One of the best gifts I ever received was a special padded bag for packing wine in one’s suitcase without having to worry about it breaking and ruining all one’s clothes. If there’s anything I like more than traveling, it’s wine, and thanks to those bags I could have both. But when I saw a very stylish friend stocking up on them recently, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t plan on using them for wine at all. She was going to use them for perfume.
“I always buy perfume when I travel,” she said. “It’s the best souvenir there is.”
When I thought about it a little bit, I realized she was totally right. Perfume is the best souvenir! And not just because declaring perfume to be the best souvenir gives me ample reason to buy more of it (though that’s a benefit, for sure).
One of the best reasons to buy perfume as a souvenir is that our sense of smell is tightly associated with memory. The smell of Play-Doh turns us all into little kids again, and the smell of bug spray or roasted marshmallows takes us right back to camp. The smell of lilacs might make you remember your grandfather’s farm even if you haven’t been there in more than 20 years. Whatever your favorite food is, you probably remember what it smells like.
Smell is such a powerful sense, so it logically follows to pick up perfume with which to remember a particularly good or exciting trip. Whenever you spray it on or dab it behind your ears, you’ll remember where you were when you got it. Maybe the romantic interest nibbling your ear won’t know that your bergamot-scented eau de parfum was picked up on a study abroad trip in Provence, but you’ll know for sure.
Perfume is generally a pretty expensive product, and the preciousness of it makes it feel a bit more special. Rather than spending all one’s money on 40 tiny souvenirs that will wind up getting thrown away, it might be more fun to buy one small bottle of perfume that you will have forever.
The long-lastingness of perfume is another reason to pick it up as a souvenir. Maybe you’re the type who actually finishes her perfume bottles, but I’ve only ever done it once in my life. I still have perfume from high school. Heck, I still have perfumes inherited from my grandmother. If you rotate your scents regularly, you might still be dabbing on that bergamot perfume from your study abroad term when you’re in your 90s.
Big brands of perfume can be picked up almost anywhere, but there are a lot of smaller, independent producers making local products that can only be purchased at their points of origin. Those make great souvenirs for yourself, and for people you know, if you know them well enough to have an idea what kind of scent they might like.
Even if your tastes do run towards the big designer brands, from a purely practical perspective, perfume is a great product to get if you happen to be flying through an airport with a Duty Free store. Nobody wants to pay full price for something expensive like perfume, and few things make a college student feel like a high-roller than downing some champagne at the airport bar and then letting the bubbles (and alcohol) float them through Duty Free so they can buy a very tiny bottle of some very fancy designer perfume. Don’t think of how much money you’re spending—think of how much you’re saving! (Also, never come to me for financial advice. I will just wind up telling you to quit your job and buy a castle full of designer perfume.)
Okay, there are some drawbacks to buying perfume abroad. For starters, you can’t take liquids on the airplane anymore, so you will have to buy a very small perfume or check your perfume in your luggage. If you’re going to check it, DO NOT open it until you get back to your house! An open perfume is much more likely to leak, and as much as you might love that fine perfume you found in Provence, you’re not going to like it so much when everything in your luggage is soaked in it forever.