Clothes and Accessories Overseas

Here are a handful of clothing/accessory hacks I used to ensure my safety and to pack light while studying abroad.

Cross-body purse

I liked this one from Travelon (around $30-$50 on Amazon, depending on color) because of the following features:

• Zipper clip (so that nobody can get at your zipper when you are walking around)
• Multiple pockets, especially the one on the back which is passport-sized (this is where I kept a copy of my passport when I walked around, and large bills that I had to carry but didn’t want to be visible when I shopped around)
• RFID blocker, to ensure no identity theft/credit card fraud
• Conservative color options, so it blends in with my outfit/doesn’t draw unnecessary attention
• Large enough for a 5×7 notebook (see my past journaling blog for more on this!)
• Adjustable strap so it can be worn both cross-body and over the shoulder
cross shoulder handbag

Fanny pack

Similar to the purse, but for non-flat things! Sure, some people think they are dorky, but those people are probably not paying for your trip and they definitely won’t be there to give you toilet paper when you are stranded at a hole in the ground overseas. These are nice for travel because you can keep your belongings in front of you where you can see them and in an area that people cannot grab without being blatantly obvious. In mine I kept:

  • Eyedrops
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Literally, anything else I could fit!

Here is a photo of me on a rickshaw ride with my roommate carrying my bags around. As you can see, the fanny pack and cross-body purse are a great team! I also carried around the thin lavender bookbag you see between us on my back with only water in it. Bookbags on your back are easily opened and pickpocketed – but it can be handy to carry one around for your water and souvenirs you may pick up (and cloth arm straps are much more comfortable than plastic bags after hours).

wearing comfortable clothing for traveling abroad
Jewelry

None! I wore my wedding band and a small pendant necklace and left all other jewelry at home. I followed a personal rule not to take any jewelry I had to take off for anything. Firstly, I did not want to draw extra attention to myself from possible pickpocketers. Secondly, it is just one more thing to pack, carry around, and worry about. Thirdly, I reiterate what I said about not needing one more thing to worry about (because I find that so important).

Shoes

I cannot say enough good things about the Sketchers Go Walk 3 yoga mat shoes. I am by no means any sort of “yogi,” but did not let the trendiness of the name bother me and I am glad! I wore these without breaking them in the first day for hours walking around the city and never got one callous or sore. They were so comfortable, blended in the way I like being so plain, and had no shoelaces (huge bonus!).

comfortable non-slip black shoes
Arms, legs, neck, etc.

I personally found myself very self-conscious in China when I had my arms and legs exposed due to the conservative apparel of the locals. Our group got enough attention for being American, and even more so the more skin that was showing. Even a conservative outfit by American standards with limited chest, midriff, or upper legs showing may not be conservative in the region you are planning to travel. I tried to pack outfits that were thin and covered a lot of skin. When I went out during hot or humid times I made sure I had thin button-ups or jeans that breathed well so I could be covered but cool.

The photo below is an example of the button-ups I took with me. They were so lightweight I could just throw them on over a tank top and head out for the day, and they offered me a lot of outfit versatility. I buy mine at Express for $30-$60 (watch out for sales!) because those are the thinnest and most comfortable for me.


These tips offer a good start on packing for your trip abroad!

Amanda Mapes

School: Northern Illinois University

My experience abroad taught me as much about myself and the way I perceive the world as it did about China and Chinese culture.

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