Most people buy souvenirs when they travel. I seem to buy clothes.
Not because I’m a fashionista (believe me, jeans and sweatshirt are my favorite outfit). Not because I intentionally set out to remember my travels through apparel. But something always seems to come up to make the clothes in my suitcase inadequate.
There was the time I went to Germany for two months to study the language and travel. Who expected torrential rain in July and August? New German rain jacket to the rescue.
In my zeal for packing light on a two-month trip to Europe, my travel wardrobe included minimal color options (as I wanted every top, sweater, pants, skirt to match). It was only when I “dressed up” to go to a concert in Budapest one night that I realized that all the black made me look like something from a horror movie. The green scarf I bought at Budapest’s Central Market Hall has become a constant companion. It adds a splash of color and dresses up any outfit, but is lightweight and surprisingly warm when wrapped around my neck on a cold day.
In Abu Dhabi, an appropriate way to experience one of the richest cities in the world was at one of the most expensive hotels in the world. Of course, my budget does not run to spending $800 a night on a suite (and I was staying with a friend anyway). But it could spring for a day pass to the beach club (also expensive, but financially feasible for the experience, especially since it included a camel ride). My lack of bathing suit was easily solved at a local mall (no shortage of those—Google lists more than 30 mall options in Abu Dhabi). The suit looks a little like a tablecloth for a church picnic, but it was cheap (had to save money somewhere) and it fit.
My latest clothing adventure was in Germany earlier this month. It had been in the 70s and 80s the week before I left home. Even though I knew it was cooling off a little for the weeks I would be there, I didn’t pack for temps in the 30s and 40s (and snow!). After all, it was May. Fortunately, a frantic text to a local cousin “Ute, quick! What’s the equivalent to REI in Germany?” set me up with a nearby sports store and fleece jacket. (I suppose I could have googled, but Cousin Ute is a more reliable source.)
Although purchased out of desperation, many of these items have become favorites. I have fond memories of Baltic adventures when I wear the puffy coat I bought in Lithuania (to replace a jacket lost at a Polish airport) when I visit North Dakota in winter. The fleece-lined jacket from the San Juan Islands (honestly, it was 95 degrees the day before . . . how could it drop to the 50s for whale watching?) is my favorite “wander my Seattle neighborhood in winter” jacket.
I guess a travel souvenir is whatever brings back memories of your travels. And in my case, memories of wardrobe desperation.