During a recent month-long trip to Bali, I finally became okay with not wearing make-up. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually a big achievement for me. Usually I wouldn’t dare leave the house without makeup on. I am very self-conscious of my skin – my blotchy complexion from years spent in the Australian sun, the dark circles under my eyes that show the signs of my insomnia, the sporadic appearance of pimples that skipped my teenage years and decided to make their debut during adulthood. I usually cover all of this up.
Whether I’m going to work or even just a walk up the street, I lather on the concealer and smooth on foundation to hide my blemishes. Heck, I even blot powder under my eyes when I am going to the gym. It’s never been about vanity or what others think of me; it’s my own self-confidence (or lack thereof) that has led me to live a life of hiding behind a mask.
But something happened in Bali. I stopped giving a fuck.
Appearance suddenly became a “who cares” affair. Make-up went from being a non-negotiable part of my morning routine to a non-existent task. The unbearably hot weather and constant stickiness in the air meant it would instantly melt off with salty sweat anyway. Not only did it feel gross wearing foundation in a 95% humidity tropical climate, but I legit stopped caring what I looked like. I barely wore makeup and I didn’t let the fact a couple of pimples were exposed affect my confidence, or my day.
There is something about travelling that changes our perspective on what is important. Showering becomes a once every second, sometimes every third day thing (because swimming at the beach or jumping in the pool totally counts as washing too). Clothing gets worn on repeat for as many times as possible before masking unpleasant smells with deodorant loses its effectiveness. Hair goes unwashed for days – either covered up with a hat or scrunched up in to a messy-bun somewhat reminiscent of a birds-nest. Sometimes even “teeth brushing” gets replaced by chewing a piece of gum or gurgling some mouthwash. It’s just that our priorities change. There’s shit to do and people to meet. Places to go and shit to see. Ain’t nobody got time for excessive personal hygiene.
I have travelled before, usually for weeks or months at a time, and on every single one of these trips I didn’t go a day without wearing makeup. Sometimes I would even rise early in the morning to sneak into the hostel bathroom before anyone else emerged from their hangover slash jetlag slash both to put on my face for the day. Because #iwokeuplikethis. I couldn’t bare facing the world as foundation-free me. Even when it was just my travelling partner who would see me, self-consciousness always won.
Ridiculous I know.
Yet something changed this time round. I can count the number of times I applied a full face of makeup on one hand. Two fingers in fact. Some days I would sweep on a thin layer of mineral powder to cover up sunburn but most days it was al naturale baby. While to some this could seem like a meaningless and kind of vain feat to celebrate, for me it is a milestone. Finally feeling comfortable enough to ditch the cosmetics and just roll with it is insanely elating.
I’m still self-conscious about my imperfections. Aren’t we all? But I am embracing them and learning that life is much more free when you focus less on appearance. Now my next challenge is to implement this “traveller’s mentality” into everyday life. Just maybe not the minimal showering part. There are some hygiene rules that shouldn’t be broken.
Cover by Allie Brook