Monthly Archives

November 2015


Choosing to Remember: Reflections on Auschwitz

November 28, 2015

A difficult day-trip to write about, but writing about it is necessary. Auschwitz is open to the public so that the public remembers and does not forget. In fact, one of the first things visitors see when entering the former barracks and current museum portion of the grounds is a black sign that says the following:

So today, we’re remembering.

Auschwitz isn’t so much a place that you want to see as it is a place that you must see. It’s almost impossible to describe – the gates we saw in history books, the places where unimaginable atrocities were committed against people groups regarded as a disease to be eradicated in life, and a commodity to be exploited in death. We were shown hair shorn from corpses that had been turned into fabric and mattress stuffing; told of ashes used as fertilizer and bodies used for experimentation. It is all unspeakable, and yet it must be spoken of.

Our tour guide called the grounds that are left of Auschwitz II Birkenau a cemetery. We saw watering troughs fit for cattle and lines of exposed toilets, heard stories of priests who entered starvation chambers to save the life of another who cried out in fear. There were cattle cars and loading docks and pictures of human beings standing before other human beings as they waited to be signaled right, toward death, or left, toward living hell. It is a soul shaking experience to see the eye glasses, and the luggage, and the pots, and the brushes, and the shoes of thousands of people – red shoes with low slung heels, work boots, children’s shoes – piled in endless heaps on either side of you, pressing physically against glass and in every other way against the mind’s ability to comprehend; looking so much like piles of garbage but at the same time so much like the hopes of someone who believed they were going to a place where such things could be used and loved again.

The anguish of the extinguishment of life is everywhere. It was only at Auschwitz that we could begin to understand the lack of presence, or identity, felt in many aspects of Poland. Millions of the people who had once shaped it are gone. Original buildings that were utterly decimated have been reconstructed with a semblance of age, giving towns, streets, and corridors an atmosphere akin to a movie set. Demarcations on the ground bear witness to facts like, “The 1943 ghetto wall was here.”

There are not enough words to describe the emptiness of Auschwitz. The searing “Why?” of that place and the dark history it is linked to can never be fully answered. It is impossible to begin to understand what Poland is outside the context of World War II, and feeling the impact of the absence of the once-vibrant Jewish community that is now a fraction of what it once was. So places like Auschwitz must be seen. We are thankful for the chance to remember, and not forget.

memorial flowers at the end of the train tracks | Auschwitz II Birkenau

Europe Fashion Gear

What I’m Wearing While Backpacking Europe: Month Two

November 4, 2015

Karley here! As promised, I’m back with part two of the I’m-not-a-fashion-blogger-but-I’m-posting-travel-fashion-pics-on-our-blog series, otherwise known as What I’m Wearing While Backpacking Europe! (Whatever you want to call it, it’s a mouthful.)

Seriously though, I’ve had a lot of fun with this and I hope that y’all have, too! I also hope that three gold medals and some kind of official-looking document filled with words of praise and affirmation will be waiting on my desk when I return Stateside in a week (!!), because trading in my admittedly maximista closet for an ultra-minimalist travel wardrobe has been some kind of THANG. Then again, now that I’ve learned how to make it work, I can honestly say (without crossing my fingers behind my back) that I don’t think I’ll ever travel with full-sized luggage again. More on that crazy declaration later…for now, let’s get on with part two of this little series!

Okay, so I’ve already told you what’s inside my Osprey Farpoint 40. Since we’re talking about the “why” behind each item of clothing I selected in this post, I thought I’d show you exactly what my capsule wardrobe contains!

Ultra Light (and comfy + chic) Packing List: Europe 2


Not pictured: two pairs of tights (black and grey), four pairs of socks (all wool), three pairs of shoes (flats, ankle booties, and Nikes), a pair of Nike jogging pants (which I never actually jogged in but DID wear around our various hotels and apartments like sweatpants), and 10 pairs of underwear (highly recommend stocking up on your favorite style of these before your next trip, ladies!). That’s ALL. And as it turns out, it was more than enough!

and yes, you have permission to play the Usher song now

1. I could have done without the flats. I imagined myself dressing up for lots of chic dinners at European cafes lit by candlelight, but guess what? It turns out that A. we cooked a lot of “grocery store gourmet” meals in our apartment(s) B. my ankle booties looked just as chic when we did decide to dine out, and C. the flats feel approximately 1,000 times less comfortable on my feet than the other two aforementioned pairs of shoes I packed. So 99% of the time, they got passed over.

2. I should have taken fewer tops. I’m shocking myself by saying this, but it’s true. I wore my cobalt blue flowy top maybe three times on this trip, and that’s mostly because I felt guilty for not wearing it very much. As for the black flowy top with three-quarter length sleeves? Wore it once. Probably because I imagined pairing it with the flats that never hit the pavement.

3. I would have liked an extra pair of shorts. 
Blue jean shorts, to be exact. We were in sunny Croatia for an entire month, and while I love my Prana shorts, they got old after plus or minus 30 days of consecutive wear.


4. I would have traded a year’s worth of chocolate to have another scarf in rotation. 
That’s obviously a lie, but you get the point. I love my pink scarf, but I really, really, really started to miss the cute patterned guys decorating my closet at home. My plan was to buy a scarf or three on the road to function as combined souvenirs and wardrobe remixers, but literally until two days ago, when the most perfect Slovenian scarf wrapped itself around both my heart and my neck, I did not find a single scarf on our trip without a “made in China” label. Okay, that’s another lie. I found one on Hvar Island in Croatia…but it was over $100. So gorgeous, but so not in the budget.

5. I had to buy gloves on the road.
 Didn’t pack them initially, but that’s only because I honestly don’t think I have a single matching pair of gloves at home (and that’s because I’m from Texas and we’re currently living on an island in South Carolina). So I picked up a pair of black gloves with “texting” finger pads and cute black fur balls sewn to the front while we were in Romania. I think they were probably also made in China, but they make me feel like Audrey Hepburn when I wear them, so that’s okay.

pictured: my brand new Slovenian scarf + made in China, bought in Romania gloves! 


How did I go about selecting each item in my carefully-assembled capsule wardrobe? Well, that’s easy. I took all of the advice my adventure-loving, travel-savvy husband had to give, and Googled until I found the most fashionable version of each functional piece of clothing he recommended that I bring along. For example:

  • Patagonia long johns  (the fabric, color, and structure of the shirt lets it double as a regular long-sleeved top)

  • A convertible black dress from Nordstrom (it’s equally flattering as a strapless dress and a maxi skirt!)

as a dress in Croatia

as a skirt in Bosnia (worn with black long sleeved top + zip fleece)

  • Athleta pants from Gap (they’re convertible, but not dorky – okay, they’re a little dorky…but super comfy)

  • Patagonia zip fleece (it’s no leather jacket, and trust me, I feel pangs of jealousy every time a chic European woman passes me wearing one…with her patterned scarf…but it’s a great basic and an even better layering piece)
  • Patagonia rain coat (it has the always-in-style shape of a classic trench, and when combined with my zip fleece and nano-air jacket, it transforms into a winter coat!)

It’s also worth noting that I built my wardrobe around one unifying color palette. Every piece I packed was either black, grey, or jewel-toned, which made it extremely easy to mix-and-match and/or get dressed in the dark (4 a.m. wake-up calls for seven-hour train rides are no joke).

picture: Ljubljana + Bled, Slovenia

pictured: day trips in Croatia and Montenegro 

I’m planning on sharing more information about the three pairs of shoes I took to Europe + which beauty products made my must-have list in the future, but before that happens, Taylor will be filling you in on the what-and-why behind the functional gear we brought along for the trip. If you’re not usually into  gear talk, I promise you this post is going to be an exception. I can’t wait for y’all to hear about all the ways our DIY Duct-Tape roll has come in handy during our journey through Eastern Europe!

PS: If you have any questions about how to build a capsule wardrobe or would like more details about any of the pieces I selected, please ask away! I also highly recommend stopping by Travel Fashion Girl – tons of great wardrobe ideas, packing lists, gear reviews, and more. Happy traveling!