Best Shoes for Travel (that aren’t ugly)

It used to be that I would buy travel shoes with slightly more style than comfort. I survived multiple trips to Europe and Asia this way, bringing my Tory Burch flats and Sam Edelman Trina sandals that were so popular with fashion bloggers. Sure, my feet would hurt a bit after 10 hours of sightseeing, but it was nothing unbearable.

Last year, I wasn’t so lucky. In the middle of a trip to Copenhagen, my right foot started hurting badly. It turned out I fractured tiny bones in my foot pad, which sometimes never heals. My podiatrist explained it was simply one too many cobblestone roads in shoes with thin soles, and there was a price to pay. I now have chronic sesamoiditis, so wearing high heels and flats with thin soles can cause a lot of pain for me.

Now that I’m forced to err on the side of comfort over style, my choices are more limited. I spent the summer checking out shoes in stores like The Walking Company, Aerosoles and Clarks, in addition to selections offered at Nordstrom and Zappos. Some pairs, like the Adam Tucker brand I purchased from Nordstrom, felt heavenly when I first slipped them on and then gave me cramps after a few hours of wear. The problem is that we tend to fall for the “cloud-like” feeling of soft padding, but what your feet actually needs is firm padding with some flexibility. Thank goodness for Nordstrom’s satisfaction policy! When I explained my situation, they were more than happy to take them back.

After a few months of trial and error, I finally made some purchases based on the five criteria for purchasing travel shoes from my last post. Here they are!

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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? Click here to find out!

Where Are You From?

Creative

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.

IsabelMarantW

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

Blacklisted from Anthropologie

Anthro

Recently, I received a letter from the finance coordinator at URBN (the brand that includes Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People) that I am “no longer eligible to shop online” at any of their stores.

In all honesty, I was a bit shocked to receive the letter. I’ve never been banned from anything before. Growing up, I was the “good girl” that followed rules and respected others. In addition, as much as I love Anthropologie, I shop far less there than I do at J.Crew, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor. The reason? Because I’m primarily an online shopper and those stores regularly offer free shipping/returns and Anthropologie does not. In fact, Anthropologie is probably the only online fashion retailer I have ever willingly paid for shipping.

Why do I shop online? Because many retailers (including Anthropologie), usually only offer its smallest petite sizes on their website. And as fellow petite shoppers know, it’s a chore to find something that fits and isn’t from Forever 21 or the teen department at Macy’s. I have been told that the only time “00 Petite” is in stores is when it’s someone’s online return (with the exception of certain flagship stores in major cities).

After I received the letter, I looked into all the Anthropologie orders I made in the last year. In 2013, I made 8 online purchases with a total of 29 items (an average of 3 or 4 items per order). I’ve kept 6 of those items, which means I keep a little over 20% of my purchases. I know that’s less than ideal, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable, either. Consider the factors:

1) What is the quality like? I always read the material content on an item listing before I even put it in my virtual shopping cart. But the downside of online shopping is you don’t know how something feels until it arrives at your door.

2) Is it true to color? How many times has something seemed bright pink on the website only to be a subdued hue in real life (or vice versa)?

3) How is the fit? If you think about how many pairs of pants or dresses you need to try on before you find one that fits and looks good, then you know that keeping at least one out of five is actually a pretty decent ratio.

With that being said, the thing affecting me the most is not that I can’t shop online at Anthropologie anymore (although I still have a bunch of gift cards I’m not sure what to do with) but it’s the fact I feel like I have a blemished record. I know it sounds silly, and perhaps deserved, but nevertheless I don’t like the idea that in some random database somewhere, my name is now blacklisted.

But, readers, I am curious to know what you think. In your opinion, what is a reasonable “return ratio” for online orders? Have you ever been blacklisted?