Travel Well, Live Well

Today's blog was written by Camille Stallings, a lifestyle wedding photographer specializing in destination weddings. She loves her passport, a good book, and a delicious cup of coffee. This basically makes us soul sisters. To learn more about her story, see more of her amazing photos, and get to know her a little better, visit her website.

To travel well is to live well. And the key to both is nurturing that spark of joy in our lives. 

What daily routines make our hearts sing? Listening to our answers, and then intentionally incorporating these details each day, will turn an ordinary vacation into the trip of our lives

Before I left for our New Year’s vacation in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica, I walked to my favorite coffee bar and ordered a cappuccino. Then, I asked myself one simple question: “What three things would make my vacation truly magical?”

That’s right. Not “nice” or “relaxing.” Magical. 

How to find yourself in costa rica

I didn’t want to travel in order to escape my life. I wanted to travel and discover a new corner of the world. And I wanted time to slow down enough to discover more about myself. 

Yes, I admit that I had high hopes for this trip. But I also did more than hope for it to be great—I planned for it to be great. And so can you. 

Costa Rica perfect vacation spot

Today I’m sharing a list of five items I brought with me to Costa Rica. This is my own personal list, based on what sparks joy in my life (so your list might be vary from mine—the key is to ask yourself what would make your trip magical). And then I boarded my 6:00 am flight from Austin to Jaco Beach with every intention to start the New Year filled with joy and beauty. 

best vacation reads

1. Books: A vacation is only as good as the books you choose. 

Life is a mixture of internal and external experience. So it’s important to take time to read in between all the sailing trips, swimming in the ocean, and eating the most amazing tacos of your life. Even if you just bring one book, make it a good one and listen to what the author has to say. 

This winter, I brought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up because I’m a slob and I was ready to change. I leave clothes draped over chairs, I never fold my clothes, and taking out the trash is a militaristic fight of will. 

So I borrowed this book from my (neat & tidy) husband and read it next to the pool almost every morning. Guess what? It changed my life. Since I’ve been back, I have schedule time each week to put on awesome music, pour a glass of Medoc, and mop the floors and wash dishes. It’s fantastic. It’s like a date with only myself and now I love it. 

This is what I mean by saying a trip can be magical. If you want, it can be an opportunity for you to grow, not just escape. 


2. A hat that you fall madly, deeply in love with. Not only will you feel insanely gorgeous while strolling along the beach after dinner with your husband, but it has a practical side as well. It will beautifully shade your face during the sizzling hot afternoon. (Plus, who doesn’t look hot in Audrey Hepburn sunglasses and an oversized sun hat?) 

Also, it’s extremely photogenic. You’ll look back at your photos from this trip and remember knowing you felt like a movie star in disguise.

3. Two Swim Suits. Nothing spoils that glorious morning swim like wearing last night’s wet swimsuit. 

I knew I wanted to swim every morning before breakfast and every night before bed; and the way I solved this was bringing two suits. But I have a secret: Buy two of the same suit. 

We all fight the yearly battle of finding a swimsuit we love. You know, the magical one that makes us feel comfortable and beautiful (but takes months of tragic shopping trips to find)? So buy two of the one suit you love. And then you’ll always have a dry one to swim at your whim and feel beautiful lounging by the pool. 


4. Fast Drying Nail Polish. Speaking of feeling beautiful, this one is a must. Painted nails turn a casual night out into one with a touch of elegance.

I used to get a manicure before traveling. But within a few days, my nails were chipped. I like to hike, ride 4-wheelers, pick up shells on the beach—all things that destroy a manicure quickly. 

So this time, I opted for a fast-drying nail polish and touched up 3 or 4 times during our two-week trip. I could touch up my nails before I left my house, walk five minutes to get a cappuccino, and have dry nails by the time I’m ordering my coffee.


5. Luxury Linen Wash. Speaking of falling madly in love . . . I am so inspired by The Laundress.This company is based in New York and was launched by these two amazingly inspiring women who believe that cleaning can be beautiful. (Are you seeing a them for my life, here?! ☺) 

I ordered their travel collection a few weeks before we left and I used it every evening before I went to bed. I would walk back to our condo from the pool, take off my suit, and soak it in the sink while I rinsed off in the shower. Then I’d rinse off my suit and hang it outside to dry. 

Who wants to go on vacation and use that ugly, gooey blue Tide? Not me. Not ever again. Nothing screams pampered like luxury linen wash that smells great and feels gentle on your hands. 


Let’s face it: in many ways, travel is a luxury. Finding time to slip away from work and family demands is a treat. But I would also argue that it’s a necessary indulgence: without it, we will burn out. We will be grumpy. We will feel uninspired in life. 

So to this end of living an inspired life—and one filled with sparks of joy—we can plan ahead to make a beautiful, calm, and joyful vacation. If we’re lucky (or just paying attention to our inner voices), we’ll even bring some of the things we discover on our trip back into regular life. 

After all, don’t we want to live as joyfully as we travel?

Photos by Camille Stallings Photography