By Beth Klemick
The other day I was taking inventory of the various knick-knacks and purchases around my apartment; I have accrued many items from my world travels that are proudly displayed and even worn to date. For the most part, all of my purchases have been ones I look back fondly and only a few that still have me pondering what was I thinking? Everyone has different tastes, styles and interests about these types of purchases. Personally, I tend to opt for uniqueness with my travel purchases.
While in Madrid I splurged on a jacket that I knew I certainly would not be able to find across the Atlantic, at least not for another year or so. Fashion trends in Europe are more advanced and up to date, and by the time we get around to experiencing a trend it is already so passé in the fashion world. My all time favorite store abroad is Mango. I became a Mango junkie thanks to my very good Dutch friend, and whenever I travel, especially in Europe, I seek the store out immediately.
There have been times that I have regretted not getting a particular purchase while traveling. While visiting Jaipur, the famous "pink city" of India, a friend and I took a tour of a silk factory and store. The staff on hand was extremely welcoming and took the time to dress each of us in traditional saris. After taking a few pictures of each other, I pondered buying my luxurious green embroidered sari and eventually declined. At that particular time I believe I made the right decision, but now looking back on pictures of the beautiful fabric I do regret not making that purchase. My mom regrets that I did not buy her one of the silk rugs. Eight years ago I had no idea what a silk rug from India would cost in the United States; eight years later she still reminds about how I could have gotten her a beautiful rug for half the cost. Live and learn.
My all time favorite purchase was and wasn't a physical item. I purchased an exquisite soapstone and onyx chess set in Mombasa, Kenya. The best part of that purchase was not only receiving the detailed history of the vendor's life and family but was also the ability to give a gift to them. Joseph was very proud of his craftsmanship, like in many less developed countries, goods and necessities are few and far between. He was not as concerned about the monetary aspect of the purchase but curious to know if I had things like socks, markers/crayons, toothpaste, paper, and so on to exchange with him for the chess set. The next day I returned with $18.00, 6 pairs of white tennis socks, a tube of Colgate, a packet of blue Bic pens and one 200-sheet notebook, Joseph's face lit up like a Christmas tree. With a big smile and a hug he thanked me profusely for the items, especially for the pens and notebook paper because his six-year old son loved to draw and handed me the chess set. I have seen chess sets similar to the one I gave my father from my travels to Africa selling for hundreds of dollars; this particular chess set was a unique and priceless gift to me as well.