Just read a most excellent article by the most excellent Christopher Elliot on what to about taking stuff when you travel and how to decide what to bring home. (That's the link to the article on MSNBC above.)
I especially like the part of the article about what not to bring home; it's really, well, cute. (Elliot is a really good writer as well as being knowledgeable, and an unusually effective travel advocate. For the latter, see his website http://www.elliott.org. *Any* traveler can learn a whole BUNCH there, I don't care how experienced a Road Warrior you are.) But back to this article. Elliott advocates using the "CUTE Principle."
So, just what is the "CUTE Principle," anyway? It's an acronym for "Can't Use That Ever."
Come on -- admit it. Sometime or the other, you've bought and hauled home some perfectly worthless item, often putting yourself to considerable trouble because the thing was big, awkward, heavy, fragile -- or some combination of the above!You went all the way from, say, Dallas to Delhi, and just had to have a colorful sari or two. Really, now -- how often do you think you'll be walking down Commerce on your way to the bank . . . in a bright pink sari?
A Little Flashy for The Bid D, Huh?
Or maybe you went from Lexington to London and just couldn't live without your very own Beefeater uniform (if you've got a lot of money you want to spend on something really, really CUTE). Just imagine the envious stares you'll get when you and your lady land at JFK or La Guardia en route home and strol through the terminal, she in her pink sari, you, with your stiff upper lip, in your Beefeater garb:
The Talk of the Town! (And Maybe the Airport Police)
Ladies, you probably want something a little more realistic -- unless you are indeed Indian so can reasonably wear a sari, even in Dallas -- so let's check . . . China. The Chinese cheaongsam dress is very beautiful, no matter what the style -- casual (meaning short, like an ordinary skirt), semi-formal, and formal. And a lady need not BE Chinese to look quite attractive in a cheongsam. So, off you take from Boston to Beijing, and I promise you, you will turn heads back at Logan International Airport!
Imagine Strolling Along in This!
And now, for the gents, let's see. . . AHA! A MAN'S cheongsam -- yes, there really is such a thing. That way you and your lady will be sartorially synchronized:
"Mmmm -- Let's Freak Them Out at the Chinese Takeaway Shop!"
But hey, let's get coordinated here! Let's take a trip from Madrid -- whether the one in Maine, Alabama, New York, or Iowa -- to the better-known Madrid, majestic capital city of
España, or "Spain." Pick up matching outfits there, and you're good to go -- no matter which "other" Madrid you're from!
Imagine Tripping the Lights Fantastic at a Maine
Clam Bake, While You Stroll Along Alabama's
Madrid County Highway Towards the Florida State
Line 2.5 Miles South, Dine in Any of the Several
Hotels in New York with Names from Places in Spain,
or Touring the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Iowa(!!!)
I guess you expect a little explanation regarding the caption for the flamenco dancers, sigh. Okay.
Well, one entertainment activity for which Maine is very well known is its clam bakes. Okay, so that doesn't really conjure up Spain, but by wearing your flamenco outfits, you have fun two ways -- and, no doubt, provide the Nor'eastern men and women with untold mirth! As for Madrid, Alabama, that was a tough one. The town is in the part of the state the state tourism bureau calls "the River Heritage Region" (there are three other regions), but in the 2000 census, it boast 303 folks, so it's not exactly hopping. But that's okay, as walking towards the Florida panhandle might remind passersby of the days when Spain owned this part of present-day U.S. -- something people forget.Madrid, Iowa was downright fun. It was founded by Swedes in the 1840's, but renamed "Madrid" in 1882, then incorporated in 1883. Located in central Iowa, you do have wide, open horizons; there's nothing to interfere with your view until the Rockies to the west, the Hudson Bay to the north, the Appalachians to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south (well, except for the Ozark Mountains). So here you are, in the middle of fields of corn and wheat farmed by hardy folks of Swedish stock but very American in a town named after the capital of Spain! Hard to get more multicultural than that!
There are, of course, countless CUTE items one acquires, not just clothes (though do leave that serape in San Louis! You'll look silly if your home's, say -- Tokyo). I mean, how many hotel notepads and pens, individual servings of condiments, matchbooks, paper menus, cocktail napkins -- well, you get the picture -- do you really want, really??? And that plaster-of-paris hound dog isn't really representative of Incan art at Macchu Picchu, now, is it? Iowa was fun. And how much sense do the plastic Egyptian pyramids make, anyway -- when they're Christmas ornaments, complete with snow inside (the kind people of a certain age will remember from childhood inverting then righting endless to watch the resulting "snow storm"). And why on earth take advantage of your time in Tierra del Fuego to buy reproductions of . . . Thai art???
Well, to each his own. But don't whine to me when you approach Customs on your return, all decked out in your hula grass skirt, a serape, maybe a fake Zulu spear (plastic, let's hope!) in one hand and a statue of Shiva (Hindu God of Destruction) in the other (but NOT a plastic one -- please!), all topped off with a Thai Hill Tribe hat. And then you get pulled aside for a secondary inspection, then maybe a tertiary, then maybe . . . the nice men in white! ;-)
And Finally, a Thai Hill
Tribe Hat -- But I Didn't BUY It --
a Friend Had It One New Year's Eve!