Five Tips for Purchasing Travel Shoes

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Since I started traveling, some readers have asked me, “What is the most comfortable and stylish shoe for traveling?” It’s a tricky question, because everyone has their own style preferences and feet are as unique as individuals. I’m a size 6.5 with a slightly wider toe box and a high arch, so what works for me may not work for others. I did, however, literally try on over 30 shoes this summer in my personal hunt for the best pairs, so hopefully my upcoming reviews will save you some frustration and time!

Packing for 6 months of travel can be tricky. Mr. Wonderful and I aren’t backpackers, but we were determined to bring only one carry-on luggage and one backpack each. With our suitcase alone weighing in at about 6-7 pounds, that meant we only had 8 pounds worth of clothes, shoes, accessories and gear we could pack before going over the 15 pound carry-on limit for some airlines. Considering an average pair of shoes is almost a pound, that’s no easy feat!

So when it came time to choose the shoes I’d need to pack for our trip abroad, I had to think strategically. I knew I’d be stuck with the same few pairs for the next half year, and they had to meet my following criteria:

1) Comfortable (no pain after walking around all day)

2) Stylish (or at least, not ugly)

3) Versatile (can go with various outfits)

4) Light (preferably under half a pound)

5) Easy to slip on and off at the airport (no laces)

So what did I end up packing in my suitcase? After a month of shopping, visiting stores, ordering from websites such as Zappos and Nordstrom (love their free shipping/returns!) I settled on:

- canvas loafers

- leather sneakers

- sandals

- flip flops

Which brands and styles did I buy? Some of the answers may end up surprising you. I’ll be posting more details later this week, so stay tuned!

Where Are You From?

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Where are you from? I frequently get asked this when I travel — by taxi drivers, supermarket cashiers, the random person sitting next to me on the bus. It’s a simple question, yet profound.

“I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area,” I say. “But I’ve always wanted to live in New York. I can’t help offering the extra information, even though nobody asked.

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She’s so lucky…and maybe, so are you.

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The most common reaction I received when I told people I was quitting my job and volunteering/travelling around the world was “Wow, you’re so lucky.”

The word luck makes me feel uncomfortable. I do believe luck happens, but people often attribute luck to good things that happen to other people, when it is really a matter of prioritizing your goals, desires and dreams.

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Miss Me jeans and Zara tweed blazer

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Before I left for Panama, I lived in these jeans all summer.

For a few years, my favorite jeans were a pair of Citizens, in Ava Straight Leg. I wore them even when they turned three shades lighter and there was a huge hole in the knee with dangling loose threads, until one of my male friends (who does not care for fashion whatsoever), informed me it was time to get a new pair.

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I quit my job to volunteer and travel.

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I did it. I have wanted to do this since I graduated from college — to save up, quit my job for a while, volunteer in a foreign country and travel the world. Experiencing life has always been more important to me than having a safety blanket.

But then I met Mr. Wonderful. He was risk-averse and more interested in having a house with a white picket fence than what he considered to be superfluous experiences. When he asked me to marry him, I knew that would mean compromising some of my own goals in life in order to meet his. Love is usually worth it, though.

And then something changed.

Mr. Wonderful saw his coworkers and people around him quitting their jobs to do things like volunteering in Japan, driving around Mexico in an RV, or starting their own businesses. We no longer live in a time where having the same job for twenty, thirty years is the norm. Taking risks is the new norm.

So two years ago, we had a heart-to-heart conversation. Many discussions later, we hatched a plan, and this month, we handed our condo keys to our new renters, put the last box in storage, and arrived in Panama holding two suitcases each.

I have no idea what the next few months will bring. But I know I’d rather be here, right now, than anywhere else.

And…Life Unrefined is back!

Dear Readers,

As many of you know, my Life Unrefined blog disappeared this past June. And while I grieved over the loss of two years of work, I also seized the opportunity to take a rest and rethink the purpose of my blog. I originally started a fashion blog because I wanted to encourage other women to embrace themselves and their natural beauty. Not in the overly simplistic, “You’re fine, just love yourself!” sense, but because I battled with body image and self-esteem for most of my life. It’s still a struggle to not feel intimidated in a room full of women who seem so confident and self-assured.

Yet while I loved writing for my blog and meeting other fashion/beauty bloggers, something began to nag me. You see, I enjoy shopping and talking about style, but I realized I wanted to talk about other things, too. Who I am is so much more than just what I wear. I wanted to talk about the beauty and struggles of marriage, my love of traveling, and the journey in my Christian faith. I know that not everyone will want to read about all of those things, but ultimately I have decided that the blog needs to be a true reflection of myself.

So I hope you will stay around as I begin again. I value the friendships I have made through this blog, both in life and online, and look forward to continuing that with you!

Very best,

Jen