I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a pretty vain person. In fact, looking back on all my travel experiences, the ones I enjoyed least were the ones where I felt the least attractive, where I had (or perceived myself to have) any of the following: bad skin, bad hair or an overarching issue with my personal style.
Most notable among my ugly travel experiences was my April 2011 visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After a long day on Ipanema Beach, I developed a heat rash on my forehead, which is fair enough: It was hot and I had crappy sunscreen on.
But what started out as a run-of-the-mill skin irritation developed into something much redder and uglier after I scratched it in my sleep one night. I was in one of the most image-obsessed cities in the world -- and I looked like a piece of pizza!
The good news is that these episodes of ugliness have been rare and intermittent for me, not because I'm effortlessly sexy, but because I take the adequate precautions any vain traveler should! If you want to look good when you travel, no matter your travel budget or the places you visit, keep these travel beauty tips in mind.
Is there a skin or hair product you literally can't live without? Then bring it -- and enough of it to last your whole trip -- with you! When I succumbed to sunscreen-induced pizza-face in Rio, I'd been traveling for <a title="How to Travel in South America" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/2011/04/25/south-america-bus-travel-guide/" target="_blank">two months in South America</a>, and had run out of my trusty <a title="Aveda Botanical Kinetics" href="http://reviews.aveda.com/3812/16929/aveda-botanical-kinetics-purifying-gel-cleanser-reviews/reviews.htm" target="_blank">Aveda Botanical Kinetics Gel Cleanser</a>, which was not sold in Rio at the time. Coincidence? I think not.
Wearing the same 10-20 outfits for <a title="The Location-Independent Lifestyle" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/work-from-anywhere/" target="_blank">months at a time</a> can make even your favorite clothing items seem dull and drab, so make a conscious effort to select only pieces that make you look your sexiest. Having a killer travel wardrobe will make your bank account look good, too, as you'll be less tempted to shop. (Tip: Make lightweight basics in your favorite solid colors the basis of your travel wardrobe. Simplicity is the key to happiness!)
If you put something harsh, toxic or irritating into your body, it will reflect in the way you look, not to mention the way you feel. Indulge in essential or <a title="The Weird, Wonderful Foods of Singapore" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/2011/08/03/singapore-food-guide/" target="_blank">interesting food experiences</a>, but keep the fundamentals of your diet as consistent, healthy and simple as possible. Focus on fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins like fish and chicken and any other foods you feel serve your body. And drink lots of water!
As is the case with diet, sleep is a big factor in our appearance. And travelers, whether because of <a title="The Rough Road from Vietnam to Laos" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/2011/06/22/vietnam-laos-overland-travel/" target="_blank">long overland journeys</a> or long overnight parties, don't (and, in some cases, can't) always sleep well. My challenge to you is to get six nights of good sleep (i.e. allowing yourself to go to bed when you get tired) when you travel. (If the root of your <a title="Travel the World for Cheap" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/cheap-travel-guide/" target="_blank">travel money</a> woes is party-related, this will also ease those!)
I cycle an average of 10 miles per day when I'm at home, so my fitness routine is difficult to maintain out on the road. Still, I make conscious decisions that build fitness into my travel: Walking instead of taking metros or taxis; opting for <a title="Drunk Cycling in Argentina’s Wine Country" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/2011/05/09/mendoza-argentina-wine-tours/" target="_blank">bike tours</a> instead of tour buses; <a title="Colombia’s Dreamlike Valle del Cocora" href="http://leaveyourdailyhell.com/2013/01/02/valle-del-cocora-colombia/" target="_blank">hiking up mountains</a> instead of taking trams. Staying fit not only helps regulate your weight and tone your muscles, but it keeps your energy level high and your <a title="How Stuff Works: What Are Endorphins?" href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins.htm" target="_blank">endorphins</a> pumping. Again, it's about looking good <em>and</em> feeling good!
It's easy to overdo it when traveling, whether you push yourself past your limits of fatigue or hunger, or poison yourself with excessive alcohol or spicy food. At the same time, it can be hard to heed your body's warnings, especially if you're on a time schedule or have an onward journey you can't change. Listen to your body -- i.e. sleep when you're tired, eat when you're hungry -- as much as possible to keep yourself in tip-top shape, appearance-wise and otherwise.
One of the biggest mistakes I made during my bad skin in experience in Rio was dwelling on how bad my face looked, even though I became so tan after a few days that no one could see the sores that had formed on my forehead. Whether your skin goes crazy, you have more than a few bad hair days or you put on weight in all the wrong places, focus not on how bad you look (or, as is often the case, how bad you <em>think</em> you look), but on all the things you <em>can</em> do to make yourself look and feel better.
Follow Robert Schrader on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leavyrdailyhell