Ayse Birsel's Four Quadrants of Travel (Packing)
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Monday, November 09, 2015
By Ayse Birsel
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*Ayse Birsel, renowned designer and author of Design the Life You Love, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future, shares us how she uses this philosophy from the moment she starts packing for travel.

Photo courtesy of Ayse Birsel


Travel Essentials

According to Ayse Birsel, Author of Design the Life You Love


I love traveling and currently I am on a great book tour for my book Design the Life You Love, published by Ten Speed Press. The tour is taking me from New York City to SF, LA, Seattle, Portland and Boston. In one month! With this much travel I decided to think about the essentials of travel, the things I don’t want to leave home without. In other words what are the ingredients to design the travel I love!




When thinking about essential ingredients it is important to see the big picture. My favorite tool for this is called Four Quadrants, one of the first exercises in my book. Four Quadrants help us think 360º to consider the emotion, physical, intellect and spirit of something. In this case, travel!


Here are then my travel essentials, across four quadrants of emotion, physical, intellect and spirit:


01. My Emotional Travel Essential: Something From My Kids


My daughters often give me a little something to take with me—beach stones they’ve painted with clouds and a flip flop; notes with hearts; a bracelet they made. Seeing or touching them in my bag, next to my passport or purse, I feel whole. Now that they’re growing up in to teenagers, I hope they wont grow out of this habit. This is the very emotional part of my packing.


02. My Physical Travel Essential: Issey Miyake Pleats Please


When Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake created a new travel collection, he took wrinkles—a nuisance and a constraint of traveling—and translated them into a fabric with specially designed permanent pleats. The result was Pleats Please, my clothing of choice for travel. They don’t wrinkle, they’re light weight, you can layer them according to the occasion and weather, wash them overnight and dripdry. They’re so comfortable that I call them my PJ’s. 


03. My Intellectual Travel Essential: A Good Book


I read when I travel. Waiting at the gate, in my seat on the plane, going to sleep in my hotel room, having dinner by myself. All perfect moments to continue my reading from where I left off. This is the intellectual part of my packing, my curiosity and entertainment. Books read on the first leg of my book tour: The Martian by Andy Weir, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed; now reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. 

04. My Spiritual Travel Essential: Blanket From Home


I had to think about this for a moment until I remembered something I used to do: packing a little blanket from home. Like an adult security blanket! Once I arrived in the hotel I would put it on the bed and the room would immediately feel like mine. I’ve fallen out of the habit of doing this but now that I have reminded myself of it, I will pack one. There is much change and new in travel—new cities, hotels, views, people, language, food—that having a little security blanket to remind me of home makes me feel grounded.


So these are my essentials for traveling. What are yours? Pick one thing in each category—Physical, Intellect, Emotion and Spirit—that is essential to your well-being and pack them next time you travel.


You can find more creative tools to think about life in Design the Life You Love, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future. Ayse Birsel is an award-winning designer, and author, living in New York City with her husband and partner Bibi Seck, and their two daughters. Her favorite destinations are Istanbul, Dakar and Paris, and going back home to New York.

To learn more about Ayse visit

Design the Life You Love, A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future can be purchased via direct link here through Amazon.

*The illustrations in this article were drawn by Ayse Birsel.




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