As an organizer, I’m in the business of helping people organize their spaces and lives, which often get filled with things they don't use. Because of that, I am particularly aware of excess and clever marketing traps. Never is that more true than when I'm on vacation and surrounded by tempting souvenirs.
I’m even more aware of consumerism when on vacation. Although I enjoy walking through stores to get a better understanding of the local culture, I know from experience that vacations rarely ever produce items that are needed or truly valuable. But sometimes when I’m sorting the clutter from culture, every now and then I find myself with a surprise...
When I was in Canada on summer vacation, I decided to visit the largest bookstore called Chapters. I was awestruck by the store’s organized displays, and expansive merchandising, all appealing to the organizer in me. After wandering through aisles of books in French and English, I passed by a captivating bin with the most conspicuous display of something I’d never seen before: “Reading Socks.” If you are scratching your head trying to figure out what the heck Reading Socks are, trust me – so was I.
Upon closer inspection, Reading Socks are soft, cable-knitted socks, lined with fake shearling, designed specifically to keep your feet warm while you curl up with a book. I stared at them with awe (and a healthy amount of disbelief) that the power of merchandising had come so far. They were so beautifully arranged to showcase their different designs, that even though I’d never in my life found myself wishing this wardrobe item existed, I actually found myself tempted to buy a pair.
But, I caught myself. I thought NO, I am not going to succumb to the trap of souvenirs. Life and travel are about the experience, not things. So, I resisted the temptation and left the store feeling proud that I didn’t succumb to marketing.
The next afternoon, we drove 30 minutes north of Ottawa to a cabin in the woods overlooking a picturesque lake, called Baie Mud. The scene from the front porch was so spectacular, that when we woke up in the morning to pouring rain, we didn’t mind one bit. We loved the idea of spending all day reading out on the porch, listening to the soothing, quiet sound of rain on the trees.
Hours later, totally engulfed in my book, I realized that my bare feet had started to go numb from the chill. As I made myself go indoors, I realized that THIS is EXACTLY what Reading Socks were for! They weren’t just a marketing gimmick, but a necessity born solution to the chilly Canadian environment. I could now see their value in NY’s frigid winters too.
And so, the lesson is: Yes, life and travel is about the experience, not the stuff, and we all need to fight mindless consumerism. But, when you are travelling and see something you’ve never seen before, pay attention. There is a reason our Northern neighbors thought of Reading Socks. When in Rome, [or Canada]…..do like the locals do. Now, excuse me while I go online to prep for winter in NY and order my own pair from Chapters.