Travel Fashion No-No's
Most people would kill for Samantha Brown's job. The Travel Channel host spends 230 days a year covering about 100,000 miles for shows like "Samantha Brown's Great Weekends", now in it's second season.She is also wrapping up "Samantha Brown's Destinations" and "Samantha Brown's Asia". Her last trip? To Indonesia. It took her 36 hours to get home. "The trip began on a horse and cart, then a boat, a car, and 4 plane rides later I was home," she says.
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Like any seasoned traveler, Brown has learned a thing or two about cultural differences over the years, especially about what to pack to blend in with the locals. "I know that what works for job interviews also works in travel," says Brown. "First impressions mean a lot and looking good has a lot to do with that." Taking cues from the local style does more than make you more comfortable, she says, it also protects you. "You want to dress as close to as the locals do if only as to not be targeted as a tourist with a nice camera and wallet full of money and credit cards, even if you have neither," says Brown. But what works on one continent doesn't necessarily work on another. Here Brown shares with us her best advice on how to dress for the destination, culled from a decade on the road.
In Asia and the Middle East:
Cover yourself appropriately, everywhere you go. Americans love their casual summer attire-shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and flip-flops-in warm weather, but in much of the world there's no temperature high enough to justify donning what's considered "beach wear" while sightseeing. Brown herself made this mistake during her recent travels in Southeast Asia. "I showed up in shorts and tank tops and realized that, while appropriately dressed for heat, I was inappropriate for the culture," she says. "Most of Asia is very conservative in dress and in exposing of skin."
Remember that some sites have even stricter rules. While covering up in public is important, making sure your legs and arms aren't bare while visiting religious buildings is sometimes a requirement. "There are a lot of beautiful temples to visit," Brown says of Asia, though the advice applies to mosques and cathedrals as well. "Make sure your shoulders are covered, and always bring a scarf."
Be careful when dressing exactly like the locals though -- you may miss some of the subtleties. Brown learned that lesson on a visit to one of Bali's temple ceremonies. "I tied my sarong, then I helped with my male cameraman's only to find that I had tied his 'the woman way,' " she says. "All the men laughed at us and we had a great chuckle, too."
Don't pack sportswear unless you're hitting the gym. There's no denying that the cliché is true -- you can easily pick out the American travelers in Europe by their bright-colored clothing and sneakers. "Lily Pulitzer works well in Palm Springs, but not in Florence, Italy," says Brown. She also advises travelers to leave the athletic shoes at home. "As a whole, Europeans dress in an extremely high-end and tailored fashion," explains Brown. "Both women and men devote a large part of their income to clothing."
Don't get lost in translation. The advice goes both ways here as well. While in Europe, if you get caught up in the style and decide to shop, remember to picture yourself wearing your purchases in your everyday life, whether that means trips to the grocery store, your weekly staff meeting, or date night. "Leave the man bag in Europe," says Brown.
In Latin America:
Avoid attention-getting outfits. "Here you actually want to be a lot more understated. Muted colors and jeans will get you in just about anywhere," says Brown.
Don't pack any bold jewelry. Since the locals don't wear ornate jewelry, doing so will immediately set you apart. Brown takes this advice seriously. "Leave the engagement rings at home," she says. "A diamond could attract the wrong attention."
Bring clothing that won't melt in the heat. "Central America is always hot and humid," Brown reminds us. "I always bring clothes with wicking capabilities (fabric that pulls moisture away from skin) that is also fast drying so that I can wash it out in the sink at night and it will be dry the next morning. Even when it's a heat wave I like to look put together."
See Samantha in action on the Travel Channel: