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How to Stay Beautiful While Traveling

Pre-trip Me

Pre-trip Me

I never imagined that on my first backpacking trip, I would come face to face with ‘the uglies’.

While I’m not particularly vain, my beauty style is that of Audrey Hepburn, simple and classic. Traveling around the world for a year and living out of a backpack, I threw my beauty style out the window.

I cut my hair too short (I’m Colombian and have unruly hair), dyed my hair bleach blond (it turned orange first), and tortured my skin with my sporadic traveling routine.

Plus I was traveling with guys who could care less about their image. I found myself plagued with the dichotomy of not caring and feeling pretty. What I learned is that with a few adjustments, I can have the best of both two worlds.

It’s important to explore the clear and yet unclear difference between not caring and feeling beautiful on the road.

On the one side, the nomadic lifestyle lends itself to a carefree mentality about everything. That makes it easy to disregard taking care of yourself and your image.

At the core though, putting your best foot forward everyday helps you to stay centered and true to the person you were before you went on the backpacking adventure.

Case in Point

For some reason, I decided that having short hair would be so much easier to manage on the road. I went from long, voluptuous brown hair to a short boy cut. It also didn’t help meeting hairstylists in every hostel.

All of them wanted to ‘help’ me and my unruly hair. I let them cut, butcher and dye my hair all sorts of crazy colors. I used gel to keep it in control, bobby pins to style it and hats to hide the crazy volume.

After 6 months of this self-inflicted torture, I decided that I would never let another person touch my hair to ‘fix’ it. I look at the pictures from the first 6 months and can’t tell if I’m looking at an Einstein look alike sometimes. I hated taking pictures because my hair was so crazy. I learned that for me, my hair is the centerpiece of my persona.

When I travel now for extended periods, I take care of my hair and treat it with respect. My pictures are 10 times better because of the lessons I learned on my backpacking trip.

No matter how much maintenance you put into your beauty routine, everyone loves to feel confident with their own looks. The best way to think about staying beautiful while traveling is by knowing your three most important categories: skin, hair and style.

Remember that beauty extends beyond gender. These tips on how to stay beautiful while traveling are applicable to both men and women.


Late nights drinking, skimping on showers, sleeping in hostels, eating whatever you can. Sound familiar?

All these things compound and show up on your skin. Your skin may loose its natural glow; you may get acne; you may have dark undereye circles. Regardless of what manifests, treating your skin like a ragdoll is a surefire way to destroy your skin confidence.

These are some of the best ways to help your skin radiant on the road:

  • Drink water. Think of your skin like a plant. Watering your plant will keep it growing and healthy.
  • Wash your face at night. You may not think that you’re dirty, but your face is a dirt sponge. Our skin regenerates itself at night. If you feel too lazy to wash your face (it will happen), use baby wipes.
  • If you start to break out, resist the urge to play with it. Your face is not a science experiment. Let the break out take its course.
  • Wear sunscreen. This applies to your face and your body. Your older self will be eternally grateful if you protect it.


Learn from my experience. Don’t let random people tell you about your hair!

Here are some tricks of the trade:

  • Bobby pins, gel, mousse, hats, bandanas. All these tools will help keep your hair looking nice and well groomed.
  • Dry shampoo or baby powder are your best friends. If you don’t have enough time to wash your hair, both of these are lifesavers. They soak up the oil in your hair so it doesn’t look dirty.
  • The upkeep of experimenting is difficult while backpacking. Traveling opens up your eyes to new hairdos. The temptation to try one of them is huge. Just remember that because you’re traveling, you won’t be able to maintain the style like you would at home. Experiment wisely.


Your style is representative of you. It’s easy to forget that while you’re traveling. It’s as if your style mindset shifts from being authentic to being practical. The great news is that you can marry the two.

Here are some tips to keep your style rocking:

  • Wear things that make you feel confident. You will radiate with confidence if you take care of yourself. You’re clothes are a tangible indication of how you feel.
  • Try a ‘practical with accessories’ style. There are some cases where you have to wear certain clothes that won’t necessarily be flattering or your signature pieces. In that instance, add one piece of clothing or accessory that demonstrates your authentic style. That is your reminder of confidence.

Beauty is a way of thinking. While these tips and tools are superficial, remember that your beauty will always start on the inside.

It’s also important to embrace your ‘uglies’ as well. Sometimes you won’t be able to help how you look because of your circumstances. That’s ok. What matters is how you present yourself to yourself everyday.

So go ahead…impress that person in the mirror.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Thursday 13th of October 2011

During the day I generally only wear a little blush and a touch of eyeliner (sometimes mascara if im feeling fancy!) its simple and doesn't clog your pores so prevents break outs but you still feel pretty and girly with minimal effort!


Tuesday 26th of April 2011

Estas bonita! Your smiles never die so take more pictures even when you think that you are not perfect on face,lol.. and some people turns more handsome/beautiful after doing sports (cycling travel 100+kms per/day like me...) What about you? I think having fun and feeling happy is the most important thing, that's why we travel backpack, is it?

Andrea and John

Friday 22nd of April 2011

Great tips! One thing I've found is that I rarely wear makeup when travelling. I think this is helping my skin a little - combating all the terrible things I do to it like drinking too much and eating bad food. I get some break outs (my skin is really prone to them), but not nearly as bad as if I wore makeup. I guess I look a little plain at times but I'm kind of enjoying the natural look. Hair is tough - even though I cut my hair into a low-maintenance style, I find that some hostels have no hair dryers to loan and that's a problem for me. I also trim my own bangs, which took awhile to learn how to do perfectly. Otherwise I'd be running around trying to find hairdressers I can communicate with.

Olga Garcia

Monday 25th of April 2011

Great idea about trimming your own hair. I inevitably had to do that because my hair was changing so much on a monthly basis. It kept me from looking like Albert Einstein 24/7. The natural look is always beautiful. I found that the few times I wore makeup while backpacking, I felt like I was a runway model. Goes to show you that less is truly more and definitely more satisfying in the end :)

Andi Perullo

Thursday 21st of April 2011

Cute post!

Olga Garcia

Friday 22nd of April 2011

Thanks Andi! Hope it helped :)


Thursday 21st of April 2011

Haha Dave you answering the comments on this one? I hung with guys for way too much of my life - I couldn't care less what I look like, never have never will. I wear sunscreen because I care about not dying from skin cancer, I wash and (usually) backpack with clean clothes - but the rest of it never.

If your appearance concerns you - leave the mirror at home!

Olga Garcia

Friday 22nd of April 2011

Hi Lis,

Glad to hear you are wearing sunscreen. Having lived in Australia and worked in the beauty industry, I can't stress how important that cream is. Your future, older self, will always appreciate you for taking care of her. :)

Cheers! Olga


Thursday 21st of April 2011

Hi Lis, always great to hear from you! I'm sure Olga will be chiming in on the comments too. :)

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