Just over a year ago, I found myself sitting cross-legged in the middle of my apartment in the East Village of Manhattan, surrounded by three distinct boxes labeled "take," "keep" and "donate." After going through all my kitchenware, clothes, shoes, books — everything, really — I'd left the hardest task for last: my beauty collection. As a makeup-lover, skin care junkie and beauty journalist, I had curated a wide variety of products over seven years in New York City. I'd somehow amassed a) every shade of lipstick you could possibly imagine, b) every mask under the sun and c) everything in between. Bidding them a permanent farewell felt like an impossible task — but considering I only would have a 23 kg suitcase (and a carry-on packed to the brim) for the next year, it was also an inevitability.
Why the light load? I was offered an invitation to travel the world for a year via Remote Year, living in 12 international cities over 365 glorious days. And glorious is what they were, as I made best friends and lifelong travel buddies, scaling everywhere from Prague and Kyoto to Lima and Mexico City. Along the way, I collected passport stamps and — you guessed it — even more beauty products.
I'd expected change, of course, but I had no idea how much my pampering routine would dramatically shift. Or how I'd become more curious than ever while also remaining true to some of the brands I've been using ever since my mom first gave me the seal of approval to wear foundation. As I tangoed between time zones, experienced new cultures and used Google Translate to decipher the ingredients on labels, I also crystallized my beauty routine into a science. Here's what it was like for a girly gal to travel with little to no room for indulgences.
There's such a cult following around different mascaras (looking at you, Better Than Sex), but I'm still a sucker for the drugstore formula that won me over at 16: L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara, $7.99. I have baby blues and light features, so I tend to stick with the black/brown shade so I'm not too overpowered. And the curved brush is key, thanks to the deep-set shape of my eyes. On month three of my travels, I ran out of my mascara and tried another brand recommended by a fellow member of our community, but I just couldn't get behind the shade. Since it's difficult to find some products abroad, I eventually had my friend mule me over three of my beloved mascaras when she visited me in Lisbon.
After spending 100 days in Europe, my group headed for our Asian experience in early November. Going from hefty pours of Portuguese wine to the polite, yet neon-ripe streets of Tokyo was quite the contrast. It's tough to beat Japan's beauty scene, though: One of my dearest friends on the trip is a fellow beauty-obsessed gal who used to work in advertising in the makeup industry and when we spent four days together in Tokyo...well, we went a little ham. Here, you can really find everything: women wearing red eyeshadow, every sort of sheet mask and some truly crazy-weird items for sale.
One not-so-out-there product I discovered that I loved? This amazing blush: Etude House Dreaming Swan Eyes & Cheek, $12.99 (it's a South Korean brand, but it's very popular in Japan too). It fits a plush brush perfectly and you only need a little bit to go a long way. I've been using it since early November...and I still have at least another month of product to go.
Six years ago, I decided to finally bite the bullet and try Accutane. After battling really intense, terrible acne since I was 12, I couldn't take one more terrible breakout before an interview or a first date and went through the process to clear my skin. It worked — but not without thoroughly drying out my skin. Since I'm approaching 30 (whoop!), I need to be extra vigilant to keep my skin hydrated — both for my health and to keep the fine lines at bay. That's why I started using Olay Complete Lightweight 3-in-1 Moisturizer Day Fluid SPF 15 Sensitive, $16.72, many moons ago. I like that it's lightweight, goes on smoothly and keeps my pores healthy. When I ran out of it during my travels, I dabbled with other options, but nothing quite did the trick — so I was relieved to find it at an "American" shop in Kuala Lumpur during month five of my trip.
Or really, anything and everything is fun in Thailand. From the endless amount of incredible Thai food on every corner to the ability to volunteer with elephants and take a tuk-tuk anywhere you'd like to go, of all the places I called "home" over the past year, Chiang Mai was in my top three. A cultural experience I adored was seeing a Ladyboy performance... and then running into her in the bathroom on New Year's Eve. She helped me fix my makeup and applied her own lipstick as a touch-up. While I couldn't find the exact brand she used thanks to my champagne brain, I did manage to find another lip crayon, Baby Bright Fresh Aloe Cushion Lip in Charisma, $28.89, of which I ended up buying three. The small shape makes it super fast to apply without having to touch up and the cushion at the end helps to rub in excess.