A Single Suitcase
By: Jenny Brew

Traveling is one of the greatest joys in life. To me, discovering and exploring new places is tremendously exciting and inspirational. Since I was little, my mother has encouraged and facilitated my love for travel. She is a trained anthropologist and instilled the value of self-discovery through learning about other cultures and ways of life. 

As much as I love to travel, deciding what to pack used to make me feel anxious and stressed out. In spite of my wanderlust, I thrive surrounded by the comforts of home, so I felt the need to over pack to avoid feeling limited or uncomfortable while traveling. In high school, I often traveled for out of town dance and singing competitions. I still get grief from my family about a letter sent to parents with packing instructions for a choir trip to Los Angeles. It stated that each choir member was allowed one suitcase, with a special addendum attached: “This means you Jenny Brew!” (I was infamous for packing two or three bags and taking up more than my fair share of trunk space—after all, one needs a full selection of shoes!) At the time, I was mortified, though I knew my choir instructor wrote in jest.

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Today, traveling with one single suitcase suits me much better. I am now of the mindset that less is more, and I always travel with only a carry-on, regardless of the length of my trip. A few years ago, I went to Europe for three weeks and packed just a carry-on with two pairs of shoes and several key pieces. I have garnered much shock and awe from male and female friends alike when sharing the tales of long adventures with just one small suitcase. “How do you fit all your shoes?” they ask, and, “You work in fashion, don’t you need more choices?”

My response is always, “I am a careful editor.” I used to worry about not having enough clothes when traveling, but when it comes to style, editing with a careful and attentive eye is the difference between a good outfit and a great outfit. It’s common while packing to fear forgetting necessary pieces or worry about feeling limited in outfit options. However, letting go of the idea of limitation allowed me to feel freer about style and dressing. The key to traveling with a carry-on is thoughtful packing. I like to imagine I am an editor at a fashion magazine writing an article about my “must-have” items for travel. This technique encourages me to pack my favorite, versatile and comfortable necessities instead of over-packing with a fear of leaving second-tier pieces out.

My rule of thumb is to pack only neutrals with small pops of color. My neutrals are white, black, navy, grey, and camel, and I like to include small pops of color in neons, reds, blues, or greens. With a simple color palette and carefully selected pieces, I no longer have trouble getting dressed in the morning. Instead of stressing out about what to wear, I can easily and quickly put stylish outfits together, leaving me with more time to discover new places and enjoy new adventures. 

Below is a list of my key pieces for travel.

Jenny Brew is a fashion production coordinator and designer living in Los Angeles.