The Pack: Christina Lonsdale
The Radiant Human artist on how to live out of a suitcase for three weeks straight.
Before I moved to New York, I was lucky to be home four days out of the month. So I was spending a lot of time on the road. I moved to New York right before Halloween and restructured my tours [so that I’m traveling for] about three weeks, all on a quarterly basis.
When you’re gone as long as I am, you need to pack something cozy because you’re bound to be homesick and missing your partner, your dog, your plant, whatever. Or you’re having long days or a long flight. So you’ve got to pack cozy things. There’s this really scrappy sweatshirt that I have that just feels good because it’s so old; it feels like an old friend. And then there are these high-waisted leggings from American Apparel—these leggings are dope, I’ve got five pairs of them.
I normally will also travel with a really light linen throw. It’s for when you’re in a hotel or Airbnb and you don’t know where the blankets have been, but you want to cuddle up and have one on your face; it really helps the cozy factor. It’s nice to be able to have what I call “secrets of home.”
You’ve also got to pack night-out outfits where you can feel like you’re looking your best, and then I have uniforms that I wear for work. Cozy clothes, dress-up clothes, work clothes. I have so many bags [filled with my camera equipment] that I have to travel with, so when it comes to my clothing, it’s like, what’s one more bag? I’m spoiled and got used to my large Rimowa suitcase. I’ll also bring an Isaac Reima leather tote—it folds down so easy, and can become a day bag.
I have a trick where I hold it in my hand for five seconds and if it wrinkles, I won’t buy it!
My biggest secret is I pack all black. That way everything matches, and if it gets dirty you just rub it with a water cloth and it’s fine. Wearing black is central to [Radiant Human] as well, because I like to have the only color coming out of this project the color that’s coming out of your energy. So there’s a whole philosophy to it, but it became really convenient in terms of packing.
I love knits for that reason. When I’m buying something, I have a trick where I hold it in my hand for five seconds and if it wrinkles, I won’t buy it! I also have a Jiffy hand steamer I bring, so if I’m totally dying for it I’ll just steam my clothes. It’s bomb.
Packing just one pair of shoes is the biggest mistake ever; your feet will get so sick of that and you’ll probably have to buy a pair of shoes on the road. I bring a dress-up heel, a chunky heel that I can stand in for long hours or walk in for several blocks, and then sneakers. So three pairs of shoes. And then if I’m going to a beach-type place I’ll add sandals to the mix, if the heels don’t have a sandal vibe.
I’m kind of a dork, and when I have a free day off I dress like the biggest tourist and sightsee with my assistant—tours, baseball games…. When you give yourself the freedom to be playful, you can learn about places in a way you couldn’t have if you just went to the cool, hip spots.
I travel with a vanity mirror because some Airbnbs are the worst when it comes to lighting. If you’re on the road you need a good dry shampoo, and Bumble and Bumble dry shampoo is the best—I don’t like washing my hair that often, because it takes a while and it’s just not good for it. I really love Aesop’s Reverence Aromatique hand wash, and whenever I get that I ask the salespeople for samples and I take those samples with me when I travel—it’s an opportunity to try new things, like toners or facial moisturizers. I’m taking this probiotic called Seed, and I’ve really seen a difference in my well-being and my immunity; if you’re traveling so much, you gotta take care of your insides. And because I talk so much for my job, I bring bronchial syrup.
I like to lay out everything before I start packing. It’s weird, but it helps me prep and not feel like I’m just throwing things in my suitcase.
I like to lay out everything before I start packing. It’s weird, but it helps me prep and not feel like I’m just throwing things in my suitcase. I’m a total day-of packer, but I’m not a frantic packer. I’ve packed so much that I have a routine that I go by. I don’t like doing it too far in advance because then I always need stuff out of my suitcase and I’m messing up my pack job. And then also I feel like there’s more level of anxiety when you’ve packed but you’re not leaving yet. It’s why I prefer morning flights over evening flights: If I have an evening flight, I can’t relax at all that day; I have a departure time hanging over my head, so I might as well just go.
I always bring my camera with me as a carry-on, because it’s a handheld camera from the ’70s and I’m not gonna check that in, no way. It’s huge, so I really just have my personal bag, which is Isaac Reima, and in it there’s my computer, a book that I want to read, my Poketo project planner, and a regular sketchbook.
I also pack two pouches with my carry-on travel essentials. One carries the stuff I’ll need readily available: an extra pair of headphones, Dr. Hauschka chapstick (because my lips always get chapped on an airplane—and this is the best you’ll have in your life), a little bit of rose water, some hand lotion, Olbas Pastilles cough drops, and Visine because my eyes get dried out.
The other is more like my pantry, and that pouch has some Airborne, a little Advil packet, several different types of tea bags, and RxBars. I grew up as a hippie—my dad started a commune in the ’60s that I was born into, and my mom still lives there—and anytime I could eat Kraft Mac & Cheese was a delicacy. So I’m not that snobby about airplane food because sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by it. Like, “OMG, Rice-A-Roni!” Most of the time I’m happy, but sometimes it’s just awful, so then my RxBar is the perfect plan B.
I have a rule that there’s no work on airplanes, because then you learn to hate travel.
I usually dress up for the airplane, because I like that vibe. People treat you better, it’s classier, and there’s a level of respect for your environment. It’s usually a knit dress or something that’s comfortable but not wrinkly. I definitely recommend Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check because you don’t really have to worry about your shoes, which can be really annoying, and you don’t have to take out your computer or anything like that. You just fly through.
I have a rule that there’s no work on airplanes, because then you learn to hate travel. And I want that to be my time. Nobody can call me, I can’t check my email, so I get that time to myself. Once I touch down on the ground, my schedule’s already made for me and I don’t have much choice, so I want to give myself as much choice as possible when I can. So I’ll watch some dopey pleasure movies or catch up on a podcast…whatever I feel like. I really love Alan Watts Podcast, I’m a sucker for an Oprah SuperSoul, and I like Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast.
One of my favorite little things to do on an airplane is ask the stewardess for sparkling water and put a vitamin C packet in there. It’s really great. And if it’s been a long day, you get some vodka in there and you’re done. It’s delicious.