issue #194 - the wandering one

what goes around really does come around

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 29 year old self.

10 years ago, I had finished licensing the last few products from the SciDose portfolio. My blog was a fairly well-oiled machine and I was publishing 6 posts a week. We were planning some huge trips (a 3-week trip through Asia, a month in Australia), but the walls of our studio apartment were feeling tighter.

Despite these big things, I was feeling lost. I wasn’t ready to dive into blogging full-time. I had a feeling that the pharmaceutical chapter was coming to a close. I had some big dreams - to run a company, to write a book, to secure more travel partnerships, to feel like the path I was on was indeed the right one - but didn’t take action on them.

My friend Neha often talks about the seasons of life and especially career - the season of planting seeds and nurturing the soil, the season of growth and tending to crops, and the season of harvesting. If I could go back to 29 year old Hitha, I would tell her that she’s planting the seeds for the most incredible harvest. She would probably tell me I’m insane and to get out of her face.

I stepped away from pharmaceuticals a year later, almost to the date. Six months after that, I was approached to write How to Pack. With my parents’ immense generosity, we moved into our dream home in our dream neighborhood a year after that. And while 30 year old Hitha thought the book was closed on her pharmaceutical career, I returned to the industry two years later.

And that dream for more travel partnerships? It might have taken the longest - 10 years - but it was worth the wait. This past week, I traveled to Sedona for the ambassador retreat for my partnership with Expedia - a company that was such an integral part of my early pharmaceutical career (I booked all of our travel through the platform).

I soaked in the immense beauty of Sedona’s red rocks and the blindingly blue sky from the back of a pink Jeep and on horseback. I savored delicious food over deep conversations with new friends and colleagues. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of Expedia, in both this experience and the daily gifts they left in our rooms (it made for a tight packing situation, but I managed to literally carry on).

I also secured my United Platinum status with this trip, for the first time in 10 years. I know it’s spectacularly lame to care about things like this, but I do and it made me so happy to see it pop up on my app.

My 29 year old self might’ve felt lost, but she was also prophetic. Everything I had hoped to achieve happened (and privilege was a significant factor), though not in any way I had anticipated or planned for it to. And while each of these achievements - the books, the career, the home, the partnerships - are incredible, the one I’m most proud of is how grounded I feel in life right now.

There’s something really special about knowing you don’t know what’s ahead of you, but you’re exactly where you need to be. I can’t explain it, but I have this sense of anticipatory peace of the future.

No spoilers please, 49 year old Hitha.

This week’s smart random things

I’m enjoying the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce ride, mostly because it introduces the world to the superior Kelce (Kylie & Donna, of course) - I really do think this is the journal that will change my life - I found this Wes Anderson short to be an absolute delight - socks worth showing off - I look forward to Brian Moylan’s Housewives recaps every week, and his latest RHONY one was just so smart and nuanced - this quilted scarf-detail coat is high on my fall/winter wishlist - would read an entire book of Ali’s book reviews - Neeti has the best taste in music and this playlist is the ultimate pick-me-up - chic fall/Halloween decorations

What We Read This Week

Hitha

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna - have you ever been so convinced that you’ve already read a book but never did? That’s me and this absolute delight of a novel, which has been the perfect book to usher in witchy season. It is cozy fantasy at its best and can truly be read any time of the year, but there’s something about reading this on a rainy day, curled up under a cozy blanket with your fall decorations within sight. You can’t help but fall in love with Mika Moon and the motly crew she falls in with, and you’ll hug this book to your chest once you’ve finished. I’m counting down for the second book in Mandanna’s series to be released (next April, drat).

Here After: A memoir by Amy Lin - Amy Lin writes with an intense authenticity and sense of self that, truly, I've never seen before. Over the last three years, her Substack 'At The Bottom Of Everything' has brought so much into my life, so knowing that the story of her and her husband, Kurtis, will soon be available as a full-length memoir. Y'all. I've never pre-ordered something so quickly in my life. It'll be available in March 2024, which gives you ample time to read the full archives of Amy's Substack while you wait.

If you enjoy this newsletter, I would love if you shared it with those you like (and those who think could use some smart things). We’ll be rolling out more perks (free books, 1:1 mentoring sessions), and you’ll have my undying love and gratitude as well.

This Week’s Top Reads:

The Rest Of This Week’s:

Your Questions, Answered

Packing for little kids. So much stuff
Can you go over how you pack for your kids?
This is, by far, the most popular question. Let’s get into it.

There are three big categories when traveling with kids - clothes/accessories, activities, and gear. Here’s my approach when packing for each:

  • For our kids’ clothes and essentials, we either pack it in a large check-in bag (each kid has a side) or in their respective Lo & Sons weekender bags (which have a trolley-pass through so we can carry them with our own carry-on suitcases). Packing cubes are a godsend for kids - I pack their daily outfits in one, pajamas in another, and underwear and socks in a small one. I also roll their outfits and pajama sets together so it makes it easy to get them dressed each day). I also pack a few backup outfits and pajamas because kids will be kids.

  • Each kid has a backpack that I pack with screen-free activities (paint-by-sticker books, mess-free coloring, cling stickers, BrainQuest, a silicone placemat so things don’t slip off). I also pack their water bottles and some snacks in their backpacks. I keep their iPads and headphones packed in my personal item (they’re a last resort activity for us).

  • Now that the kids are larger, we use these harnesses instead of a carseat when we travel. But when they were smaller, we’d load up these giant red bags with their carseats and stroller and check them in (we also stuffed beach toys inside of them whenever we headed on beach vacations).

In my personal item (the Dagne Dover large Landon or CalPak’s weekender), I keep their iPads, chargers, and headphones as well as a change of clothes (for them and myself), extra snacks, and emesis bags. I carry my Naghedi crossbody in the airport and will slip it into the bag right before boarding, and take it out again when we board. Here’s how I pack my Naghedi for travel.

How not to lose my mind with stress/anxiety when traveling with littles
I’m going to focus this on plane travel because that’s what we typically do.

When we fly with the kids, we book 2 window/middle seats in consecutive rows. Rho and Sri usually sit in the front row, and Rhaki and I sit in the second row. If Rhaki kicks the seat in front, Rho is a lot more tolerant than a stranger would be.

We use the bathroom before boarding and right when we land (for a 3 hour flight, we usually don’t need to get up mid-flight). We make sure to have water bottles and a snack on hand when we sit, and we’ll usually entertain the kids with BrainQuest during the boarding and take-off (or they can watch something in the in-seat entertainment - if our flight has it, I’ll take out their headphones out of the big bag and slip it in my crossbody for easy access.

I also pack meals for my kids for long flights - leftover pizza, mini bagels with cream cheese - because I know they’re not going to touch the in-flight offering. If the airport has a Shake Shack, I’ll place a pickup order for grilled cheese and French Fries for them. If the airport has a kids’ play center (like the new LaGuardia), Sri will take them to run it out while I do a Superhuman meditation to get myself centered. I’ll also play a Superhuman anytime meditation in-flight when Rhaki is entertained or sleeping, and I just find this audio to keep me grounded and calm.

Let’s also just normalize the fact that the transit part of traveling with kids is really hard - they’re completely out of their routine, expected to be quiet and still in a confined seat for hours, and they’re kids! We can prepare as much as we can and still have a rough flight, and that’s okay and it’s very NORMAL. We’ve had flights when the kids were perfectly content and quiet. We’ve had flights where they had a rough time despite our best efforts and preparation. When it’s the latter, I focus on the fact that the flight will end - it’s not going to last forever.

Taking a long haul flight with my 3 year old next year and terrified! How do I prepare?
I have flashback of our trip to India when Rho was 3, and he was awake for the first 8 hours of the 10 hour flight. You’re not alone!

Focus on surviving the flight and release yourself of any expectation to thrive in said flight.

If it’s an overnight flight, I would do your kid’s nighttime routine before boarding (changing into cozy clothes or pajamas, brushing their teeth, getting some warm milk from a Starbucks) so you can prepare them for sleep as best as you can. We have these kids’ eye masks and soft headphones to play brown noise to help block out the plane’s noise and light and for them to fall asleep - it sometimes works in just minutes or sometimes it takes an hour, but they will sleep at some point).

For a daytime flight, the tips I shared earlier have helped us immensely (especially packing meals that they are familiar with and love). I definitely pack extra snacks to get us through a longer flight, and we’ll check in bags for a long-haul trip to free up our hands during that journey.

Pack some comforts for yourself. I pack these CBD calming melts, an aromatherapy roller, some of my own favorite snacks, and I have one of my comfort re-reads queued up on my Kindle because I know that’s all I have the mental capacity for.

How to pack and save room for goodies from your travels! 10 days Spain, Paris, Morocco
I pack this foldable weekender bag to pack my new goodies in, and I’ll check in that bag when I’m returning home. For large treasures like rugs or art or wine, I’ll ship them (for me, it’s worth the extra fee and some vendors will offer it while you’re shopping).

Backpack or large tote was a personal item for air travel?
I prefer a large tote (this Dagne Dover or this CalPak) for long flights or when I’m traveling with the kids, just because I need that extra space. If it’s just me for a casual trip, I love my Dagne backpack (super comfortable, has a trolley pass through). If I’m traveling solo for business, I’ll pack a roomy tote that’s also polished enough for work (like my Naghedi tote or this Cuyana tote).

How to pack “light” for toddler? 10 day trip, can access washer, sharing a suitcase with me.
If you have access to a washer, I would pack enough clothes and pajamas for 5 days. You can likely fit all your clothes in a carry-on (toddler’s on one side, yours on the other) and pack your toiletries and accessories and gear in a weekender bag.

The Lo & Sons really is the perfect kids’ travel bag - when the boys were younger, we’d pack their diapers and wipes in the bottom section, the clothes and blankets at the bottom of the main section, and their extra gear (feeding items, travel drying rack and brush, dish soap and their toiletries) on top. We’ve been packing Rho’s gear in his since he was a baby, and I bought Rhaki’s while I was still pregnant with him.

Recommendations for a pre-surgery retreat that’s not “too” expensive
Thank you for sharing the extra details with me (budget, 2-hour flight from SLC or SFO, dates for travel). Here are some beautiful places I’d recommend:

Sedona - Enchantment and Amara are two beautiful properties with an incredible spa and amenities on the property. I would personally go for the Enchantment since they have more activities available at the property (large spa and wellness center, a huge pool and tennis/pickleball, walking trails).

San Diego - the Park Hyatt Aviara has a Miraval spa and some wellness retreat options that look lovely - plus you have San Diego to explore if you get bored on the property.

Palm Springs - the JW Marriott Desert Springs and Miramonte Resort both have large spas and are serene retreats.

Miraval, Canyon Ranch, and Two Bunch Palms are unfortunately booked during your available dates, but they would be wonderful options (maybe consider them for a post-recovery retreat?)

Booking a flight-hotel is likely to give you better pricing on hotels as well - something I learned on our retreat this week 😉

I also recommend you sign up for Expedia’s loyalty program, One Key. It’s an incredible value where it’s easy to get status and unlocks discounts with just silver status, and you gain points and can redeem OneKey dollars across Vrbo & Expedia & hotels.com. It’s also the only program that lets you double dip points/miles - you can earn One Key dollars AND points/miles for your hotel and airline loyalty programs.

If you can add a tip to your book, what would it be?
Not a tip, but I’m even more convinced that a packing app companion (with lists from other travelers, a gallery of what locals are actually wearing in various destinations, and reminders per my packing timeline) is needed. I’m working on a rough version on Notion right now - hit reply if you’d like to be a part of that beta!

Traveling to Florida (3d) and NYC (4d) last week of October. Trying to avoid checking a bag. Advice?
I would rent outerwear and sweaters from Armoire and have it shipped directly to your NYC hotel, to help conserve space! I also use packing cubes for multi-destination trips like these - pack your Florida clothing in one cube, your NYC clothing in another. Also consider shipping your Florida items home.

I used these tips when I traveled to LA and Whistler in a single trip. I had my Armoire shipment with my suit for a speaking gig, a warm sweater, and a coat shipped to my LA hotel, and I packed up all my conference swag and California clothes in USPS flat-rate boxes and shipped them before heading to the airport.

I’d love to see your travel skin and haircare packing situation.
I need to film a Reel on this, but I’ll share what I packed for my 3 days in Sedona:

I packed my daily toiletries in my Cuyana case: toothpaste, tongue scraper, flossers, cleansing balm and face wash, exfoliating wipes, night serum, face sunscreen, body sunscreen, eye patches, and a sheet mask.

My toothbrush comes with its own charging case.

I use the small Cuyana case for my in-flight skincare bag: cleansing wipes, day serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and face oil (usually only for flights longer than 4 hours - otherwise, I pack these items with the rest of the toiletries).

Hair - I try to get a blowout before a trip (or right when I land) to save time and energy on wrangling my hair, and I’ll touch it up with this curling iron (so foolproof even I can use it). I also pack my hairbrush, this styling spray, some bobby pins and a nice claw clip, and hair ties wrapped around my hairbrush handle. For long trips, I pack this set to keep my grays looking fresh.

Packing tips or travel shopping tips to reduce wrinkles
I’ve found that rolling pants helps minimize wrinkles (also it conserves space this way). I’ve tried every technique for packing tops and dresses to minimize wrinkles - minimize folds and folding along seams is the best way to minimize them, but I always travel with this steamer to quickly de-wrinkle my clothes (I’ve tried a number of travel steamers and irons, and this one is the best). Printed tops can disguise wrinkles better than solid colors, and viscose-blended clothing is probably the most wrinkle resistant I’ve found.

What to pack and what to see in London in early November.
Pack a great pair of comfortable, waterproof shoes (like these boots), a waterproof jacket (I love this hooded trench - classic and functional), and a bag that can withstand the elements but still looks chic.

London is one of my favorite cities and still feels like home (we lived just outside of the city when I was 13 and 14). No trip is complete without afternoon tea (Fortum & Mason or The Goring is the best for the traditional tea, Sketch does a very fun one). I love the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain, and the National Portrait Gallery (London’s Natural History Museum is great with kids). But the best way to explore London is to just wander about the city with no real plan, especially through the city’s many parks. London’s parks and playgrounds are epic - Rho keeps talking about them, 5 years later! I love theater and shows, so I would definitely venture to the West End for a show (Lauren Gunderson’s I And You is being performed then with Maisie Williams).

We stayed in a rental in Westbourne Grove the last time we went to London, but I would stay at the Rosewood (solo or with adults) or The Goring or The Landmark with the kids.

I’m happily surprised at how well How to Pack has held up over the past 6 years. If you need some packing advice, it’s worth picking up a copy (and it also makes a great gift - hint hint).

Keep calm, and always carry on.

xo,
HPN

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