“Look for the most unglamorous person in Zagreb. “
These are the words I told a friend who was to pick me up at the Zagreb bus station a few months ago, so that he would recognize me.
It was a cold and snowy day. I had my big suitcase (yes, no swanky backpack yet) another carryon, and my messenger bag. This isn’t “heavy” packing” for a nomad. I was living out of a suitcase, (or 2) carrying almost everything I own, and everything I needed for the next 3 months in Belgrade.
I was also carrying my blanket, (which I will NOT part with) in a plastic bag. I got it in Mostar as a gift from a special friend and it comforts me on cold nights. But it really is kind of uncool to schlepp around a garbage bag.
And it doesn’t look nearly as movie-set cool as the photo above.
On that day, was wearing my most bulky coat, running shoes, and loose clothes. An outfit I could easily and comfortably wear on the bus from Split. It was also easier for me to wear the coat than pack it.
My “first impression” outfit for new friends in new cities. Sigh.
And for some reason, there is no elevator (at least I have not yet found one) at the bus station Zagreb. So here I am, hauling all this stuff with me, while trying to not look exhausted and awkward.
Like the confident women with their chic little carryon bags.
I tend to look more lot a hot mess. Ah, the glamour of travel.
Zagreb is a fashionable place. Close to Italy, its fashion climate is similar. Zagreb residents just really know how to dress, even if it’s just a pair of jeans, a scarf, and a jacket. I admit I still want to work on pulling this off one day.. even if just with ONE outfit that makes me feel good.
Fast forward to Belgrade. People here are cut from the same genetic cloth.. on the tall and thin side. Naturally curvy, athletic, and generally good-looking, almost anything folks here wear tends to look good. They also put thought into what they wear. And unlike in the U.S.. older people also dress quite fashionably.
Women here invest in their looks, even when they look exhausted from the years (and honestly, cigarettes.) You could call it vanity, but the truth is, sometimes I’m envious. Most of my income has to go back into things like bus tickets, investment in my business, and the basics. I don’t have space or funds for closets full of clothes and shoes. (or the budget just yet.) I’m lucky if I invest in cheap shampoo. Any hairdryer that doesn’t slowly destroy my hair is too heavy to pack.
And here’s me.. wearing my still wintery black clothes designed for getting work done in at “home” or being on the road. I’m also a bit out of shape due to the nature of my work, even though I do tend to walk a lot. I need more. I need to lift and do yoga. My body needs more than just walking in order to maintain lean mass and stay flexible. In other words, “youthful.” So the assumption that adopting a European lifestyle automatically makes you look “Faabulous Daahling” is false. It takes some work.
Truth be told, I have not felt like myself since Hvar.
And to top it all off.. I read a blog somewhere about Serbian quirks, (Belgrade at least) and one of them was “man purses.” After observing, I also noticed that this was not only a thing, but that.. I also carry a.. “man purse.”
Kind of like my messenger bag. I can’t stand ladies’ purses and I find them to be an impractical waste of money. Don’t get me wrong.. I still like to feel feminine. I invest in my hair, liptstick, mascara, a few jewelry pieces, and a few skirts and dresses that make me feel fabulous. (which are still buried with my “Hvar clothes” in another suitcase.) But purses.. I don’t get. I would probably lose one on a bus anyway.
I like my messenger bag. It still looks cool and I can carry all my weird things in it. Because when you are a nomad, a cute ladies’ purse won’t cut it. Bonus: Men are more likely to insist on helping you carry bags if they aren’t pink and girly and can pass as a “man purse.” Reality: humans sometimes need to carry stuff besides money, keys, passports, and lipstick.
So there you have it.. another blog about how “glamorous” it is to live out of a suitcase. The truth is, I kinda LOOK like I live out of a suitcase.
This is why you won’t be seeing any of those selfies that go along with your typical travel blog. It’s just not me.
I’m not photogenic at all, and my focus is more on places I’m living in or visiting than matching my outfit to the boats in the background.
How about just taking a picture of the boats and leaving it at that? Because I’m cool with that.
Maybe this will all change (Don’t hold your breath for the carefully crafted selfie shots that seem mandatory for travel bloggers)
But… wait.. there’s still hope.
Today, I stopped at a salon to ask about hair coloring. and I think I’m going to actually do it.
It’s totally affordable here in Belgrade. It’s one of those salons that looks young and hip and stylish, but also laid back, with natural beauty products. Ahh. Just what I need. Perfect!!
I want to make sure that I get a good cut and color.. so I asked a few questions. The backstory: A few years ago in Zagreb I got a cut and color and I ended up with ashy hair and an old lady cut. Ugh.
I had shown a picture of myself with a youthful shoulder length cut and gorgeous and artfully placed red, dark brown, and blonde highlights, but obviously the stylist had her own agenda and idea of what is more “appropriate for an old lady” like me. (as in over, um, 35)
For the past 2 years, I have not had much luck. Despite showing stylists photos of myself with the beautiful work of my old stylist.. every single one of them ends up giving me a Hillary Clinton cut and color. This isn’t a political statement.. but I’m not kidding when I say that if you aren’t careful at “my age,” and explicitly state that you don’t want to look like an average middle aged politician…you have to SPELL IT OUT… you may be disappointed.. even with a photo.
So .. in Belgrade, I got a business card, spoke some Serbian, smiled a lot, spoke some English (young people here prefer that over my not-so-great Serbian) and said that I didn’t want to end up looking like Hillary Clinton.
Which maybe is kind of a funny thing to say in Belgrade.
So let’s see if I can blend in a bit more in city by feeling just a little more “glamorous” than I have these past few months, just in time for summer.
Because hey, in the end, after being all serious and taking risks and getting shit done, sometimes a woman just wants to relax, look and feel good, and have a good glass of wine to celebrate. Without the contrived IG photos, thank you very much.
What’s YOUR story about how to look and feel at least human, when on the road? Do tell!