To Shop or Not to Shop – That is the Question

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Oh no….another temptation!
Don’t I need that hat?

One might think that the most difficult part of being on the road full time would be missing family, friends, and familiar territory.  The inconvenience of uncomfortable furniture, constant language barriers and the need to cope  with unfamiliar cultures and customs could also be viewed as wearing after many months.  But the truth is that  none of these challenges really cause us inordinate discomfort any more.  We have learned to be flexible, and we remind ourselves when we’re feeling cranky, tired, lonely or displaced that we are extremely lucky to have the health and energy to continue having  such a rewarding lifestyle and should never grouse or complain.

The problem that does give us the blues, though, no matter where we are, is our self-imposed ban on shopping!  I know that may sound shallow, but I’m woman enough to admit it for all the world to see.  We just can’t help it . We LOVE to shop, and we are constantly being assailed by temptation everywhere from the souk in Marrakech to Oxford Street in London, from that shopaholics’  dream, that endless mall  called Fort Lauderdale to the  scarf and bag nirvana of Florence.  But the most unbearable venue  is Paris.  Every day in that beautiful city causes the agony of deprivation. It’s not that we can’t afford to buy anything, but the very nature of our nomadic life demands that we must follow our cardinal rule:  when we buy something new, something must be left behind.  For this reason, we are forced to peer longingly in windows, sometimes even enter and caress the goods, then sigh and  move on.

The summer skirt.
A big event: a new skirt and blouse!

Every sortie around the city tests our resolve, and generally we manage to look, even touch, but still resist the urge to purchase very much. It was a thrill when summer finally came in July this year and the steamy Paris heat justified the purchase of a few new threads to supplement our wardrobes.  A couple of linen shirts and a wonderful skirt became mine during those  scorching days, and Tim bought a pair of salmon-colored cotton pants, which were all the rage among the French men.  Paired with a loose linen shirt, he looked every inch a Parisian!

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Don’t I WISH?

Strolling along the avenues delights us, but pains us, too.  The designer windows along San-Germaine-des-Prés,  Avenue des Champs Elysées, or Rue de Rivoli  stop us dead in our tracks.  And the shoes….oh, the shoes.  Stunning footwear everywhere, but none in my hideously large 11 1/2 AAA, for which my banker, Tim, is grateful.  We can still stop and stare, though.  Let’s not even get started with Le Gallerie

Lafayette,  Au Printemps and Le Bon Marché, all of which elevate the notion of “department store”  to a whole  new level.  Their wares are completely beyond our price points, but  they do allow peasants like us to wander through their glittering halls gaping at the finer in wonder.

The exquisite goods offered in the brick-and-mortar stores are hard enough to resist, but our masochistic attraction to flea markets and street fairs bedevils us even more.  These events   occur all over Paris on the weekends,  and addicts like ourselves join shuffling masses  slowly making their way through aisles of booths and tables laden with the contents of thousands of attics, dresser drawers, sheds and barns that have been collected throughout the country by dealers.  Fabulous lamps, tables, china, silver serving

pieces, jewelry, crystal, games, sculpture, paintings, oddities  vintage clothing, and much more are presented in the haphazard, colorful way of the street fair, punctuated with vendors selling hand-made crafts, food, and curiosities. People laugh, joke, haggle and have a great time, but it’s exquisite torture for two collectors who no longer own collections or a place to house them.  Our favorite, Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves, was a five minute tram ride from our apartment, and after several visits, we did succumb in some very small ways.  I now possess a collapsible travel cup (well, I NEEDED it, didn’t I?) which tucks into a wonderfully preserved leather case with a little snap.  It’s from the 1940’s and I have invested it with all kinds of

We want it ALL.
We want it ALL.

magical tales about its history.I bought an old silver lapel pin that features Istanbul’s fabulous Hagia Sophia in relief.  It was probably someone’s souvenir from a visit to that exotic city. Of course, I can spin all kinds of romantic tales about its origin, too.  And, best of all, we found a gift for our daughter Alexandra and her family.  The farm where they live in California is plagued by roaming herds of deer, so we could not leave behind the bizarre salad tongs made of deer hooves.  They’re deliciously disgusting and will no doubt be an ice-breaker at  many a dinner party in the Chamberlain household.

Lynne und Tim Marten - US. Amerikaner die um die Welt reisenWe’ve moved on from Paris now, and although Berlin and London do offer their own brand of special temptations, we didn’t find those  cities nearly as upsetting to our acquisitive natures. But we’re not really out of the woods because we will be returning to Paris next summer, where all roads, including the one to Marché aux Puces market lead to Le Gallerie Lafayette.  Hmm….I think I  might just pack really, really light next year!

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  1. Lynne

    Hi Everyone,

    We’re sailing home and will be in Ft. Lauderdale as of the 13th. Will answer everyone then!

    Have a happy time while we’re out of touch, and thank you so much for commenting!!!!!

  2. Michael Zullo

    Buongiorno Lynne and Tim,

    Very good post. As soon as I read the title, I shook my head and laughed. It hasn’t been a problem for me the day we started living and traveling in the world in May 2008 but Virginia is another story. Shopping for a New York City woman comes naturally and it doesn’t end. It’s the biggest spat we have wherever we travel until we settle in at a home base. But that can change quickly when we start to explore the flavor of city and stroll through all the different neighborhoods. Leaving Penang, Malaysia for Istanbul and a 22-day cruise to beautiful Rome wasn’t easy for Virginia to resist shopping, especially at all the ports along the cruise trip but she is just wonderful when she rolls her eyes and sadly moves on remembering we still have 7 pieces of luggage to haul – – only one less than when we left Manhattan almost 5 1/2 years ago. We travel with everything we need for all 4 seasons. However, when it comes to shopping for clothes our rule is: what comes in – something must go out. From time to time Virginia amends our rule by buying a blouse she couldn’t resist and out goes one of my worn t-shirts that saw better days. The most difficult and often shopping we do is trying to find the same sundries we are used to having in NYC like General Mills Fiber One breakfast cereal, Mitchum power gel unscented deodorant, Cetaphil moisturising cream and Neutrogena ultra sheer dry-touch sunblock SPR 85+. Today, we are low on Splenda no calorie sweetener and there’s none to be found in Verona, Italy. Enjoy your day. Ciao, Michael Zullo

  3. Linda

    I don’t know how you can resist so well! I hope to do something similar when I retire for a few years (ie, nomadic traveling), but I imagine I’ll mail things home periodically and ask someone to stick them into storage for me. :)) I know I won’t do this forever, so I’ll want to surround myself with stuff from my journeys. I’m just too much of a collector I suppose?

  4. Patsy ~ Gypsy Grandmum

    I feel your pain! We travel 7 months of the year via housesitting, using only public transport so must be able to carry everything. Like you, my weakness is the flea markets, as well as the numerous charity shops in the UK. I’m looking for a 12-step program for used-book addiction. Happy travels to all.

  5. Judy & Clif Garrett

    Clif and Judy want to wish Lynne a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! We know you will have fun celebrating in exotic surroundings. What an adventure, and we wish we could celebrate with you. Hope we can make up for not seeing you with some FUN parties, and it won’t be long. We also would like to see some of these wonderful pictures in your new book. HUGS &XOXOXO

  6. Sandra Hess

    I hate heavy luggage….some years ago I found I could capture a trip by buying CDs of music I heard in stores, cafes, live music on the road, whatever I enjoyed listening to while travelling. Often I’ll stop a shopkeeper and ask what music they are playing….. CDs are compact (duh, its right in the name) and now I can just download the music, listen to it at my willing, and it takes no room at all. I bought a range of music when I spent a month in Greece. And when I listen to it now….it transports me back to the islands without taking up any space at all in my luggage.

  7. sv4homefree

    Hi Lynne!
    Great article!
    Souvenirs (along with wardrobe) are my greatest concerns! I think they will be my greatest challenges.
    I think if I start now, I may be able to wean myself down by the time I start my journeys.
    Savor the experience, take a picture(maybe even one when I am trying it on;), and then leave the “thing” behind.

    A BIG THANK YOU for including more pictures of yourself and wardrobe choices! Please keep it up!
    Maybe add a Lynne and Tim’s Fashion Corner/Tips to the website 🙂

  8. MerCyn

    I am going to Paris in a couple of weeks with three girlfriends. We have a full schedule but there will be some shopping time, although I have a feeling we will do a lot more browsing and window shopping once we see the eye-popping prices. And husbands will not be along to rein in our spending!

  9. Cathy

    I love to shop, especially when on a trip to a new place, and also found Paris to be a shopper’s paradise. Though the exchange rate kept the urge in check when I was last there. Enjoy your next cities; I’ll be reading along.

  10. Grier

    Hi Lynne – would love to hear more about your stay in England.

  11. Kelly @Try New Things

    I love Galleries Lafayette also but just recently I sold my big home and getting rid of all the stuff was such a big job. I still have a garage full in my new smaller home. Still working on getting rid of the things that I thought that I needed at the time. I know you have been there too.

    So good for you to resist buying all but a few items because somehow they all seem to end up in a box in the garage!

  12. Theresa Hupp

    My husband and I never seem to buy much when we travel. Then back home, we wish we had (we’re not nomads). My problem is that I am very bad at throwing things out — for every new thing I bought, I’d have to get rid of something, and that I could not do. How do we get rid of the old to make way for the new?

  13. Annita

    Oh, Lynne! You hit the nail on the head! Since we’ve been back people asked if we did any shopping. I have disappointed people, I think, because I didn’t really buy any clothes, except a couple things for the heat, like you said. You didn’t mention specifically all the gazillion fabulous boutiques all over Paris. It’s shopping overload and I would have been buying just to be buying because you can’t think straight with all the choices! The shoes! I took stealth pictures of women wearing fabulous shoes to show friends-stealth because it would look creepy if someone had caught me, LOL! I did break down and buy a red bag, however. It will be my lone real souvenir.

  14. Linda

    We absolutely adore the markets in France! It is so hard not to purchase everything…. little jars of honey and jam, bars of delicious soap and of course, whatever we might want to eat that day! Love hearing of your dilemma!

  15. CarolSue Ayala

    Ah, I can so relate. My husband and I started off on our nomadic life about a year ago in a 38 foot RV, after selling our house, boat, horses, etc. on Kauai. The only things we allow ourselves to buy these days are those things we can EAT! It’s so hard now that we are in the wonderful National Parks in the West and want the t-shirts that say “Yellowstone” or “Grand Canyon”, or the new hiking boots that would feel so good. But the trade off is worth it. And think of all the money we are saving for our trips abroad. We plan to store our RV this winter and spend 3 months in SE Asia. I will spend my savings on a Thai massage – daily! Love your blog and can’t wait to read your book. You can see my story at http://carolsuestories.com.