When I travel I don’t do much shopping. I don’t enjoy shopping in my regular life, so I don’t understand the allure of this activity when I am away from home. So many vacationers seem to plan their trips around shopping; trinkets and junk shops, buying T shirts that let others know “I was here.” Perhaps they feel like wandering the tourist trap trinket stalls give them an insight into the country or vacation spot. Maybe it is a comforting activity, when away from home. Maybe since I’m not a shopper I just don’t understand the concept. It would seem that if I shopped I would have items to decorate my home with. Maybe all the shoppers out there can say, “See, I brought home a little piece of my travels.” I can understand that because I have my photographs, I have seashells and rocks, thanks to my children, and I do have a few purchased items because even though I don’t enjoy shopping I always seem to travel with people that do shop.
I have a few favorite memories that involve me buying something. Bookstores call me from every state and country I visit, and I love to collect local cookbooks. I like to buy any book in Spanish; this aids and enriches my language learning. The cookbooks are something I can enjoy and share with others as we try the meals. I am putting together my own cookbook from recipes I have learned while in Costa Rica. Food is an excellent way to learn about another country.
Our family took a car camping trip from West Virginia north through Canada and back one summer. I researched places to stay, and added Algonquin Provincial Park to the list. We were travelling in late June and the website I used warned us that June was “Black Fly Season.” I read this fact, but I did not understand the enormity, severity, and depth of meaning to the words “Black Fly Season.” We pulled into the park and selected a campsite on a beautiful warm day. We noticed we were the only campers in the park, and we chose a perfect site on the water. We began to unload our van, preparing to set up the tent. Immediately each one of us was covered, inundated with tiny biting flies, leaving quarter size red marks all over our exposed flesh. It was a plague of pain and irritation. Without one word, all 5 of us went from unpacking to immediately tossing everything into the van, slamming the doors shut, and fleeing from the campground.
We drove into town, killing flies that entered the van, chose a motel, killing flies that followed us, then wondered what to do with ourselves. The outside of the family motel was decorated with iron sculptures and beautiful flowers. We learned that the owner had an art studio back behind the guest rooms. It was a tiny cottage surrounded by artfully planted wild flowers and more of the metal insects and other creative items. The artist spent most of his free time in Algonquin Provincial Park, and he painted the wilderness of the park in all the seasons. I chose a small print of a creek in the snow. Even now when I look at that print, I see not just a snow covered log over a stream, I see a haven from those flies. I see beauty and memory, and I smile. The best moments from any trip are the memories, and the bonds formed.