Travel Wardrobe Essentials

travel wardrobe
This is the last of my travel wardrobe posts

For now, that is. It also looks exactly the same as every single travel wardrobe essentials post I’ve ever written (see e.g. HERE, or HERE). Now, let’s see: a poncho, a striped top, a crossbody bag, big sunglasses and comfortable shoes 

Well, we both know that my love for the items listed above is by no means limited to travel wardrobes. This is what I wear on most days, wherever I am.

And that’s precisely the point: why should your travel wardrobe be any different from what you normally wear?

Wearing comfortable clothes (and particularly shoes) is never more important than when you’re travelling. You might be walking for hours, going sightseeing and shopping. Then you really don’t need clothes that restrict movement or shoes that chafe. Not that you’d ever need that, but you get my point…

It also helps if you don’t look like a tourist but can blend in, for so many reasons. I’m sure I’m not the only one annoyed at being treated as a tourist. You know, street sellers pushing cheap crap at you, all sorts of scammers targeting you left and right, pickpockets and bag snatchers watching your every move to spot the brief moment you stop paying attention to your surroundings…

what to pack for a city break

And no, I don’t think I look like the locals. I’m not trying to look like the locals, either. Just trying not to look like an obvious tourist (read: easy mark for scammers etc.). And if that doesn’t keep me safe from unwanted attention (of any type), my off-putting personality should do the trick.

Yes, I admit: I’m often very impatient with, or even downright rude to anyone trying to sell me something I don’t want. This is not limited to travelling, either; it includes pushy sales people, street vendors, cold callers, missionaries etc. Professor M often tells me I could be nicer saying ‘no‘ to someone, but I don’t see why I should accommodate people who are just wasting my time or hassling me. Especially since these people usually refuse to take (at least the polite ) no for an answer. I put it down to cultural differences: he’s German; I’m a Finn. And Finns don’t do small talk.

travel wardrobe basics

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not walking around being rude to people (I’m only rude to people hassling me, and I make no apologies for that). And when I travel, I do make an effort to learn local customs and respect them. I also try to speak the language, whenever possible, even if I’m not 100% fluent (and who is?).

However, in Barcelona I’m a bit vary speaking Spanish these days. For starters, my Spanish is a bit rusty, and I’m far from fluent. But I can manage (quite well) in everyday situations in shops and restaurants. Still, these days I only speak Spanish in Barcelona if someone speaks it to me first.

This is because of the political tension in Catalonia. You may (or may not) know that there are two official languages in Catalonia: Spanish (or Castellano, as they call it) and Catalan. And you may (or may not) also have heard of the Catalan independence referendum. Well, at the moment everything is still unresolved, and political messages (by both sides, and in both languages) are everywhere. So, depending on who you’re talking to, you may end up offending the other person.

As a Finn, I can understand the irritation when people speak the ‘wrong’ language. Living in a bilingual country (even though in my case I’m in the majority and have never needed to speak the minority language), I’m familiar with these type of tensions. While we all study both languages (Finnish and Swedish) at school, there are a lot of people who, out of principle, refuse to speak Swedish. Or Finnish, in some predominantly Swedish-speaking areas.

So, as my Catalan is non-existent (even though I can understand a bit, having studied both French and Spanish), when communicating with the locals, I usually resort to the universal language of all tourists: English. Besides, this levels the playing field: it’s a foreign language to both of us.

By the way, I don’t think tourists who are native English speakers have ‘an advantage’ over the rest of us. Quite the opposite. These days just about everyone (at least in Europe) speaks English, often quite fluently, as a second or third language. Most people also understand, possibly even speak, at least one or two other languages besides their native language (by the way, ‘speaking’ or ‘understanding’ a language does not mean being ‘fluent’: there are levels of fluency when it comes to language skills). Being able to understand several languages is not unusual; it’s the standard.  

It’s one thing if you’ve never had an opportunity to learn languages; it’s quite another if you can’t be bothered to take the opportunity presented to you. And in developed countries, not learning another language is always a conscious choice, and a very poor one, if you ask me. So, for an educated person to say they’ve never had an opportunity to learn another language… Please, that’s just lame. 

Yet, there are people who refuse to learn even a few phrases in another language because they ‘don’t have to’. That, in my book, is just lack of manners masquerading as an obnoxious sense of entitlement. And, as a language teacher, I don’t buy the usual excuse: that it’s ‘so difficult‘. My standard reply to this is: ‘So, is it difficult because you’re lazy or because you’re stupid?’. It’s a trick question, of course. As any language teacher knows,  nobody is too stupid to learn another language…

travel wardrobe

Outfit details:
poncho: Marja Kurki / top: Selected Femme / trousers: Noom (old)
bag: Furla (old) / shoes: Adidas / sunglasses: Nina Ricci
location: Barcelona

What are your travel wardrobe essentials?


Linking up with:

Not Dead Yet StyleElegantly Dressed and StylishHigh Latitude StyleStyle ElixirA Labour of LifeCurly Crafty MomFashion Should Be FunColor and GraceThe Wardrobe StylistNot Dressed As LambStyle NudgeLiving on Cloud NineA Well Styled LifeElegance and MommyhoodPosh Classy MomNancy’s Fashion StyleShelbee on the EdgeA Pocketful of Polka Dots Style SplashThe Fashionista MommaTina’s Pink Friday, Away from the BlueMummabstylish , Mutton Years Style and I


  1. Flora
    23 May 2019 / 10:35 am

    I do like to be sensitive to local customs as I’m a Scot married to an Irishman. We often get accused (😀) of being English. In San Sebastián a Basque lady said ‘but don’t you fight?). I was embarrassed in Taragona on the Spanish National holiday when I mentioned in the local tourist office I was surprised they were open the employee said ‘It’s their holiday’ meaning the Spanish. About travel wardrobe I live in Nice and nothing says tourist more than a sun hat. Apart from children most locals don’t wear hats.

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:11 pm

      Oh yes, I often hear ‘England’ used as a synonym for the U.K., too. It’s very insensitive to the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I think. And I can certainly understand that for a Scottish or an Irish person being called ‘English’ is a bit controversial, even insulting, especially these days (with Brexit and all).
      It never ceases to amaze (and annoy) me how incredibly ignorant some people can be. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been asked if I speak Russian (you know, being from Finland, as if there’s some sort of a connection…). I tend to get very impatient, roll my eyes and explain, in my ‘very annoyed teacher voice’ that, no I don’t speak Russian, just as I don’t speak Estonian, or Norwegian, even though they’re our neighbours, too. But I have studied Swedish, but that’s because some Finns speak Swedish as their native language, but that doesn’t make them any more ‘Swedish’ than I am. And then I usually give them a lengthy lecture on the history of Finland, in that ‘annoyed-teacher-speaking-to-an-idiot-student’ voice. That teaches them NEVER to ask stupid questions again. But I’m not recommending that approach to you. I mean, you might be a very polite person and don’t want to seem confrontational. Whereas I’m a bit blunt, and don’t usually care whether people (I don’t know) like me or not, and I certainly have no patience for stupidity.

  2. mireilleftm
    23 May 2019 / 2:11 pm

    I actually took a summer of catalan with my brother while growing up but don’t remember any of it. We will be in Girona next week and plan to speak Spanish. Hopefully no one will be offended!

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:20 pm

      Wow, that’s great! And you will remember a lot more than you think. You may not be able to speak, but you will certainly understand quite a lot. More than you think. That’s how learning a language works: your passive language skills (= what you understand, whether spoken or written) is lightyears ahead of your active language skills (= what you can say or write in that language). For instance, I’ve studied a little German (very little), and while I would only try and speak it in an emergency, I can understand quite a lot. For example, if I listen to the news, I know what the topic is, although I can’t make out the details. I also understand French and Swedish quite well, but I wouldn’t be able to write this comment in either of those languages.

  3. Josephine
    23 May 2019 / 10:48 pm

    Living in a small country with a lot of trade contacts we have to learn 3 foreign languages at school: english, french and german, since hardly anybody likes to learn dutch. Still I feel quite helpless in Spain (and Italy, Czechia , Russia…….etc)

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:27 pm

      Yes, we who live in small countries can’t expect others to know our language(s)… In Finland, most children learn at least two languages: Swedish (and Swedish speakers study Finnish) and another language (usually English).

  4. 24 May 2019 / 2:40 am

    I totally agree about speaking languages and your perspective on the subject. I am glad to report that I am pretty damn fluent in three languages and English is not my born tongue language lol. Also, I cannot stand pushy, hostile people. They happen in everyday malls here in America too. Let alone in a big downtown city like let’s say New York or Toronto.

    I love all the pieces you include every time you travel. All very necessary basics. You look great as always, touristy or not, Tiina. =)

    Hope you can join my style linkup this Thursday and every week. =) Share your beautiful style with me and my readers. Welcome.

    Thanks, Ada. =))

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Ada. So many people speak English as their second language, and yet they’re as fluent as native speakers. What language do you speak to you daughter?

  5. aquamarinastyle
    24 May 2019 / 3:05 am

    What a great post! I love your unapologetic approach. And as a frequent traveler, I totally agree: it’s all about being comfortable and dressing as naturally as you can.

    xx Darlene

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:33 pm

      Thank you!

  6. Nicole of Highlatitudestyle
    24 May 2019 / 6:15 am

    If someone knows about traveling then it’s you.

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:33 pm

      Ha, ha! Yes, maybe…

  7. 24 May 2019 / 1:07 pm

    I totally agree on dressing up in something comfortable and feel yourself everyday wherever you are. You look fabulous in your striped tops and lovely poncho and your bag is so cute!
    I don’t know why people dress a ‘tourist uniform’ when they travel, like flipflops and beach clothes in the middle of a medieval village which is hundreds of kms away from coastline. As a ‘local’ in a touristic region, I’ve seen all kind of shocking outfits!
    Once more, I agree with you about trying to speak the local language, anybody can learn some words to greet, apologize or thank!. I can understand and speak a little portuguese or italian, or even french, but I am not fluent in any of them (my italian is a bit rusty and my french is awful!). Anyway, these are the joys of travelling, learn some words, try some food, walk on different streets!
    And you made me laugh with your ‘Finns don’t do small talk’. I think that your attitude is totally reasonable!, some street vendors are invasive!

    • Tiina
      26 May 2019 / 12:40 pm

      Oh yes, the tourist uniform! Yikes! Well, we see a lot of tourists from warm(er) countries here wearing parkas in summer, too. I mean, when the temperature hits 20, Finns hit the beach… And if it’s Midsummer, you wear shorts and sandals and have a barbecue, even if it snows…

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