Travel in hope, shop in certainty

Do you really need one of these?

Travelling is unquestionably great; it’s life-enhancing, stress- reducing, spirit-freeing and even occasionally mind-blowing. And returning home is almost as wonderful. The further you roam and the more that you see, the more you can’t help but be struck by that schmaltzy old Wizard of Oz truism – there really is no place like home!

There is nothing quite like returning home brimming with inspiration and new ideas. Travel does wonders for the globe-trotting mind, but it also froths up the creative juices and replenishes the source from which domestic divinity flows.

The trouble is, you’re exposed to so much that’s so magical when you’re away but there is a limit on how much you can physically bring back. Tourist trinkets are one thing, but there are styles and designs and looks and effects that somehow you want to be able to recreate for yourself again and again.

Whether it’s the heady atmosphere of a North African souk or a coolly restrained token of Japanese poise, there are sights and sensations and suggestions and evocations that you can’t help but want to reflect when you get home. How else are you going to signal your cosmopolitan flair?

Thank heavens for internet shopping! Without it we return from lands rich in exotic possibilities to a uniform norm of restricted choices and other people’s tastes. Back in the old days I never used to think much of mail order but the world really is at our finger tips in 2014.

Whether you’ve a taste for a tagine, a hankering for a hookah or a yen for something Japanese, geography is no barrier to bringing a little exoticism back home. Arranging shipment direct from store holders when you’re away is unquestionably the rock and roll way to shop, but it is far from foolproof – currency exchange, import duty, shipping costs and a thousand and one minor irritations can shatter the dream of a must-have item, even if it does survive the lottery of a hundred different pairs of hands en route.

There is also the little matter of a cooling off period. How many times have you been irrationally overcome with the need to possess something only to discover that ownership is nine parts overrated? Travelling does something to the shopping parts of our brains that is not always in sync with the rest of our lives. I have a friend who owns a six foot tall wooden giraffe that is an idiotic relic of a trip to Africa. I mean, why would you?

So while it may lack a certain je ne said quoi, shopping from the unspectacular comfort of home does have its merits. Granted, the tagine may not have been fired in an African kiln, and the Japanese Shikami masks may have been shipped in bulk, but in all probability they will turn up, they won’t be broken and they will cost exactly what you thought they would.

Travel may bring inspiration, but for everything else I recommend Fed Ex.

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