Sunday, April 29, 2012

Travel and the Proper Shopper

Do you own any of these?

Window decal depicting every member of your family as stick people with mouse ears?
Plastic replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Beret that says Paris?
A coffee cup with the name of a city, state, or country on it?
A naughty t-shirt that seemed like a good idea when you were on Bourbon Street?

I don't know when travel and tacky souvenirs became synonymous but it was probably when the first Barbarian child received a t-shirt that said "My father sacked Rome and all I got was this lousy shirt."

I'm on a mission to have people stop this kind of common and unsatisfying travel shopping.  It's what most people do. Tacky little souvenir shops abound in places with heavy tourist traffic. After you have been in one I can promise you that you have seen what will be in every other one. Do you honestly want 3 shirts for $10 from the Alabama Gulf Coast? There is a way to spend your money more wisely and enjoy the purchases you make for years to come.

Focus on 2 things:

What is something you (or the person you are buying a gift for) use in your everyday life?

What is the area you are traveling to famous for producing?

Do a little research before embarking on your trip. Is the region famous for a particular type of food, textile, glass, pottery, or activity?

Plan on spending a bit more and buying less.

This look, at a pastry shop in Assisi, is easily recreated at home.

In England, instead of picking up a shirt that says "London" you may want to take your teenage soccer playing son a jersey of the local favorite team. The English are famous for their gardening skills and related gifts abound from watering cans to garden gloves. In Italy the food, wine, and olive oil possibilities are endless. In Mexico a blanket woven in traditional colors, a bowl for your home made salsa, or a bottle of vanilla would be better choices than maracas, unless you play in a mariachi band on the weekends. And no one, NO ONE wants the giant sombrero unless you are bringing it with a bottle of tequila like the one you were drinking when you bought it. No, even then, bring the tequila, leave the sombrero.

A classic and stylish piece of clothing, a leather bag or belt, or some decorative item for the home are good ideas. In any city look for local, quality, kitchen stores if you are a cook. Picking up an item that you will get lots of use out of and will remind you of your trip is a choice you won't regret. Lovely dish towels from a better linen store will give you joy and bring to mind pleasant memories, for years. If you love flea markets find one in your destination city and scour the stalls for something unique and unusual that goes with your decor.

Remember that we live in a world, where everything is available to us online. For this reason I don't recommend purchasing books very often while traveling. I do make exceptions for unusual second hand book shops or volumes found in antique stores. Books are among the heaviest items you can lug home. You could even conceivably see something in a store, order online from your hotel room that evening, and have it waiting for you at home upon your return. 

If you see something that you absolutely fall in love with, know you will use, and it's a quality it. Especially if it is hard to find or in a thrift store or flea market. You likely won't get another chance. Anything in a museum gift shop or major store however, you can easily find on the store's website and have it shipped right to your door.

One last thing. Take lots of pictures. Those are your real travel treasures. You might even want to consider spending more on a camera for the trip of a lifetime and less on chachkies. Besides taking pictures of yourself at every important landmark, you can take pictures of flower arrangements, landscape ideas, interesting food/drink presentations, or interesting decor that you may want to recreate at home. You may come home with a new recipe or the love of a new food. Remember that you are trying to evoke a memory of a happy time, that doesn't necessarily have to be weighed when you check in for your flight home. 

Go forth, and spend wisely.  

Happy travels and shopping, y'all!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Owner's Travel Confession

 Today's post is a guest post by my owner, Madame Housewife:

I will confess to never having been homesick. I have been desperately ill and wanted to be home, but it isn't the same thing. Never once when traveling have I missed anyone at home, not even children (there goes the Mother of the Year Award). Such is the lure of a far off sunrise. Sometimes when traveling I hear other people speak of how eager they are to give a loved one a gift they have purchased for them.

"Can't we just ship it to them and stay here?" I think to myself. Isn't it the thought that counts? (There goes the Friend/Wife/Daughter of the Year Award.)

The proximity of other interesting places fills me with a particular form of want. When first I went to Italy I thought how easy it would be to get to Greece. Later when I traveled in Greece I thought how easy it would be to go to Turkey. England makes me think how close I  am to Scandinavia. Central America lures me south to the Amazon and Andes...and so on...

Sometimes snippets of poetry, the odd movie line, or fragmented ideas from favorite books swim to the surface in my mind. Things like "set sail for ports unknown" or " I'm going out exploring one day, you watch." I come alive in strange places. I'm inspired. I'm hopeful. I'm ambitious. I imagine that I will come home and do all the things I've been putting off. I'll make art. I'll write more. I'll do tai chi in a park at sunrise.

Then I return to my house.

I put tiny  soaps from the hotel in the bathroom closet. I do laundry. I hoist my suitcase to the top shelf of the office closet and as I do dreams slip out of it and disappear into the ordinariness of the everyday. I suddenly think how hard it is going to be to find a tai chi class in the south. And how fierce the mosquitoes are at dawn.

There must be a way of capturing that feeling of possibility I have when traipsing around strange cities and making it last past the moment I put my key in my own door and wonder if the house always smells like this...

The reason for the change in familiar surroundings, I am at a loss to explain. Perhaps my muse is an elusive creature frightened off by the enthusiastic greeting of my dogs when I enter. Maybe everyday life just crowds out creativity. Could it be that my creative seed just longs to be scattered to the four winds instead of making dinner?

I'll bet there is a soul killing agent in laundry detergent ."Guaranteed to get out the stain of the quest for adventure no matter how deeply it is set in."

Okay, that's a bit dramatic.

But see what happens when I spend too much time at home?

(There goes the Housewife of the Year Award.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Travel = Happy

My happy owner atop Mr. Vesuvius.
I don't know if getting there is still half the fun or not, with flight attendants cursing passengers and pilots having melt downs mid flight. I doubt it. But planning what you will do once you arrive, imagining how much fun you will have, and envisioning what you will wear is lots and lots of fun. Madame is now in the midst of planning a trip that will take her to places she knows little about, so research is in order.

When studies of happiness are done, it isn't surprising to learn that spending money on experiences is a better investment than buying material objects. Once basic needs are met, THINGS offer up little satisfaction. The break or become obsolete. We often have buyer's remorse. It is the life blood of yard sales.

It's hard to imagine a trip you wish you hadn't made. Researchers tell us that not only is the journey itself contributing to your happiness, but you also enjoy the anticipation and planning, and talk about it for years afterwards making it a stable investment in your quality of life.

So the next time you are thinking about making a big purchase, especially because you are depressed or in a rut,  you might want to call your travel agent instead.

Happy travels, Y'all!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...