Poh Ling Yeow on Pragmatic Packing

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Dec 01, 2017

The café owner, cookbook author and artist sees travel in black and white. You want colour? Check out her recipes.

Do you pack light?

I go completely for pragmatic packing. In the past couple of years, my wardrobe has changed from lots of colour and arty pieces to strictly black and white and clean-cut lines. I always pack a good pair of black Asics sneakers, black jeans, black, grey or white T-shirts, a black jumper and a Patagonia puffer jacket that goes everywhere with me. Because I’ve shrunk my parameters, it’s so much easier. Once you introduce colour, you have to take so much more.

What’s in your carry-on?

A memory-foam doughnut pillow, which is so unglamorous but I’ve invested in one that actually supports my head. I have a little cashmere blanket, a thin scarf, lip gloss, headphones, my diary and a notepad in there, too. 

What luggage do you use?

My black backpack, which I used to think was really daggy, has revolutionised going to the airport. It forces me to be more organised compared with when I took a big handbag that I shoved everything into. 

How do you spend your time in the terminal?

I clean out my phone. I take a lot of pictures of food and things that give me ideas so it’s a good opportunity to delete anything that doesn’t need to be in there. My work-life balance is not very balanced so I also call people I’ve been meaning to catch up with.

You travel alone for work a lot. Do you enjoy it?

I don’t like it or dislike it; I just find it easy. For work, I’m often travelling interstate alone. But for leisure, Jono [Jonathan Bennett, Poh’s husband] is usually with me. Once I’m overseas, though, I become Mr Magoo. It’s like I can’t manage anything because when I have a chance to relax, my brain vacates. Recently, I had a passport incident: we were about to go to Europe and my passport had expired.

What did you do?

Jono had to leave without me – it would have been silly for him to stay. I got my passport fast-tracked but I missed out on four days of the trip.

Is that your worst travel mishap?

There was another incident where I was sitting at the gate, quite full of myself for getting there on time, when I suddenly noticed it was 15 minutes after boarding. I thought, “These people are really slack, they haven’t announced anything,” then I turned around and realised I was at the wrong gate. It was one of those slowmo “Nooo” moments. The plane was leaving so they couldn’t let me on but they were able to get me on a flight 30 minutes later.

What’s your plan once you’re on the plane?

On an overseas flight, I go on a movie binge. I don’t bother to work – I don’t work well on a plane unless I’m in dire straits. I jot down menu ideas for my café, Jamface [in Adelaide], or ideas for paintings. I usually do everything on my phone but on a plane I like a bit of old-fashioned ink on paper. 

SEE ALSO: How Camilla Franks Turns Her Plane Seat Into a Place of Comfort