The photographer Isabelle Mertens is a great observer of the human condition. She wanders with her camera, capturing snapshots of rivers on remote islands, cups of tea and windows that open out onto the beyond. She recently published a collection of her photos entitled ‘Tourist’, recounting her many journeys and the collection of keepsakes she has brought back from the four corners of the world, to her boutique Zao, in Brussels.
Are you more of a hand-carry, trunk, suitcase or no baggage person ?
It all depends on the destination, the length of the trip and what I am going to need. I prefer light and practical luggage. A couple of years ago I was given the Ganesh bag, which is from Eastpack, and I use it all the time because it is so practical. It is half backpack, half suitcase with wheels. And also its particular design and flashy print, a bit kitsch, makes it easy to spot on the tarmac
Is your suitcase very organised or a bit of a jumble ?
I am not methodical whatsoever and the preparation of my suitcase is always a moment of huge stress and frustration. With me, practicality prevails, with a little touch of fantasy. As my bag has two sides, if I don’t want something to be creased I’ll put it in the stiff side. Having said that, whenever I look for something at the bottom of the bag, everything is creased after three seconds !
What are the essentials for your suitcase ?
My travel wallet that I bought in Indonesia. Not because I am obsessive, but because I’m always worried about losing documents or money, but since I have had this wallet that has never happened to me. If not, I have a photo box, an old silver photo box, which I feel naked without. Other than that, it varies with each journey…
What kind of wash-bag do you have and what are its essentials ?
My wash-bag is green and pink cotton, by the French brand ‘Les Touristes’. It has disadvantages because medicine packets get squashed in it, but it also enables me to flatten them to make space. I always have insect repellent with me. And then I just bring the basics: moisturiser, brush, toothpaste… Depending on my destination, I bring perfume so I can smell like myself, which is ‘Mûre et Musc’ by the perfumer l’Artisan
What do you bring back from your travels ?
Anything and everything. I like hats, materials, and I have a beautiful collection of little Buddha statues. I also like to bring back something that comes from the earth, like a pebble or stone. Playing with them in your pocket or your hand is very relaxing when waiting for a flight
Packing my suitcase is a moment of great stress and anxiety. However, I always do it at the last minute and it is always ready in ten minutes. With its flashy colours, my bag is easily spotted on airport tarmacs. And it has less risk of being stolen