The novelist Gustave Flaubert once said that travel makes one modest as ‘you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world’. I’ve always admired this observation. The fly in the ointment of my wanderlust however was overpacking. Even in my university days I never had the slightest empathy with contemporaries who could chuck a toothbrush and their front door key in a backpack and head off courtesy of Interrail – remember that? – for months on end. I, by contrast, travelled like a Victorian on the Grand Tour and brought everything including the kitchen sink (‘Earl Grey teabags Mo?’ Well, you never know…).
DISCIPLINE IS ESSENTIAL
I’ve spent enough on excess baggage and upgrades over the years to have paid for God-knows-how-many extra holidays. I finally learned my lesson when I began travelling on business in the early 1990s. When you’re supposed to be flying the flag for international fashion, there’s a level of expectation on the part of your hosts that you’ll not show up looking like the wild man of Borneo. A disciplined travel wardrobe became essential.
These days, the first thing I consider in planning a trip is the weather at my destination. Wear pure linen in Paris in July and by lunchtime you’ll resemble an accordion. Equally, a silk suit in New York in November won’t cut it unless you have serious outer layers to compensate.
My top tip is suiting in a high-twist 100 per cent wool. It’s crease resistant and a well-fitting, canvassed dark two-piece will take you from day to evening with just a change of shirt and accessories.
THE MULTI TASKING WARDROBE
The second consideration is practical luggage. I’ve splashed ludicrous sums on designer bags only to end up panicking about our ever meeting again as I said goodbye to them at check-in. These days, all my stowed items are durable, minimal (too many zip pockets are the work of the devil), optimally sized, clearly labelled and satisfyingly weathered. Thirdly, think multi-tasking. I invested in a big vicuna wrap in Hong Kong years ago. It has since seen service as a travel blanket, a pillow on the dreaded 5.40am Eurostar (a route with which I’m depressingly familiar) and a scarf. Colours that work together and reversible items, from belts to raincoats, also fall into this category – alongside a watch which looks as appropriate with daywear as with a tux if your trip requires you to go formal.
If you’ve read it this far you may note that I’ve not touched on casual clothing. But really, holidays? Who has time for them?