There are a lot of things you can do while traveling. Visit historic and cultural sites. Soak up the sun on the beach. Just lay back and recharge. Take day trips to explore the country. All these are wonderful ideas, but if you are married to the world’s greatest shopper, the plan is to really explore the shopping. It doesn’t matter whether it is a high end women’s store or a grocery market. The “Y” chromosome kicks in and I am along for the ride. With my vast background on this “walk along” I thought you would like some suggestions on how to handle the experience.
Absolutely take along a book to read– and grab the husband’s chair as soon as you enter the store. Particularly if you are in a women’s clothing store and your spouse is trying on clothes, you can blow a lot of time. The book won’t solve the damage to the credit card, but it does help the time pass. If you definitely do not want to agree to a purchase, don’t even go into the store, just lean against the wall outside and tell her you want to absorb local culture by people watching. Even better, plan a solo event so you can go do something by yourself, thus avoiding the shopping thing, such as visiting the Podunk military museum to check out the uniforms and weapons from the 13th century.
If there is something you want to buy, she is usually so excited that you are “buying” into the shopping thing that anything goes. Unless you really like the search for the perfect office staff gifts, don’t ever begin bringing back those cute little native crafts, magnets, local candies, etc. From experience it can be mind wracking and very stressful finding 20 cheap things that don’t fill up the suitcase!
Don’t ever agree to a big purchase when you are half way around the world. No giant clay pots, large paintings with huge frames, complete sets of dishes, etc. unless it is to be shipped home. When in Bethlehem (Israel, not Pennsylvania) my wife on the 2nd day of a 14 day trip buys the perfect olive wood crèche scene weighing about 40 pounds. If shipped it would not arrive by Christmas, so I get to keep lifting this (I am now sure it weighs 60 pounds) box in and out of buses, hotel rooms and on to airplanes. From experience (including paintings carried on to airplanes) please put your foot down, exercise your rights, no more huge (in retrospect I think it might have been 80 pounds) travel purchases!
Try to reach an agreement with your spouse that you don’t have to do all of the Christmas shopping on this one trip. There is a lot to say for moderation. Stepping over the quantity line can become a very large problem. It seemed like such a good idea at the time to buy everyone (and their uncle and related siblings!) an Irish sweater when exploring western Ireland. There must have been 10 or 12 sweaters that we had to figure out how to pack for the return trip. The good news was that at least they didn’t weigh anything close to the 90 pound crèche.
It is not shopping, It is …..
“Learning About The Current Culture Of The Region”
When traveling if you visit just the museums and the churches you learn only about the history of the country, but if you visit the supermarket you find out how the people shop, what they eat and much about how they live. I admit I do usually have at least one day when I am serious about shopping. On this day I am looking for local items that will make for unusual Christmas gifts for the family and of course items that will remind me of the trips we have taken. ( I would like to note that those inexpensive works of art that are unframed so they are easy to take home can end up being very expensive by the time they are framed!) The rest of the time I am merely enjoying the active and very different life styles of people from around the world, I am not shopping! How can you understand people who live in England if you don’t spend a fair amount of time at Harrods? It would be like going to Ireland and never eating in a pub or buying a sweater.
By the way, to put Tom’s comments about shopping into perspective you should know that the crèche was purchased on the 5th day of a two week trip, actually stayed on the bus most of the time, and weighs 10 lbs. Mary Ann Warren
(Published in the Winter 2007 issue of ABA JD Record) (Published in the Fall 2007 issue of Experience Magazine of the American Bar Association under the title of “His Story: Survival Skills” and “Her Story: Cultural Education)