Sole Sister Spotlight: Glamourous Traveller Liyana

Friday, January 03, 2014

I met so many wonderful, amazing, inspiring and passionate people at the recent Asian Women's Empowerment conference in Kuala Lumpur. One of them was Noel Lau, the first guy to be featured on Spotlight. Another speaker that I met and connected with was Liyana of Glamorous Traveller who spoke on the topic of Traveling in Style. I learned so much from her that I just had to interview her and share it with you!

What's your definition of a glamorous traveller?

To me, a Glamourous Traveller is a person who refuses to compromise on their personal style just because they’re travelling. It’s a person who would never give in to wearing one of those zipper off khaki pants if they never wear them at home in the first place. It’s a person who is at home in what she/he wears no matter which country they go to. And showcasing it in style!


Is it possible to travel comfortably and still look chic? What are your tips?

Completely! People tend to think in two extremes when it comes to travelling – you either go all out “traveller” wearing travel ‘uniforms’ like khaki pants and one of those white wick free/ mosquito repellent tops (you can tell I REALLY hate those pants) or go completely ‘native’ refusing to wear anything they think locals would never wear. E.g. arriving in India with nothing in your bag and buying up three pairs of saris to wear daily.

For me, the tip is easy. If it doesn’t or never existed in your closet, then it has no place going on a trip with you (have some loyalty to your clothes!). But if in doubt, a pair of comfy jeans and a nice top is always fail safe, or a maxi dress with a cardigan or pashmina.

Me and my jewellery arsenal - NYC

What products do you highly recommend for female travelers?

I’m not much for makeup (constantly runs down my face when I’m travelling) nor one for hairstyling products (my hair NEVER behaves unless it’s in cooler western climates) so I have to say it would be jewellery. Lots of them! I love bringing a variety of choices on necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets. They travel light, take up very little space, but can instantly change up your look. Make sure to mix out your jewellery selection though. Don’t bring just your dainty necklaces, or just your chunky bracelets. Make sure you have a sufficient variety for your trip (and personality).

What are 3 memorable items from your travels?

Oooo. This is a toughie. Especially so since I tend to buy something almost every time I travel.

BlueDress_St Tropez_France

I got this blue dress from my first trip to the French Riviera this year. Throughout the whole trip, my boyfriend was not keen on my going shopping “why come all this way if all you want to do is go into a store?” When we reached St. Tropez though, we stayed with one of his friends. The next morning I told him to go have lunch with his friend for an hour and a half, whilst I zipped and zagged through the small streets of St. Tropez to get my shopping fix. Talk about efficiency! I saw, tried on, and bought the dress in 15 minutes flat. I love the cool colours and the simple but chic cut. It immediately evokes the relaxed elegance of the French Riviera every time I look at it.

Vintage Handbag_Amsterdam

I bought this vintage handbag from the fifties when I was living in Amsterdam. I fell madly in love with vintage hunting when I was living in Europe since you could find so many good stores with amazing items. My favourite was a small shop in Amsterdam called 1953 Retro and Chic. The owner (Kim) is a lady with an amazing eye in sourcing and choosing her items. I’ve gotten so many good things from her store (like a vintage 80’s Christian Dior skirt, Score!) as well as this black vintage handbag. It’s a beautiful piece, structured, has a frame that looks like The Peekaboo bag from Fendi (way before its time), and in strong and supple leather. My favourite part? It’s a foldable bag! Unfolding easily if you needed more space. Talk about futuristic back in the 50’s!

Sleeping bag liner_Vietnam

I figured I should include one of the practical items I’ve found on my trips as well. When I was travelling through Vietnam, I ventured into a lot of stores selling table runners, placemats, and scarves. After a while they all started looking the same. But in one small shop in Hanoi, I noticed a basket that said “100% silk = $1” I was curious. Turns out they were silk sleeping bag liners. I bought one and regretted not buying a whole lot more. Even though their claims for ‘100% silk’ may be dubious, it is still an item I thought was essential for travelling. Anytime you don’t feel 100% sure of the condition of your bed in the hostel, you can always bring out your sleeping bag liner and be rest assured that THAT at least clean. I’ve gone back to Vietnam a few times since then; and noticed that you can still find them in the streets (though the price has gone up). So take a look and hunt around. I found a double bed sized liner in a handbag shop in Ho Chi Minh (what?!) perfect for the travelling couple. 

How many pairs of shoes should a woman bring on a 2 week vacation?

Haha! This has to be the number one post on my website that people come to see. I realize that the magic number has to be three pairs! At least one pair of flip flops or sandals that can get wet (hostel bathrooms can be NASTY), and another pair of flat walking shoes or sandals. The third pair can be your ‘wild card’ depending on what type of vacation it is. It could be a pair of hiking shoes if you were planning to hike, or wedges or high heels if you’re likely to go somewhere more dressed up. Every other day though, something flat for sure.

Spring in Amsterdam

What's the best investment a female traveler can make for products to travel with?

It’s two folds for me. I suggest splurging on some big ticket items to make sure you’re getting good quality products that last. This could be for a good winter jacket that would look good with most of your wardrobe, or a leather jacket that can be worn from Fall to Spring. Do not compromise on your backpack choice as well since you’re going to be lugging this thing a lot in days to come. And you want to make sure you get one which is comfortable and durable, and provides easy access as well as easy to protect.

For everything else though, like general clothes or sundresses, etc. I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money on any one single item. These are thing that will get a lot of wear and may easily disintegrate. And depending on your personality, you’re likely to want to refresh your wardrobe with more incredible finds along the way. So spending a lot of money on any one item may be quite a waste.


How do manage to keep traveling? Is there any special work that allows you to fund your trips?

I’ve been very lucky to have been in jobs that require me to travel. I used to be a Strategy Consultant with one of the big 3 consulting firms. For work alone, I would have to go to Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore, KL, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mumbai. I then took a year off to work with an NGO, which brought me to work in India, China and The Netherlands. When I finally decided to leave my former job, I decided to join one that would really be aligned with my passion; and so joined an airline company.

Needless to say, travelling has been a perk of the jobs I have chosen over the years. I would also take advantage of the fact that I was sent somewhere to use it as a base point and travel to nearby places in between. Apart from that, they also compensated enough for me to easily fund all my travels.

As a female traveler, what was the most challenging country you've been to? And how did you overcome that?

I think the most challenging place had to be India, and also Egypt to some degree. Even though most of the time I would be ok with walking around alone, you could definitely see the direct and extremely obvious stares from men. In India, I’m sure it was more curiosity at seeing a foreigner than anything else. But you do have to trust your instincts when men start changing directions to walk in your way.

I felt the same thing in Egypt as well. Even though I was always covered up, I couldn’t shake the feeling that people, and men especially were watching you all the time as well.

To overcome it, or to not provoke it even more, it is always safer to dress conservatively. You should also make sure to respect local norms in terms of what is acceptable wear. Always always trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe in that situation, never engage, just walk away. Or at worse, walk into a hotel lobby or a shop or a café and wait it out.

Angkor Wat-Cambodia

What's your advice for all the women out there who want to start living their passions but feel like they're stuck?

Women can be very passionate; and sometimes only believe in the all or nothing adage. If travelling is your passion, then don’t feel that the only way to feed it is to quit work and travel the world on a shoestring to find yourself. You can make small everyday changes to help get you out of your ‘stuck’ environment. You could, find a job that can at least enable you to feed your passion, either by compensation, or through other means (i.e. they have amazing travel benefits). Or do small things that at least expose you to your passion. i.e. love conservation work? There are a ton of volunteer programs that you can do ranging from a day, to a weekend, or week long.

If you have a long term goal, plan and deadline in mind to achieve you passion, be patient but dedicated in implementing it. Sometimes just knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel can help fuel and push you along the way until you finally achieve it.

Liyana is a lover of all things fashion and travel related. She was born and raised in Malaysia and has travelled to more than thirty countries, living for an extended period of time in five of them. She believes stylish travelling is possible for all, and loves bringing her everyday clothes on trips with her as she believes this is a true reflection of your personal style and glamour. Read more about her travelling wardrobe and adventures at

Want more? Read other features on Sole Sister Spotlight.

Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters (dot) weare(at)gmail(dot)com. We look forward to your suggestions!

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2 sole trails

  1. Your vintage shopping in Europe was a total success. I have found that depending where you go in Europe, it's hit or miss. In Madrid, it's a little all over the map as far as quality goes, but I have managed to dig up a couple of great stores I make sure to visit every time I am there.

  2. Very interesting topic, thank you for posting. read more


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