how we travel

excerpts from a southwest travel journal

This past August I found myself driving from Santa Fe New Mexico to Seattle Washington via the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. One of my dear friends is a props artisan, upholsterer, and fine artist who works at operas around the country (if you need any upholstery, murals, or staging done, give her a call. She’s one of the best). After her third year at the world famous Santa Fe Opera, I flew out and we drove home together.

As there wasn’t much room in my pack after getting the tent, sleeping bag, and camp kitchen into it (we camped the whole way ), I decided to leave my camera at home and paint my way home instead. A revelatory experience. I highly recommend it. Here are excerpts from that journal.

Yoga for travelers

While in Paris last April and May, it felt as though everything was coming at me all at once from every direction. If you've done any long-term travel I'm sure you understand the feeling. There is so much good and so much difference and so many expectations that it's easy to clam up into an anxious ball. I certainly have to fight against the impulse.

yoga for travelers | seekthewelfare

Something I tried to remind myself to do in those moments was to stretch, breathe, and go through a few comforting yoga positions to ease the tension in my muscles as well as ease the tension in my mind. From days with miles on miles of walking cobbled streets to sleeping every night on a less-than-ideal pull-out couch, there was plenty to work on.

Even the simple act of sitting quietly to determine what in my body needed attention proved helpful all on its own.

walking for miles on miles
sore calves & shins
     -- half splits left and right, up and down.
     -- standing forward bend
     -- one-legged v-splits
sore feet
     -- downward dog moving your feet
     -- cobbler's pose while massaging the bridge of your feet
     -- sitting with your feet under your hips, goes against the floor, heel extended upright

unfamiliar bed
sore neck
     -- mountain pose
     -- child's pose
     -- ear to shoulder neck rolls

heavy bags
sore back
     -- cobra pose
     -- thread the needle pose
     -- lie with your legs up the wall and breathe deeply
sore shoulders
     -- shoulder rolls
     -- cat cow pose
     -- arms pulled across your chest

unfamiliar food
unhappy stomach
     -- knees hugged to your chest, rock back and forth
     -- spinal two leg twist
     -- forward bend, sway back and forth

my minimal packing list for one month in paris


One month in a Paris apartment with
one week in London thrown in for good measure

One woman
watercolorist, writer, photographer, journaler, zero waster

There are two parts of me that do battle when I'm packing for a trip. The first, is the minimalist vagabond who wants to walk out the door with just her toothbrush and a good book. The second is the easily overwhelmed introvert who is determined to stuff anything that might possibly bring comfort into an already over-sized bag.

They do battle before every trip but, the more I go on these adventures, the more I realize how it isn't so much how much you take, but what you take. I have learned how intimate and personal a packing list is.

So. Here is a window into my soul. Here is my latest packing list.

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Safety razor | merkur's "1904" handle

Clippers + tweezers + file | from my childhood

Comb | once my grandmother's

Bamboo toothbrush | these ones have charcoal bristles and are gorgeous to boot

Dry shampoo | kitchen-made

Deodorant | I've used this recipe for over a year and still love it

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Passport wallet | I am in love with this one and its handmade simplicity

Printed tickets | obviously (though not pictured)

Emergency contact card | simple and hand-written in french on one of these lovely cards that ship plastic free and which I use for everything (not pictured)

Sleeve wallet | just took the lanyard off of my work badge

Keys | on this keyring

Sunglasses | snagged this case from Roommate

Phone + charger | wrapped in one of these

Essentials kit | see below



Lavender essential oil | I use this one for calm, for minimalist perfume, and for questionable hygiene days

Lip balm | naturally I use this one

Activated charcoal | because there will be bread and I will be eating some of it

A couple pain capsules | just in case

One sprinkle pill | also just in case

Glasses cleaning cloth | because glasses don't usually jive with dusty roads

Bandages | just a couple (not pictured)

my minimalist packing list for one month in paris | seekthewelfare


Pewter flask | a gift from Roommate two years ago. I didn't end up using it but it was so pretty sitting on the bedside table that I might just take it again next time.

Stud earrings | another gift from this fantastic indy maker

Hoop earrings | me-made

Dangle earrings | second-hand

Silk scarf | once my grandmother's. Another piece I didn't end up using though I felt better knowing that I could dress up my look if I needed to.



Ichabod | handmade by my college roommate, he wrote letters to my students back home in Seattle. A comfort to me in his familiarity, and a great deal of fun for my students.

my packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Spork | I use this one every day at work in my sack lunch

Napkin | the same one I used as a kid on family camping trips

Travel Mug | I also use this one every day at work. Roommate got it for me because I can't break it. Yes she's brilliant. It proved the perfect companion on my watercolor wanderings as it held a generous amount of paint water and looked awesome doing it.

Water bottle | second hand

Market bags | one is made from vintage tea towels by my mother, one was a gift, and one is a french market bag similar to this one.

Sewing kit | see below.

my packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Fisherman's Friend tin | same size as an altoids tin and way prettier

Assorted buttons | when you need a button you really need a button

Safety pins | always useful

Scissors | once my grandmother's

Assorted threads | picked to match our clothes

Three needles | because I break them more than you might think

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


BookGrain journal | it doesn't get better than this. It proved sturdy, beautiful, but not too flashy. A joy to bring ou at museums, cafes, and anywhere I wanted to jot down a quick message or sketch.

Pen + pencil | Roommate got me hooked on these years ago

Gray pen | this one is my favorite because it looks like pencil

Eraser | a nice big one

Washi tape | I use a wood grain print (similar) for any stray tidbits I want to save in my travel journal

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


This kit ended up being perfect for plein air sketches and wanderings. I didn't want for anything, neither did I end up carrying around unecessary supplies.

Paints | I'm a Daniel Smith girl

Tin | vintage

Brushes | Princeton Neptune in 1.5" mottler, 0.5" oval wash, 6 round, 4 script, and 0 round.

Watercolor postcards | these are perfect for street-painting shenanagins and foreign stamps

Paper | 8x8 coldpress finish

Pencil | cedar is my favorite

Sharpener | second hand

Putty eraser | allows you to erase tiny details or a whole page

Binder clip | for keeping everything together while street painting

Paper towel | I use mine over and over again because I love collecting colors

Water jar | find my mason jar mug above in "zero waste kit"

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Camera | Canon EOS Rebel T2i (not pictured)

Lenses | 55mm (not pictured) and 18-55mm. Two lenses may seem like overkill, but I used both constantly. The 18-55mm lets you capture wide open spaces while the 55mm prime lens is perfection for capturing pastries and other details.

Lens cozy | me-made from second-hand material from my mother

Strap | it's this one's inaugural trip! And it was perfect. Subtle and un-branded, it doesn't call attention to itself nor does it let everyone know that you've got an expensive camera to be stolen.

Battery charger | just the kit charger

Tripod | a gift last summer In the end this never made it into my bag and I didn't miss it while we were there.


Second hand unless starred

top left
Sun hat | for painting in the sun
Sun dress | comfortable t-shirt dress
Formal occasion dress | gray, doesn't wrinkle, always reliable. I never had occasion to wear it but again, felt much better for having it as an option if I needed it.

top right
Fedora | for getting caught in the rain
Shawl scarf | warmth, class, and versatility
Light jacket | (stolen from Roommate) for finicky weather. Wore it nearly constantly.
Wool sweater | for even more warmth without any bulk

bottom left
Tank top | pajamas
Leggings | pajamas
Oversized pullover | for cozying up at home. A lot of space for something I never wore outside but absolutely worth it.

bottom right
Gray Pencil skirt | to dress up or down
Black leggings | extra warmth and super versatile
Black skinnies | they go with all shoes and all occasions. Wore them all. the. time.
Neutral mid-length sleeve top | the chevron stripes add fun detail and mirror other pieces
Longsleeve top | a light almost-neutral green
Shortsleeve top | gray with a scoop back
Colored mid-length sleeve top | a pop of burgundy never hurt anyone. Wore it so much it has holes now. 

not pictured
Black raincoat* | trench style
Assorted underthings* | three pairs of everything
Two bras* | sport and nude
Opaque black tights* | for extra warmth with no extra bulk
Thick socks* | 2 pairs

my minimal packing list for one month in Paris | seekthewelfare


Knee-high leather boots | because they class up anything you wear with them

Toms wedges | second hand, very comfortable for walking while still being a little dressier

Toms flats | second hand and perhaps a bit too casual for Paris but! They're my wander shoes that I don't have to think about when I'm wearing them and you bet I'm going to be rocking the "traveling artist who only cares about color and texture" look at least some (read most) of the time. Definitely my go-to meaning that I now have a strong toms tan and am desperately trying to figure out how to fix it.

my minimal packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare


Dry bags | osprey 6 liter, sea to summit 8 + 13 literLife savers, particularly while we were living out of our suitcases in London.

Laundry bag | 12 literJust the right size.

my packing list for one month overseas | seekthewelfare

THE BAGS (yes it all fits)

Backpack | a storied hand-me-down

Sidebag | my forever bagFit everything I could pososibly need...My camera with lens, passport wallet, watercolors, paint water, pens, pencils, brushes, paper, and journal. And I could still take one thing out at a time. Perfection.



Laptop + charger | for writing, photo editing, and skyping

Headphone splitter | for planes, trains, and city buses


Shampoo + conditioner
Razor blades

What would you put in your bag for a month-long city trip? Comment below or share on facebook.

traveling for the easily overwhelmed

Believe it or not, there are delightful advantages for those who are easily overwhelmed when they actually manage to kick up the courage to travel.

We are forced to go slower and therefore can see in more detail. We are more sensitive to sound, motion, and color and therefore can more fully absorb the changing beauty around us. We have to be more in tune with our bodies and therefore get to experience the tactile experiences of travel to a higher degree. The difficulties of immersing oneself in the unfamiliar is heightened, but so, dear friend, are the joys.

As such, here are a few things to practice, keep in mind, and hold on to as you set off on a new adventure whether you or your travel partner is easily overwhelmed.

Travel tips for the easily overwhelmed | seekthewelfare

Take only what you need and always take what you need.

Your packing list should look like your packing list, not anyone else's. If you're exploring a new method of travel or type of trip, you should certainly take other people's advice on what to take. However, you have the last say in what goes and what stays and, as someone who is easily overwhelmed, that can look very different from a standard packing list. 


Do one thing a day. Everything else is a bonus.

Get up when you wake up. Make your own breakfast. Venture out with a simple plan that you're excited about. Pack a lunch even if you plan on eating out. Go slow enough to stumble across unexpected and new experiences without spinning out. Don't ever feel guilty about going home early. Ever.


Don't read excitement as panic.

Excitement and Panic often manifest as the same buzzy tension inside your body but they have very different outcomes. By simply reminding your body that you are excited and not scared, you can allow healthy tension to build up and then slowly release it during your trip when you need it rather than having it explode into a panic attack before you leave.


If you travel with a companion, be sure to set up clear expectations. 

There are innumerable benefits gained by traveling with a good companion for people who are easily overwhelmed. Support, conversation, a safety net are just a few. However! It is vital that they understand that you will need to travel slower than they might want to. Otherwise, you will most likely spend your time fighting guilt (from slowing them down) or overwhelm (from going at their pace).

This doesn't mean that they have to slow down to match your pace. They can head off on a solo adventure while you take a slow day. Where this kind of co-travel breaks down is when you expect them to spend all of their time with you or vice versa. Clear communication at the beginning of your trip may not give you smooth sailing all the way through, but it will give you a vocabulary with which to talk through frustration in the moment.


Create rituals in your new space.

By all means one or two of your favorite rituals from home to soften the blow of new surroundings. Maintain your before-sleep routine as best you can no matter what time you end up going to bed, or bring a box of your favorite tea and curl up with a cup of it each day. However, don't pass over the precious opportunity to create new rituals in this one space and time. Perhaps you pick a little food shop and make it your local. Choose a time of day and take a walk in any direction from your front door. Learn a new yoga routine and only use it on your trip. When your trip is long over and the memories are fading, you'll be glad of these cherished moments and rhythms to bump into, transporting you back into your travels.


Give yourself a theme to follow. 

Before you leave, create one sentence. It can be as specific as learning more about a particular person or subject or as simple as picking a color or neighborhood. This theme is certainly not to limit you in what you are allowed to do -- you should definitely feel free to get that cruffin even if it has nothing to do with street life in the 1880s. Your theme is simply for those moments when you are paralyzed by all of the things you "should" do piled on top of all of the things you want to do PLUS all of the things you just learned you could do. Slow down the torrent and refocus by making the next thing you do fit into your theme.

What are your travel tips for the easily overwhelmed? Comment below or share it with everyone on facebook.

phrases to know in your host language

Even with months to prepare for our weeks in Paris, I struggled with anxiety over trying to learn a new language. It got stronger and stronger as our flight grew closer and closer until finally I simply stopped studying altogether. As a lover of language, rhythm, and expression, I became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what I wanted to be able to communicate in any number of situations I imagined myself getting into. It was all too big.

And you know, I ended up just fine.

phrases to know in your host language | seekthewelfare

Sure the trip would have been easier if I had more at-the-ready French on my tongue, but even if I had continued to study and memorize the lists of "most useful French phrases," I wouldn't have known the ones that I actually needed and ended up using the most.

So here is a list of my own that I hope to use over and over again, translating them into whatever language I find myself traveling to. A bare-bones list to be sure, but a wonderfully bite-sized head-start for those first days of panic. I hope it will take care of you on your travels as well as it took care of me on mine and hey! You won't have to learn it on the fly if you don't want to.

phrases to know in your host language


"Excuse me." 
My most commonly used phrase by far and the saver of many awkward situations.

"I'm so sorry" 
This one proved particularly helpful as I endeavored to use a wider range of phrases and absolutely butchered them. Particularly good when combined with "I only speak a little French."

 "Hello" / "Goodbye"
Make sure you're using the most courteous version of this phrase. For example, in France, it is always followed by "Madame" or "Messier." Old fashioned, yes, but respectful which very very rarely goes amiss. Note that different times of day may call for different greetings and farewells and collect a few of those as well.

"No, thank you."
For the flyers shoved in your face, the waiter who offers you sugar, or the determined local trying to ask you out.

"I only speak a little *host language*." 
This lets your hosts know that you really are trying, perhaps understand a little, and don't expect them to cater to your language.

"Do you speak *your language*?" 
For when all else fails or you need very specific directions or instructions.

Another vital phrase as you begin to learn more and find yourself the recipient of a torrent of words you don't understand because they believe you know more of their language than you do.

"My friend is returning soon." / "I have to go meet my friends." 
Whether you're traveling solo or with friends, these two phrases can go a long way to keeping you safe or helping you get out of a sticky situation with grace.

"I don't know..."
Add all manner of words to the end of this one to expand your language skills. Or simply

"What is this?" 
Another vocabulary builder and very helpful at fish markets.

"I don't understand." 
Because sometimes (read often) you won't. And that's okay.