Shopping is often a big part of people's vacations. Almost everyone shops at least for souvenirs but often people shop for other items: new clothes, a new purse, local handicrafts or sometimes even big ticket items like new jewelry. For some people it's just a matter of having more time while on vacation to do something they are too busy to do otherwise. For others, it's just an enjoyable activity to include in their vacation plans.
When you are on the road for a year, shopping takes on a whole different meaning. For one thing, anything you buy, you will have to either cart around with you for another eleven months or ship it home -- have you seen shipping rates lately? For another thing, when you are on the road for this long, it is not a vacation, It is a way of life, and your shopping needs are different.
Instead of seeking out the local handicrafts, we spend time looking for stores that sell buttons so that we can repair the few clothes that we brought with us. A new purse is not in order, but personal care products are. Now that we have been gone for 11 weeks we are beginning to run out of our initial supply. That may not seem like a big thing, but trust me, the products you are looking for are not necessarily sold in the same type of store that you are use to buying them in. Toothpaste, sunscreen, body lotion and hair color (not that anyone around here uses that) are just a few of the items that we have had to search for. Also making sure that you end up with the right thing is important. My first attempt at body lotion produced body wash (as in soap) -- try returning that product to the lady who only speaks Polish!
Then there's our big ticket item, English Language Books. We have found an English Language bookstore in every city we have been in but the books are outrageously priced. We are constantly on the lookout for used English Language bookstores, book swaps and English speaking people who want to discard their books. So far we have acquired books in all those different ways. We have become scavengers when it comes to books and read what we can find which is not necessarily what we would have chosen. (Note: All four of us have discovered some great books this way)
Services are another thing that we have had to shop for. With short hair, I have my hair cut every six weeks. I had to find a salon in Krakow that I could trust to cut my hair and give me a good cut that would last until I have to seek someone out in Lucca, Italy who will do it again. (Africa is six weeks after that... yikes!) When my neck and shoulders were acting up, I had to seek out a massage therapist. Shopping for these services are as far as it gets from typical vacation shopping.
I see travelers in the food markets all the time buying fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, drinks and snack items. We too are buying all those along with cereal, milk, wine, beer, spices, meats, butter, olive oil, rice, pasta, etc. We are not just picnicking, we are cooking and we have refrigeration.
Like many tourists we have bought some new clothes. There was a great second hand shop in Poland where everyone found something "new" to add to our tired wardrobe. And this past Wednesday found us in the Central Market clothes stalls where we were trying to find Avocet some new pants as she is starting to outgrow the ones that we brought on the trip. We were anticipating growth for the kids, just not this soon!
Siena and Avocet still hit the souvenir shops, but they are limited as to what they can buy both in terms of money and space and some places, like here in Slovenia, are just not set up for the tourist trade yet so the selection is very limited. It's all perspective. Some people get to come home with T-Shirts, we get to come home with Sonnen Milch.