Purchases during Travel
© Becky Linhardt 2012
Travel presents opportunities to buy unique items for your home and for yourself. The best strategy for shopping wisely is to plan in advance – or at least think about a few basic challenges.
Whether it is strolling along the elegant Corso Umberto in Taormina or visiting the tent merchants near tourist attractions such as the Cathedral at Monreale (both in Sicily) you need to prepare in advance with a budget in mind and have the correct amount of currency or accepted charge card. I thought that I was being smart by taking a preloaded charge card that I purchased from AAA. I won’t do that again for two reasons: 1) I found that I like to buy inexpensive things at the street merchants and that requires currency, 2) the American Express card was not accepted by many of the restaurants and shops that I visited AND it was not easy to find an ATM that would accept the American Express card – at least not in Sicily. My girlfriend received a good exchange rate at her bank so she took a charge card for emergencies and took only as much money in Euros as she budgeted for the few extra meals and some souvenirs – that kept her on budget.
The second thing you need to consider is HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET IT HOME! You are either going to need to ship it home or carry it with you but there are those pesky overweight luggage fees. Shipping is possible when you are dealing with a merchant that you can trust and it is possible that if you are with a tour, the guide can verify the trustworthiness of the vendor. I was intrigued by a very unique pottery style in Sicily and the story of how these “face pots” of medieval and Moorish characters were placed on balconies to keep away the “bad spirits.” They were too BIG to fit in my luggage, a bit pricey also, but then I overhear a fellow traveler talking with the shopkeeper about shipping charges (about 60 Euros). I decided to take a photograph instead.
These lacey umbrellas were a temptation because folded they would pack easily but then I realized that I had no place where they fit in my life – as décor or as fashion. Maybe if I had a frilly, Victorian room …… I did purchase a small wood-carved, brightly painted cat from a street vendor nearby. And, since I have made a habit of buying books during travel I invested in some books, in English, about the sites I visited. I also found a hand-bound, tooled leather blank book that looks gorgeous in my living room and someday I will write – poetry?
Others in our group bought food that was packaged: olives they sampled that were in vacuum-packed containers, wine in bottles that were slipped into padded plastic sleeves, and unopened tins of local specialties. Fresh foods will not make it through US customs. Some purchased fine jewelry and wore it home. I have a collection of earrings from past travels. I have also found that textiles pack well but the scarves that I saw in touristy Taormina seemed pricey as did the table linens. I did not see any pillow sleeves. I did see some cute, inexpensive chef aprons for 5 Euros, the same price I paid in 2001 in Florence.
Sometimes the best strategy is to enjoy the pleasures of travel itself, consuming the flavors of the area. The pounds that you put on yourself will not make your LUGGAGE overweight. Sicilians love sweets – enjoy!