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So, You’re Going to Lisbon…What are you wearing?

by Joey Burke and Deri Ross Pryor

Dear Deri,

Can I pack light? I mean, super light? Can I take everything I need in a backpack so I am not checking baggage that will just get lost? Will a pair of black pants be casual enough for every day but adaptable to night life? And will anyone care if I have the same 3 outfits in various combinations for 2 weeks?  Is it possible to wear smart shoes and not look like an American tourist? Would a skirt be better?  A friend told me to tie a scarf on my bag because some places require head coverings. Did you find this to be true?  What else needs to be covered … in a literal and figurative sense?

Dear Joey,

As a violent over-packer, let me say that I wish I could embrace the edict that “less is more,” and never more so than on my trip to Lisbon. Much of what I packed went unused, especially shoes. While I can’t say for sure that you can get away with only a backpack since that is really up to your own personal aesthetics, you definitely will benefit from editing down to the basics. Essentially, lay out everything you want to take, and then throw half of it back in the closet. No one will care if they see you in the same outfit two or three times. If you don’t have a washer in your accommodations, I’m sure someone who does will let you wash a load or two. Dryers are not a common thing over there from what I observed, so steer away from high-maintenance, wrinkle-prone clothing.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that Lisbon is hot. Did I mention Lisbon is hot? Lisbon is hot. Any cute outfit I put on became irrelevant two minutes after I stepped out the door each morning because all I cared about was trying to breathe. I inevitably arrived at any destination sweaty and slightly delirious. (Drink LOTS of water.) The word of day here is COMFORT. You want clothes that are lightweight and breathable. You will be walking quite a bit, so take that into consideration. To be completely blunt, especially for ladies, you have to think about chafing if you want to wear dresses and skirts. Nothing nose-dives a pleasant traveling experience like chafed skin and foot blisters.

Which brings me to shoes. A few days in you will not care if people think you are a tourist. You will be high fiving complete strangers anytime you arrive somewhere without a twisted ankle. Lisbon streets and sidewalks can be treacherous. Added to the steep hills, most are made of cobblestones -- tiny, uneven, evil little cobblestones whose sole purpose is to make you question your own abilities of forward motion. You will see local woman of all ages trotting around in heels and other cute footwear. Do not allow yourself to feel shown up. They are akin to mountain goats, born into an environment they have become adapted to. Our own smooth and even and non-lethal pathways have not prepared us for the athletics required to negotiate their streets in fancy shoes. We are spoiled goats.

In what is probably my one shining moment of proactive thinking in regards to this trip, I invested in a couple of pairs of Skechers with cooling memory foam and traction soles. They looked like casual dress shoes but felt more like sneakers, and went with everything. I brought sneakers and other dress shoes that pretty much sat in the closet the whole time I was there. The Skechers were more expensive than I was comfortable with, but ended up being an investment I still don’t regret. I don’t think I would have survived the trip without them. Kind of like they tell you in the military, foot care is everything. This applies to Lisbon. Guys may get off a little easier in this regard because a good pair of sneakers, hiking boots, etc., is sufficient and will usually go with whatever they are wearing. Women may find themselves a little more stressed with outfit planning. If you don’t already own a pair of shoes that will keep your feet cool, dry, and cushioned while conforming to your tastes and outfits, take thee to the closest shoe store and start shopping. I’m not even kidding about this.

You may want to bring one or two more dressier outfits. Last year, we had a reception hosted by the U.S. Embassy which required some dressing up (the invitation said “smart casual,” the definition of which is still up for some debate). We’re not talking red carpet fare here, but you would still want to be respectful of the venue. If in doubt, email the folks at Disquiet before hand with any questions of what kind of dress codes you may run into with their planned events.

And while Lisbon is hot during the day, there were a few nights that got downright chilly, so do keep that in mind. I started carrying a sweater in my book bag because if I was still out when the sun went down, I found myself shivering from the breeze off the water. So, on top of everything else I just said, you want to add a sweater or jacket, and maybe a couple of warmer outfits, especially if you are prone to getting chilly.

As for the covering of the head, I did not encounter that at all and I’m honestly not sure in what venue that would be an issue. It’s a predominantly Catholic country, so women may still be required to cover their head during Mass. However, I’m not well versed in such matters, so I’m not qualified to give a definitive answer about that. Given that Lisbon is becoming quite the world-wide tourist destination, any faux pas in that regard shouldn’t be too alarming.

Bearing all this in mind, don’t forget to leave room for souvenirs! (*cough* I like chocolates and fridge magnets)

Published on May 13, 2016

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