Interview: Effortless Elegance and Timeless Style in a Single Suitcase

by Sherry Kumar

This article was written for


Since 1999, Eurocircle, a social organization for Europeans, internationals and expats has been organizing trips that allow members from different cultures to meet at an exotic location each year, to make friends, explore a new land, and build friendships across the globe. As the founder of its travel program, and leader of its annual adventures, I am often asked to prepare a packing list that fits the terrain, the host culture, and our itinerary.


Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about packing light and being appropriate for every occasion. However, as time passed, I also started to address the age-old problem that professional travel writers and locals inevitably point out- how to not look like an “ugly” tourist. This is a dilemma all travelers face, but rarely pull off without a sweat.  On one hand, we have all encountered disheveled vacationers dressed in garish, mismatched colors, wrinkled clothes and neon sneakers that scream tourist from a mile away. On the other hand, when we are on the road, living out of a suitcase and adapting to different terrain every day, it is difficult to look like the stylish jet-setters depicted in travel magazines.


My personal peeve is when I return from a journey and sift through my photos, only to discover that I too wasn’t prepared for the situation, and looked out of place while posing for photos in front of a mud hut in a village in Rajasthan. Think about it, we all document our journeys with photos to build memories. Twenty years from now, will you like the way you looked in those ripped leggings and sparkly flip flops, posing in front of the Golden Temple?


Thus, my personal vacation style has evolved as well. It is no longer enough to have an appropriate and versatile wardrobe, it is just as important for me to feel human, clean and look polished. Today, a single travel photo will be shared hundreds of times via social media, and call me vain, but I want to feel good about how I looked on each trip for years to come.


So my travel tip #1, is to choose a single color, then fill a suitcase with items that match. My favorite color for hot climates, dusty terrains, humid jungle and effortless elegance is khaki or beige. With that as my foundation, I need only pack 2 pairs of shoes in a shade of brown, one handbag and neutral colored accessories. Khaki matches everything, can be easily layered with olives, whites, and basics, and wears well as it accumulates dirt. But depending on your destination, you could just as easily choose black or brown as your foundation, accessorize it with a few versatile pieces, and look timeless, carrying nothing but a boarding pass.


I got my 2nd favorite packing tip from a Eurocircle member, who arrived for a journey through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos with only a 20” carry-on. I was amazed when she had everything she needed for climbing pyramids and dinners in 5-star restaurants in her tiny bag. How did she do it? The bag was full of disposable clothing, that she left behind or gifted to locals as she moved through southeast Asia. We all have clothes that we donate at the end of each season, why not use those old jeans or fancy sneakers one last time, then give away to people who would appreciate them? That way, as you journey, the bag gets lighter and you make space for shopping and gifts.


Frankly, I don’t have a 3rd packing tip. Now that I have narrowed my entire travel wardrobe to one color, I really can fit 10 days worth of clothes into a small bag. I choose clothes that are basic, can be layered, and don’t wrinkle, but if the entire selection consists of a single color, I can wear each item at least twice. Black will make a fashion statement in every corner of the globe, and a basic cut can be dressed up or down in a matter of minutes.


This fall as Eurocircle journeys across Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa, we will float across the Okavango delta, walk the Kalahari desert, and raft the white waters of the Zambezi river and Victoria Falls. In the end, we will recuperate in a chic boutique hotel in Johannesburg. You can bet that khaki will be my go to color, my accessories will fit my surroundings, and that by the time I’m ready to wine and dine the poshest restaurants of Johannesburg, all that will be left in my carry on are a simple shift dress, my aviator glasses and my boarding pass. Check out Eurocircle’s travel itinerary and join us!



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