One of those really fun things about being in my 30s is that I can no longer binge eat pizza or drink three nights a week without paying for it with a spare tire around my hips. I look at old photos of my first ever trip to Mexico at 23 years old and rue the day I did minimal work for abs (but still complained about my body anyway).
I’ve always been a pretty active person, but in the way that I did the least amount of work possible to still maintain my weight. It’s not like that anymore.
When Mom got sick, there was no time for working out or walking (it was dead winter) or eating healthy, because I was always flying by the seat of my pants. I craved comfort foods and fast food.
So I gained a load of weight and found myself at my heaviest ever in life: 170 lbs.
It’s not a huge number but it was a big gain for someone who should be more along the lines of 140-150lbs.
Fast forward about six months later and I had completed a full season of boot camp and two 5-kilometre runs — both things I never thought I’d do. I had dropped 15 lbs in the process. But, oh man, did I ever put the work in to accomplish it.
Shopping became fun again, and my weight loss coincided with my trip to Southeast Asia. I had to buy all new swimwear and summery clothes.
At that time, the Avalon Mall reached out to me to talk about working together on an ongoing partnership. I’m not normally a mall person – and if I do go shopping, it’s mid-week, early in the day, when it’s not crowded. Plus I don’t have a car, so it’s easier to do most of my shopping online.
But that was exactly what the Avalon Mall was trying to promote: a one-stop-shop option for people like me who can’t easily navigate the city without a vehicle. I asked for a $500 gift card to do my vacation shopping, and they agreed.
First of all: Oh. My. God.
I have NEVER EXPERIENCED guilt-free shopping. It was the MOST FUN EVER.
(I highly encourage anyone to treat themselves at least once in their lives to a $500 shopping spree with money saved especially for that occasion. Treat yourself, feel good about yourself, and DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE BILLS FOR ONCE.)
Here are some things I learned while vacation shopping after weight loss.
1. You need to really consider your destination (obviously)
Here’s a mistake I made: I completely forgot that the temples and religious sites I’d be visiting in Asia require long pants and covered shoulders. I had bought a casual mustard-yellow shirt from Rio, thankfully, and a pair of black slacks I wore on the airplane. That really came in handy during my time sweating profusely at Angkor Wat.
Not shown in this photo: the sweat dripping out of every pore in my body.
What I SHOULD have bought: a loose shawl to drape over my shoulders, and a long flowy skirt. Trust me on that one.
2. Don’t buy high-end stuff you won’t wear
I was really tempted to run into the Sunglasses Hut and purchase a $200 pair of Ray-Bans. Instead, I bought two cute pairs in Eclipse for about $15 a piece — which I am grateful for because I promptly lost both pairs while houseboating down the Mekong River. (I’ve lost FIVE PAIRS since then. I’m not joking.)
My shopping goal mostly included nice sundresses, a few bathing suits, shorts, tank-tops, and a pair of nice walking shoes. I did splurge on a stunning green dress from Suzy Shier:
I wore it one time, at an unbelievably beautiful hotel on Ko Lanta in Thailand. The rest of the time I bummed around in jean shorts and tank-tops. Southeast Asia was sweltering, and the last thing I wanted was to be wearing my finest garbs while sitting in a dirty boat with the sun beating down on me.
There are a ton of shops at the Avalon Mall where you can get these basics. I did most of my shopping at Urban Planet, which might be overrun by teenyboppers, but goddamn those teenyboppers have good taste.
3. One-piece bathing suits are the greatest thing ever
I’m still coming to terms with my weight loss, and my stomach is one problem area for me (in my mind, but it’s never as bad as it seems).
I’ve only ever worn bikinis, but I decided to spring for a one-piece at La Vie en Rose.
I felt SO GOOD IN IT.
It hid all of my “problem areas” and put the full focus on my top half (re: boobies). The only thing I didn’t love about it was that I couldn’t tan my stomach. #FirstWorldProblems
But I obviously bought a bikini from Suzy Shier too, because how can you not take a classic Ko Phi Phi shot?
4. Buy something to keep your money safe
I was the only person on my entire G Adventures tour that didn’t wear a fanny pack (“bum bag,” for you British folks). I’m not a fan, plus I was carrying my camera (another thing that the rest of my tour group completely ditched).
I HATE money belts. I think they’re garbage. They’re designed to wear around my middle to protect against theft, but having to pull up your shirt to dig out your cash seems counterproductive to blending in with the crowd, don’t you think?! The same goes for those little wallets you wear around your neck. I don’t think they’re particularly secure. I wore a money belt on my first trip abroad and hated it.
Instead, don’t carry more than you need. Keep the rest in your hotel safety deposit box/hostel locker!
What did I buy? A zippered cross-body purse with a wide strap from Bentley. It was big enough to hold my camera, and the wide strap and zipper still gave me lots of security.
(One girl on our tour did get mugged, and I’ve been mugged in Hawaii. That’s why I always get World Nomads travel insurance when I’m travelling — they took care of my belongings.)
5. Get Comfortable shoes
Two essential pairs of shoes for Asia: flip-flops and walking shoes (or sneakers). Because Payless is no longer a thing (sad face), I scooped up some of their closing sale deals, including foldable ballet flats and a laceless pair of Champion walking sneakers.
Spoiler alert: the flats were amazing, but they went mostly unused (sweaty feat syndrome). The sneakers were a godsend. Again, don’t bring your finest, most expensive footwear. They will not do well on dusty roads and beaches.
6. DON’T OVERPACK
$500 is a lot to spend when you’re a frugal shopper like me. I bought a lot of stuff. A LOT.
I managed to fit it all in my Osprey Farpoint 70 pack, but just barely. I should have pared this load down considerably, because the souvenir shopping in Asia? Unreal! I came back with little buddhas and wall prints and paintings and then had to ship my tailor-made clothes and two wall hangings from Vietnam.
On the other hand, I probably saved myself some cash. I simply couldn’t fit anything else.
Bottom line: figure out what you REALLY NEED. It’s totally okay to splurge on clothes that make you feel fantastic, but I can assure you, overpacking will make your trip considerably less pleasant.
Do you have any tips to add?
Huge thanks to the Avalon Mall for this amazing experience. Rather than spending days picking up items for my trip here and there, I bought everything I needed in just a few hours (including sunscreen with SPF 10000000).