Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina Shares the Best Way to Pack a Suitcase

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

I’m La Carmina, a Gothic and alternative travel blogger. I share my love for worldwide subcultures on my La Carmina blog, which I started over 10 years ago. My stories tend to have a dark, offbeat bent: I recently visited Dracula’s Castle in Romania, the HR Giger alien bar and museum in Switzerland, and occult shops in Osaka.

While I’m from Vancouver, Canada, I spent a lot of time in Japan, and many of my most popular travel guides are about Tokyo and Harajuku underground cultures. My current obsessions include synthwave (the futuristic 1980s style music genre), Miffy the bunny rabbit (the cute character from the Netherlands), and outerspace — I’m looking to the stars and loving the alien aesthetic right now!

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

How and why did you get into traveling?

My family is from Hong Kong, so we’ve been traveling there to visit family every since I was a baby. Growing up, we usually went to Asia in the summers, or during my school breaks. My family enjoyed traveling, and we also took trips around North America and Europe. Years later, as I was in law school, I started my La Carmina blog. I didn’t expect it to be anything but a hobby, but the blog took off like a spaceship, bringing about opprtunities to be on travel TV shows, write books, and take part in press trips. Thanks to blogging and social media, doors opened up that let me travel to about 10 countries per year, bringing the grand total to over 60.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

How do you finance your travels?

Ever since I started blogging, all my travels have been funded in some way by collaborations. I’m often invited to attend conferences; I was a guest at World Tourism Forum Istanbul, and Experience Bucharest. My film team and I frequently take individual press trips with tourism boards like Cape Town, Israel, Spain, Thailand, and New Orleans. I also team up with fashion brands or travel companies on trips; I did a memorable journey in New Zealand with Contiki, and to Prague and Germany with Go With Oh. It’s what I do full-time, and my travel expenses are always covered by these ongoing projects.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

Why is traveling important for you?

Travel constantly keeps me on my toes. It introduces me to inspiring people worldwide, and makes me re-examine my expectations and biases. I’m always surprised by the places I visit, even if I’ve researched them thoroughly. For example, India was a culture-shock, but it was less difficult than I imagined it to be; I didn’t get stomach sick at all. I’ve also found that the unpredictability of travel — the ups-and-downs, and aspects outside your control — have helped me become more calm and accepting.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

How do you bring your things with you?

My La Carmina blog is about both travel and fashion, and outfits play a big part in the stories. I’m not a backpacker – I always bring one checked suitcase with me, and a carry-on Crumpler backpack that holds my computer, DSLR camera, iPhone, and emergency toiletries. I’ve taken my large Away Luggage suitcase with me on recent trips; it’s bright yellow and looks like a Minion! This suitcase holds up well, and is large enough to fit plenty of outfits — and it’s cute as well.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

How do you organize things in your bags?

I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo, and she has terrific tips on how to fold clothing so that it packs up neatly, without creasing. These Konmari techniques help to save space in my luggage. I also plan out my outfits in advance, figuring out matching shoes and accessories, and make several different outfits with some of the same pieces. I’ve also pared down my makeup, skin and hair products so that they don’t take up too much room.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

How do your bags and gear hold up?

It’s worth investing in quality luggage. My Crumpler Dry Red #5 backpack has been with me for years; it’s padded to protect electronics, has handy pockets for pens and passports, and is lightweight. I used Samsonite soft-case suitcases in the past, for their durability and expansion. Now, I’m all about Away Luggage, which is both hardy and chic.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

I wish I was more selective about my toiletries in the past. Before, I wasn’t great at decluttering my makeup and toiletry bags before each trip — so I carried many duplicate or unnecessary products, adding extra weight and space for no reason. Now, I pare everything down to the minimum. I’ve learned that there’s no point in carrying “just in case” items; I have the right amount for each journey, and never feel I’m missing anything.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

I’m allergic to mosquitoes, and in the past, I wasn’t as savvy about defeating these blood-suckers. Now, I learned that I need to wear camping-strength DEET spray in order to avoid bites; I have Bens 30 and also Bens 100 (which is so strong that it can’t go directly on skin). I also bought a mosquito jacket, which covers my limbs with a netted fabric. Thankfully, mesh is in style right now!

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

What is your best advice for other travelers?

I’d advise travelers to not be afraid of being uncomfortable. Travel is wonderful because it lets you get out of your comfort zone. There are times when things will go wrong, planes will be dellayed, you’ll get lost, and sleep badly… but that’s just part of the adventure. Rather than stressing about these aspects, go with the flow and find joy even in mishaps.

Gothic and Alternative Travel Blogger La Carmina

What will the future bring?

Space tourism is imminent, and will open up a new universe of possibilities in human experience. I’m excited to see where that goes, and how technology will continue to aid travelers. We’re in a great era for travel: there are a million resources on the Internet, sharing economies like Uber and AirBnb to cut costs, and flight prices are at a historic low. Things are always changing, and who knows what can happen… so there’s no better time to pack up your suitcase and go!

Visit La Carmina on her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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