Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why I went to Spain with holes in my shoes

This is a story of broken hearts and broken bones. (okay, don't freak out too much.)

Junior year of college I studied abroad in Spain. I fell in love with the country's sensuous hills, its tempting food, its luscious parks, its endless sidewalks....and its shoes.

No, I wasn't completely devoured by a foot fetish on this trip. In fact, I followed a purchasing pattern I try to follow today on trips: literally wear out your clothes on the trip. Then buy clothing as souvenirs instead of junk.

Here's what I mean. When I went to Spain I brought a bit of good clothing, but I also packed a few items that were within an inch of their life: a shirt that had a few permanent spots so I couldn't get away wearing it around company I knew anymore. A pair of shoes that was starting to rip at the seams and couldn't be repaired by the cobbler. Et cetera. These clothes had a bit of life left in them, but not much.

Of course I brought clothes that were in fine shape as well, because who wants to be traveling in a foreign country while everything you're wearing is falling apart? But I think about 1/4 of what I brought for those four months was on its last legs.

Then, when I wanted to get souvenirs, I bought clothes and shoes instead. When the shirt finally got to be too embarassing even to wear around strangers, I got rid of it and bought a blouse that was in fashion in Madrid at the time. When the holey shoes wore out, I bought espadrilles, a quintessentially Spanish shoe. I came back to the States with the same amount of clothing I left with (okay, okay, I did buy a couple extra items.) But it kept the overall tally of souvenirs down. I loved the items I purchased more than I would have if I'd bought them in the States, simply because they weren't just replacement clothes, they were souvenirs.

There's only one problem with this. These souvenirs wear out.

Today's Friday's Fashion Fallout is a pair of espadrilles I bought at the end of my stay in Madrid.

I remember touring a neighborhood I'd never visited before, eyeing these and falling in love. My Spanish host family told me how to take care of them (clean the rope part with salt, make sure you reinforce the place where the laces go through the heel), and it was just a great purchase. And then I stopped liking how they looked on my feet. I couldn't keep them clean. The sole kept falling off no matter how much I glued it back down. My feet shrunk. Then I broke a bone in my foot. (Wondered when we were going to get to that part, didn't you?) High heels aren't in my repertoire much these days. 

So it really hurts emotionally to let these go, but that's what photographs are for. Like, the 1000 or so photographs I have of the trip. I don't need these to remember it by.

How do you avoid souvenirs on trips?

 The Reckoning

Item 135: souvenir espadrilles. I never liked them that much and probably shouldn't have bought them in the first place. 

Cost: 14 euro (about $25)

Fate: the clothing donation box

Total money wasted on stuff: $1522.00


  1. This is a wonderful post.
    My mother was one of those people who never wore fine clothes on holidays. No jewellery. Why? Because strangers will see your wealth and try to steal from you. Be safe not flashy and pretentious. It is hard to defend yourself in a strange place. Wear the good stuff at home where you are loved and appreciated. Another reason is the one you gave in your post - discard the old clothes and replace them with new souvenirs. It works for me too. Some things are for fun, not for practicality. Holiday purchases eventually are replaced with new souvenirs because life changes.

    1. Thanks, Louise!
      It sounds like your mom was a really sensible lady. It didn't occur to me that I was protecting myself by wearing my old items and therefore not drawing attention to myself (and then dressing in local fashions when I did swap out old clothes for new ones.) You make a really great point about humility, but also about safety. Thanks for commenting!

  2. We used to by shot glasses as souvenirs. Seems like ever place we visited had these available as a souvenir, and they were inexpensive. When we went through our purge, we finally decided to get rid of our small collection of souvenir shot glasses and vowed to stop buying souvenirs. We have our memories of the places we visit, and we usually have some photos taken during the trip.

  3. I also like to buy clothes as vacation souvenirs :-) Yes, they do eventually wear out, c'est la vie. My most recent large vacation was cycle touring, so more and more I'm buying jewelry as my souvenirs. It travels well, plus it's usually possible to buy straight from artisans :-)


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