Bonfire of my Vanity

Today I went for a haircut. As my stylist, cut and blowdried, straightened and applied various hair products, I thought about how I would have none of this while on the road. No hair dryer, no straightener or curling iron or any other plug-in hair-fixing device, no products, and definitely no stylist.

Now I’m not a vain person. Vain people do not tear up their faces, then go out to eat in public as it swells and turns all different types of colors. Vain people do not post pictures of their face in such a state on the Internet for all the world to see. No, seriously, I’m not vain.

I’m also not particularly fashionable. I mean, I like to think that I’m not unfashionable, but I certainly don’t care much for trends and almost always go for comfort. I don’t like to shop, except on rare occasions. I have no interest in brand names and can’t even begin to fathom why some people pay hundreds of dollars for jeans, purses, or anything else. I can’t be bothered to spend much time on my hair, especially since I’m not very good at fixing hair, so even if I were to spend a lot of time on it, it probably wouldn’t look much different. And as for makeup, I rarely go beyond concealer, mascara, and good ol’ chapstick. Fashion and beauty is just not my forte. Luckily I wasn’t born butt ugly.

Last summer, when we rafted the Grand Canyon, I didn’t have any problems with my lack of access to beauty products…or clean bathing water for that matter. But still sometimes I wince at the thought of living for an entire year out of one backpack.

Except for underwear (which I do plan to take enough of), there will not be another piece of clothing that I don’t, at some point and most often at all points, wear more than once in a week. My hair will have to dry naturally, which means that it will not be sleek and shiny(as my current shampoo claims it should be although that is debatable on most days), but will instead by a bit crazy. I expect that it will be a rare day when my hair is not back in a ponytail, the saving grace of bad hair. I’ll take along a tiny bit of makeup–probably my usuals–but really, in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asia, if I put it on will it do anything but run right off?

In the year that we spend traveling, more pictures of me will probably be taken than have been in any other year of my life, save maybe the first year or two, when a photograph was needed to record every milestone. (Isn’t it weird how much we accomplish when we’re young and ignorant, and how little we can manage to accomplish when we’re old and educated?) And in these many, many photos, I’ll probably look about as bad as I’ve ever looked (except for maybe my freshman yearbook photo when my eyes were rolled back in my head and the photos from the years when I had those terrible, terrible grandma glasses…Mom, seriously, how could you let me wear those?). And though I’ve hidden those photos away and tried to forget them, the photos we’ll take on our trip will be posted right here for all of you to look at. No, indeed, I’m not vain. Crazy, maybe. Masochistic, perhaps.

But really, there is not much to be done. It’s just one of the those trade-offs you have to make. You sit at home and look pretty. I’ll explore Machu Picchu and look a bit dumpy. I think I can handle it.

(I will admit, however, that I do have my limits. While searching for a travel skirt, I kept reading rave reviews about the Macabi skirt, so I looked it up, and was, um, a bit less than impressed with the looks. I tried to convince myself that it didn’t matter and that it would be functional, but I just couldn’t do it. Traveling around the world with just one tiny backpack might be an excuse for not looking fabulous, but it does not justify looking ridiculous. And after a bit more searching, I found two skirts that I actually very much like made by a company called Lole. They’re actually a bit fashionable (in my non-fashion-forward opinion), but darn it if the shoes I’m planning to bring along won’t just spoil the whole look.)