Thursday, March 11, 2010

Travel Series Wrap-Up

Today I thought I'd combine a regular outfit post with a follow-up on my Making Your Travel Dreams a Reality series from the last couple of weeks. First up, the outfit. This one is another Jack Aubrey-inspired ensemble, which always seems a natural choice for this little jacket. I wanted to pair it with a more formal-looking top, so I chose this lace-embellished camisole, but felt it needed a bit of waist definition. I tried a couple of belts but found that the buckles were too distracting, so in the end I just took a wide piece of grosgrain ribbon and tied it in the back, which worked perfectly.

I have to admit that the heavy tulle skirt stuffed underneath the form-fitting olive one was a bit daunting at first, because it felt very thick. But since the fullness at the bottom of the skirt made a nice contrast with the nipped-in waist of the jacket, I went with it. In the end I was glad I did, because the whole outfit had the vibe I was going for, and the two skirts together made the most pleasing swishing sound when I walked, which really enhanced the feel of the whole thing.

Outfit details: Jacket - F21, camisole: Papillon, Olive skirt: Skingraft, tulle skit: Noa Noa, boots: Mia

Boat traffic on the Danube River, Budapest, Hungary

First up for the travel wrap-up part of the post, I thought I'd share the results of the survey I conducted, and how I plan to handle travel-related posts based on the results. Out of 97 responses, here's the breakdown:

- 66% would like to see me feature more travel posts
- 24% think they're ok once in awhile but not as a regular feature
- 10% say just stick to fashion

- Of those who like the travel posts, 75% would like to see them once a month and 16% say maybe once every 3 months.

Here's the breakdown of what topics you'd like to see me cover:
- Travel how-to's: 70%
- Destinations: 68%
- Budget Travel: 63%
- Travel-related links: 35%
- Other: 10%

In order to strike the best balance, here's my plan: I'll make the travel posts a regular feature, and post as often as I have topics; I'll shoot for roughly once a month but realistically it will probably turn out to be more sporadic than that. However, since some of you don't enjoy the travel posts at all, I'll post them on the weekends so that the number of fashion posts remains the same; those of you who aren't interested in the travel posts can then easily skip over them.

As for topics, the numbers that came up in the survey pretty much reflect the relative frequency of the topics I'd choose anyway, so the proportions should come out to mostly travel tips, destinations, and budget travel, with a few links and other tidbits thrown in from time to time as I find them. Several of you commented that you'd like to see me explore the relationship between travel and style, either as it relates to style in different destinations or to looking stylish while traveling; I will definitely weave these ideas into the posts as frequently as possible, since this is a style blog after all. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey; it was very helpful feedback!

Spectacular art nouveau architecture in Riga, Latvia

And now, I'll circle back to some of the topics covered in my series, and see if I can answer a few of your questions as well as share some of your input with everyone else. Here are some additional thoughts based on the comments I received on my posts:

Renting a condo, apartment, or house: This is a great option if you're traveling with friends. I've rented apartments in Prague and Riga that I split with friends, and they came out to just slightly more than a sparsely-equipped hostel, and with a lot more privacy, security, and amenities. The gorgeous villa that my friends and I rented in Mexico in 2008 cost each person under $300 for the entire stay. This is a great way to have more luxurious lodgings on a budget.

Bed and Breakfasts are another great option for inexpensive lodging that offers a bit more comfort and charm than hostels. is a resource I wasn't familiar with, but sounds like a great way to rent a room on the cheap, as is Fare Compare is a good resource for finding cheap flights.

Travel insurance: This is a great idea if your plans are at all uncertain, and particularly if you don't have medical insurance that will cover you while traveling. The cost is usually modest and can save you thousands if you need to cancel or have mishaps while abroad.

Studying abroad: If you are still a student, SERIOUSLY CONSIDER this possibility. You will not regret it! I'll tell you a little story about this. In college when I was studying herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians, not the herpes virus!), my class was offered an opportunity to do some field work in a remote region of Africa, which I passed up because I had a boyfriend, who I later married. I could've had an obscure species of frog named after me, and possibly my own Discovery Channel show; instead I got an ex-husband. Think about it.

A great example of how to think creatively about your options for travel (from Ali): "Last year, for example, I was waiting for my next job to begin and planned to move to a cheaper apartment. In the interim, I put everything in storage, and I spent a month and a half in Asia for the same price it would cost to barely survive here in California. In the end, I didn't sacrifice a dime more than I would've spent had I not gone. And I got an incredible experience in return." I just love stories like this; thank you for sharing, Ali!

If you travel for work, find out if you have the option of building in some extra vacation time at your destination. I did this in 2008 when I had a conference in Germany; my company covered the airfare and I ended up with one of my long flight days being built into the business part of the trip rather than eating up any of my vacation time.

Some additional thoughts on traveling with kids: Small-to-medium sized European cities such as Salzburg and Krakow got the thumbs-up from several readers. Camping was mentioned as a great low-cost option, and a good strategy seems to be to choose a central location and take day trips from there, which is far easier than packing up several times and traveling to a new destination. Regions with good local produce and hearty regional foods -- think France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain -- are great places to save money by buying produce, bread, and fresh cheeses from local markets and making your own meals.

Security: A couple of people mentioned this, so I'll spend some time on this one. I know that money belts are often touted as a travel must-have, but I have to admit that I generally don't use one. Why? Well, they're uncomfortable and they look bulky under my clothes, plain and simple. Plus it's a pain to get things out, and it usually means exposing my midriff to do so. But I'm a city gal and I'm used to city ways, so I figure I'll be fine in any other city I go to. That said, I was pickpocketed in Rome, however all the thief got was about 20 euros and a couple of useless cards, because I made sure not to carry anything irreplaceable in any conspicuous place like a purse. It all comes down to being alert, avoiding overly-crowded places, not being too bogged down with bags and luggage (which was my mistake in Rome), keeping track of your purse or wallet, and not getting suckered by con artists. Common sense is really all it takes, and honestly, getting a few things stolen is only the end of the world if you let it be.

As for violence or other safety concerns, do not let the media's sensationalism of isolated cases blow things out of proportion for you. Right now Columbia is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous places to travel, and yet it's also quickly becoming one of the hottest new destinations (and in fact, a friend of mine just went there and had no problems). It's my feeling that pretty much any place can be safe (though obviously I wouldn't recommend going somewhere like Haiti or Sudan), just as any place can be unsafe if you don't exercise good judgement. Most countries have some sort of travel warnings associated with them; in fact, the good old USA seems like a hotbed of terrorist activities according to the Australian government. It's important to keep some perspective.

Destinations: There were several people who chimed in with some great suggestions for destinations; I'll point you to the comments, particularly on Part III, for those. Among the cities mentioned were Istanbul (which is on my short list already), Marrakesh (ditto on the short list), Edinburgh (headed there this year, among other places), Languedoc, Gdańsk, and a few others.

The Goðafoss waterfall in northern Iceland

Finally, I'll do my best to answer a few specific questions that were raised. I'd love to hear what the rest of you have to contribute!

Natalia from Poland asked about travel in the United States. I haven't traveled too extensively around the US, so I'm looking to my readers for more input on this one. But what I can tell you, Natalia, is that the US is HUGE and you will have to do a lot of flying if you want to see more than just the Eastern seabord. A good sampling of the different regions might include New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and San Francisco (C'mon, you KNEW I'd have to list my beloved SF; it's the best city in the nation!). But you're talking about a lot of flights, so it's going to depend on how much time you've got. Obviously from Europe, the east coast is going to be a lot easier to get to than the west, but as someone who is very partial to the west, I'd say it's a must-see. Readers, what places would you suggest?

H to the izzo asked which countries are on the cheaper side. This is a tough one to answer, because these days your single biggest expense in any trip is probably going to be the airfare, and oftentimes places that are cheaper to travel in aren't necessarily cheaper to travel to. Take Argentina for instance; you can have an amazing steak dinner with appetizers, wine, and dessert for around $30 per person, and yet good luck finding airfare from the US for under $800. On the other hand you can often find cheap flights to London and Paris, two of Europe's most expensive cities. So you really have to take the whole trip into consideration here. I'd start with finding the cheapest airfares, and then worry about exchange rates and all that. As long as you keep your airfare low and stay in hostels, you can make pretty much any destination work for your budget.

And finally, Sara from New York hit me with this rather tricky one: "If you had a small, small budget (of about $2,000 total) and could only travel from January to March, for about a week to 10 days, where would you go?" First off, the weather at that time of year is going to be an issue in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and I'm assuming that the Southern Hemisphere is going to be too far to travel for such a short trip. Unless you really love darkness and cold, you'll definitely want to avoid Scandinavia (plus it's an expensive destination anyway) and the rest of Northern Europe. So if I'm assuming correctly and you're interested in not freezing, then I'd start with places like Spain, Mexico, Belize, and so on. The weather won't necessarily be ideal at that time of year, but it'll be better than say, Denmark or Poland. Definitely start with the airfare to narrow down your choices. If you can keep your airfare low then you're in pretty good shape already. Assume you'll be able to find hostel or B&B-style lodging for $10-20 per person per night, which puts your total lodging expenditure at $400 tops. If you can then find a destination that keeps your airfare around $400 per person or less, you'll still have about $800 to play with, or $80/day for a 10-day trip. It'll be very tight, but you can do it. Finding the cheapest hostels can free up a little more cash for meals and other expenses. Good luck; I'd love to hear back from you as you're making your plans!

Near the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this series; it was a lot of fun to put together. Feel free to stop in and make requests for future travel topics at any time!


LPC said...

You look amazing, and I am entranced by the thought of swooshing skirts. I am not sure I have ever swooshed in my life...

A-C said...

Random thoughts:

The layered skirts and jacket look so cool. <3

I don't want to be nitpicky, but its spelled Colombia, not Columbia. Also, its gorgeous. My mom is from there and even though the last time I was there was in 1995--I remember it being beautiful and the people being friendly. Of course you have to use common sense when traveling and really only stay in big cities like Bogota or Medellin. But from what I've heard recently (not a lot as is) its decently safe if you're careful and have a good head.

As for destinations, a GREAT place to go is Puerto Rico. It's U.S. dollars, no passport necessary for U.S. citizens and is 86-90 degrees year-round. And don't be fooled! It's not just a tiny island with beaches. There is plenty of history, Pre-Columbian and Colonial, along with a rain forest, a desert, and 2 bioluminescent bays. But yes, the beaches are gorgeous too.

Sheila said...

I absolutely love this outfit! Just gorgeous.

You are such a talented photographer, Audi! I love just looking at the pictures you take.

Anonymous said...

Natalia, I think the most fabulous thing about the US is the beauty, the grandeur and the variety you find here in nature. I have visited the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Acadia and Big Bend national parks (amongst others) and each one is breathtaking in its own way. I think no visit to the US is complete without atleast a peek at some of these natural wonders. is a good resource to find out more.

And Sara, the Carribean might be a good vacation spot if you keep an eye out for cheap airfare.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking to see a lot of the US, I would look into Amtrak rail passes. (assuming that you enjoy riding a train and are in no hurry). I've never done it but it's on my list. I love the idea of old school travel, plus you would get to see the landscape up close. They can be purchased for a variety of time frames and regions and are pretty cheap-o. You can find fun info at Amtrak's website ( under the 'Deals' tab.

BTW, Audi: I lurk & love your blog!

lamby said...

Travel Question;
What city/country/region would you recommend for a young couple on their honeymoon? We both love adventures, walking and history and are on a budget.

Heather said...

First, I've been reading this blog for a few weeks now and I love it.
Second, your awesome outfits remind me that I'm a poor grad student who can't buy from some of the West Coast designers, so I've been inspired to start sewing my own clothes again.
And finally, from one (nerdy) biologist to another, it makes me unreasonably happy that you were a herpetology student. I think it's nice to see some science folk (rather than just humanities) talking about fashion. :)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say again how much I have enjoyed your travel posts. I look forward to more in the future!

Michelle said...

First off, thanks for that airbnb link - found a super cheap apartment in Reykjavik!

Although my feelings are kind of hurt you didn't mention Austin as a destination. ;) Warm weather (although I'd suggest March or April to avoid the sweltering heat...), super friendly locals, pretty parks, landscapes, and gardens, and tons of live music!

WickedThrifty said...

wonderful post. i haven't been anywhere in a million years, but thanks to some thrifty living i've got a vacation savings account and plan to head SOMEWHERE sometime soon. my top destinations are somewhere in the carribbean for my honeymoon (never been), and greece and sicily since i've only seen parts of europe. i ADORED your features on shopping while you were traveling, as well as packing and bringing back your treasures. you rock!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for response to my question to you, Audi, and people commenting. I loved the idea of traveling by train - it's always cheaper and it's true that you can admire the landscape all the way. I guess I have to start saving money now:) I would love to visit San Francisco too!
As for the upcomming summer my destination is Bulgaria and Istanbul as well. I'm so looking forward to it!
ps. I love your jacket, Audi! It looks so cool with these gold buttons

Sara said...

These pictures are amazing! :D

I really love this skirt, really cool.

Maria said...

As someone who just flew home from Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, I'd say the city is a real must-see (and you people actually WALK over there, which really made me feel like being home in Europe. ;)). It's actually one of the nicest places I've ever been to (among London and Amsterdam), and I'd really recommend going to Los Angeles aswell when traveling to the west of the US just to see how different places so close to each other can be.

And now I'm off to fight the terrible jetlag. ;)

Poppy Buxom said...

I'm new to your blog and love it. And yay for Jack Aubrey! I was unbelievably happy to discover that I share a birthday with Patrick O'Brian.

Audi said...

Lamby: I tried to reply directly to you, but I don't think it worked, so I'll answer your question here too in case. Of the places I've been, I'd say Italy would be my top pick for a romantic honeymoon destination. Venice and Pompeii were two of my favorite places, and the whole Amalfi coast is just beautiful. Also, Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis right now, so travel there might be unusually affordable; I haven't been there myself but know several people who recommend it highly. Or you could perhaps do a trip along the Adriatic sea and take in places like Croatia and Slovenia, which are a little more off-the-beaten-track, cheaper, and still in the same region. I hope that gives you some ideas! Congrats on getting married!

Natalia: If you do plan on visiting San Francisco, let me know; I'd love to show you around! Rediscovering my city through the eyes of a visitor is one of my favorite things.

a little sewing said...

I love your style and I enjoy the occasional travel post, too. Keep up the great work!

Ria said...

Hi Audi!
Great post on travel again. I am looking forward to your travel related series.
Since you are such a fan of San Francisco, would you mind doing a travel post for this lovely city. I have visited SF once for a day, and loved it. Since then I have been wondering how to manage a trip back there without spending loads of money. I will appreciate any tips you may have. I live in the East coast, so my airfare up to SFO isn't quite cheap.

And finally, I would like to second the idea of losing the money belt and being more aware while traveling. I just returned from a short trip to Florence and Rome and we didn't get pick-pocketed and we also decided to lose our money belts the first day we tried them on. Instead this is what we did:
We left our important cards at home or hotel room. Only one of us carried a debit card to take out cash, we stored cash in multiple places in our pockets and purses and never in large amounts. We were always super aware of our surroundings, which is also useful if you simply want to absorb your new travel destination. We also looked at people while we were in crowded places...if you are observant you can tell who is up to no good...sometimes!
Take care,