand clothing is also a great way to find cheap clothing but also support locals.
Keep an eye on the trends of the season and try to emulate them with pieces you find in these stores. It’s great to have an idea of what you are looking for before you go. This way you can stay on trend without looking the exact same as everyone else.
5. Keep it Accessorised
In my opinion, the key to style is accessorizing.
Whether it is a chunky belt or a pair of earrings, these little details bring an outfit together and keep things interesting.
I always like to have a chain on as well as a cool pair of sunglasses and a sun hat. These are items that litter all the local markets across the world and so investing in accessories has never been simpler.
Having said this, if you are travelling in cities that have a reputation for theft, it is best to limit the amount of jewellery or expensive items you have on your person.
6. Keep It Trendy
If you have a strong sense of your own personal style then it is easy to know what clothes and looks you like and what you don’t.
You can also keep an eye on the trends of the season and what the high street stores are selling. This way you can find pieces from the local shops you find that fit in with your style and the trends.
I always find it useful to have a mental idea of exactly the clothes that I both need for my travels and that are on-trend. This way I don’t tend to lose the run of myself buying clothes that I do not need (always a difficulty!).
If I know that I am looking for a pair of stripy shorts or a flowy jumpsuit then I have some sort of plan for when I head to second-hand shops. These shops can sometimes be huge and overwhelming so a game plan is always a great idea.
7. Keep it Organised
A great way to keep your clothes and wardrobe organised is to use packing cubes. Not only will these help you to keep a mental note of all of your clothes but they also allow you to fit more items in.
I like to keep a cube for my warmer clothes, a separate one for my summery clothes and the third one for underwear and accessories. By rolling up everything neatly and economically, it is easy to keep everything tidy and organised.
Cubes are an indispensable travel item for me and I would recommend them to anyone who plans to undertake long-term travel.