Last night I cleaned out my entire closet. Please save your applause for the end of this post. Amongst all of the treasures I found, I noticed a cookbook that I’d bought when I was in Gibraltar. Those who know me probably find this to be amusing, as I am not generally recognized for any sort of cooking talent. You also probably aren’t surprised that I was storing a cookbook in my bedroom closet.
I didn’t buy it because it was a cookbook, really — I bought it because it was something I could actually use around my house on an everyday basis (in theory). It is part of a tradition I am trying to start, one in which the things I choose to bring home from a trip are constantly evolving. I never want to bring the same type of thing home twice. When I first started traveling, I brought home the typical touristy souvenirs, the little Eiffel towers and three million postcards and an umbrella that has “Amsterdam” written all over it in a really bad font.
As my traveling habits have changed, so have my observations and the things I want to bring back, and to remember. I guess this is only natural, a sign that I am actually growing and maturing. I’m not sorry or embarrassed that I bought those touristy things, and I’m not judgmental when I see other people doing the same. Those things were important to me at the time, and they were what I wanted to bring back home to my real life. I knew that I when I picked them up years later from whichever corner of the closet they’d been shoved into, I would be able to remember the things that had made that trip meaningful to me.
It’s just that I find different things to be meaningful now. I have a tile resting underneath a candle in my room, and when I look at it I remember the flea market in Lisbon. I have seven or eight posters from art museums that I bought in 2009 in Vienna and Amsterdam, during my poster phase, and when I look at them I remember the feeling of being alone in a new place for the first time. I have metro stubs from almost every place I’ve been because the metro was always something glamorous and foreign to me, having grown up in Los Angeles behind the wheel of a car.
I can see now in this current phase of my life, one in which I am trying to reconcile the thought of traveling full time with the desire for a permanent home, that the souvenirs I’ve brought back with me lately are things that are also trying to reconcile that empty space between traveling and staying put. They are things I can put on a shelf or use in the kitchen, things I can try to blend into my home alongside the silverware from Ikea and the chair from the thrift store — but even so, it’s clear that they still just don’t quite belong there.
On my most recent trip, the one I took to Israel, I brought home two things for myself: spices and a postcard. I still love bringing postcards home because I think they remind me of that ecstatic kid who left the country for the first time and immediately latched on to anything that had “Paris” written all over it. The spices — those are a first. I’ve never brought home something that will run out eventually. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in here, but I haven’t found it yet.
Until then — you can now applaud me for having cleaned out my entire closet on a Tuesday night.