This, Not That

Being disrupted from one’s routines, as happens with travel, can be a powerful reminder of facts—pleasant and unpleasant, weird and ordinary, significant and silly— about oneself.

At home in San Diego, I easily manage to skirt around many things I don’t like, the behavioral equivalent of taking back roads and alleyways when the roads are clogged. When traveling, that’s not so easy. Often I am lucky to figure out one way to do things, with no idea what the alternatives might be.

Take, for example, my experience today shopping in London. It has been so much colder than I thought it would be in mid-April (it is amazing how low the snow level was in the Alpes Maritimes outside Nice, and everyone is commenting on how it hasn’t warmed up). My plan to muddle through with clothes more suited for May and June isn’t working very well, so I decided to take a long walk this morning through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and end up at Selfridges to look for some long pants.

I had totally forgotten how much I really, truly hate large department stores. The sensory overload of perfumes and confetti colors, plus the nauseating hipness of the place—the very loud “in” music, the ridiculously over-cool fashions— it all just makes me want to scream.

For a minute I thought I might actually do that (scream) and I talked myself down the escalator and outside onto the street before I started babbling in tongues with tears streaming down my cheeks. Yes, it was that bad.

I decided that I was simply going to let my lower legs freeze rather than going in any more large stores, but luckily I did find one that was a little smaller and more downscale and managed to do a quick stealth raid, so I now have the long pants I need.

At home I just never go to those stores. That’s what online shopping and discount chains are for. Workarounds are a blessing I had most certainly taken for granted,

I am okay with not having morning coffee right away, as I do at home. I am okay with washing clothes less frequently. I don’t need as many bras as I think I do. There’s nothing I possess that I miss that much. I am not as attached to the news as I thought I was. Those things are as clear to me now as is the fact that if I do have to go out to get coffee, I am a walking zombie doing it—a fact I hadn’t noticed when I just had to make it from the bedroom to the kitchen. Note to Laurel—next time, brush your hair and check for makeup smudges.

I am very comfortable in my own skin, both at home and abroad. But it’s interesting to do a little examination of what’s inside that skin that I hadn’t noticed in a while, other than a couple of pounds of cruise aftermath!