Same Place, Different View

Last week, my husband and I took an overnight trip to Catalina Island to celebrate our twelfth anniversary.  Catalina holds a special place in our hearts, as it’s where we were married on July 4, 2001.  While we don’t spend every anniversary there, we visit at least once per year and always enjoy this idyllic place that’s miles away yet seems worlds apart.

Catalina Island View

Catalina Island, California, with its famous landmark, the Casino

As I know many of you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Catalina, let me paint a picture for you.  It’s a small island approximately twenty miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  There’s only one main town, Avalon, and the year-round population is less than four thousand.  The main industry on Catalina Island is tourism.  And where there’s tourism, you guessed it, there’s shopping!

How I Spent My Past Catalina Visits

During our many trips to Catalina, I’ve spent hours poking around the shops and I’ve done more than my fair share in keeping the island’s economy afloat.  I’ve purchased many a top, skirt, hat, scarf, and jewelry bauble in the various island boutiques.  As with most of my purchases, these trinkets were basically forgotten soon after I returned home.

If you’re a fellow shopaholic, you know that the thrill is more in the buying than in the having.  It’s all too common to feel you can’t possibly live without an item while you’re in the store, only to have it remain in its bag unloved hours – or even moments – later.

Quite a Different Experience This Time Around…

I was fully expecting to feel the allure of the shops during my visit to Catalina last week.  I thought I’d have to muster the willpower to resist buying various overpriced items of questionable quality.  But things were different this time…  Sure, I still perused my favorite stores, but I didn’t feel the “high” I’d felt during our last visit to the island in January.  This time around, not much sparked my interest and I felt very little temptation to buy.  When I did feel the inner nudge to whip out “Lady Visa,” I paused to consider my closet, as well as the list I’ve compiled for what would add the most value to my wardrobe.

I ultimately decided that the items on my list were more important to me than any tchotchkes I saw in the shops of Avalon.   For the first time in as long as I can remember (perhaps ever…), I left the island without buying anything at all!

A Small Victory and a Real Triumph

While my victory of not bowing to the shopping gods is reason for celebration, I feel it’s really the smallest of my victories last week.   If I would have spent a few dollars or even a hundred, it wouldn’t have been all that bad.  My real triumph was that I enjoyed the experience of being on the island and with my husband far more than I ever had in the past.

Instead of dragging my incredibly patient and easy-going husband through a plethora of shops, I actually sat and talked with him.  We spent more time outdoors taking in our beautiful surroundings.  I felt the summer sun and cool island breeze on my skin instead of stale air and fluorescent lighting inside shops that are scarcely different from the ones at home (after all, I live in another popular tourist destination).

A Truly Happy Anniversary

While my husband and I always take long walks during our vacations (and at home), we did much more walking this time around.  We talked and laughed more and enjoyed each other’s company.  I was far more present with my wonderful husband (on our anniversary, no less!) than I’ve been in years or maybe even ever before.  It’s worth mentioning that he definitely noticed the change.  He enjoyed our time together and was pleased that I’d shifted away from the one-track focus that has dominated our previous trips to Catalina and elsewhere.

Debbie and Mike Roes in Avalon

With my husband, Mike, on our 12th anniversary in Avalon, Catalina Island

The Selfishness of Shopaholics

I realize now how selfish I’ve been while under the vise grip of my shopping addiction.  I didn’t consider whether or not my husband, mom, or friend wanted to spend hours in the shops. I wanted to do it, so that’s what we did.  If they ever complained of “shopping overload,” we’d split up for a few hours so they could do something they enjoyed while I shopped.  But wasn’t the point of the experience for us to spend quality time together?

Wasted Moments that Cannot be Recaptured

When I look back on my life and my many years of compulsive shopping, I find myself asking some probing and powerful questions which really can’t be answered:

  • How many minutes, hours, and days have I wasted shopping?
  • How many beautiful locations have I basically ignored in favor of spending all of my time in stores rather than taking in the beauty of nature?
  • How much quality time with my loved ones have I thrown away, only so I could buy yet another piece of clothing I didn’t really care about and perhaps never even wore? 

As I wrote the above, I felt tears well up in my eyes.  I shudder to think of how much time (not to mention money) I’ve wasted over the years shopping instead of truly experiencing and enjoying my life.  This may sound trite and cliché, but none of us know how much time we have left on this earth, let alone how many healthy and vibrant days we’ll get to experience.  My health challenges of late have really driven this point home.  While I’ll probably be fine, I haven’t felt well recently, and that’s brought me more in touch with what truly matters.  I realize that people and experiences are more important than things ever will be or can be.

Just One Piece of Life’s “Pie”…

While I don’t want to do a complete “180” and start to demonize shopping, I do want to place it in proper perspective.  I really enjoy the different view I experienced in a place I’d visited at least twenty five times before.  I still did some shopping, but it didn’t dominate the entire trip like it did in the past.  It was a piece of the pie instead of the whole pie.

I feel as if I’m emerging from a fog or removing a pair of long-worn dark glasses.  My life seems brighter and more vivid now that much of the “shopping spell” has been broken.  I look forward to more trips with my husband when we’ll spend the bulk of our time enjoying each other and our surroundings instead of being ensconced in shops day in, day out.

I also look forward to cultivating new interests and meeting new people (because after all, the salespeople really aren’t my friends).  I may have wasted a lot of time, but I’m still here and I get another chance – to live, to love, to enjoy – not just shopping but everything!

24 thoughts on “Same Place, Different View

  1. Well done! What a wonderful change you have made to your life. I can see the happiness in your faces.

    • Thanks, Katy! I know my changes are still ongoing, but I was happy to have felt free of my shopping compulsion during our anniversary trip. It WAS a happy time!

  2. You look radiant and your words really sound like you’ve turned a big corner. Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Wendy! I DO feel like I’ve turned a corner, but I’m cautious not to be overly confident at this point. But I AM happy to have enjoyed a fun time away with my husband!

  3. This is such a fantastic post! I admire you very much — thank you for sharing so honestly w/ us, your readers.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words and admiration, Elizabeth. I am always happy to share myself if it will help others, and I’m so glad it does!

  4. I really enjoyed this post – you sound and look happy and that’s what it’s all about. Thanks for sharing – once again I identify completely with everything you are saying. Life is all about experiences, not things. I’ve spent too much time on holidays acquiring yet more things that, as you say, I didn’t even want when I got home. I left my partner home alone most Saturdays and Sundays for years to go shopping all day, I abandoned family-get-togethers that only happen once a year to squeeze in a couple of hours of shopping, I was that gripped by it. I’m starting to change slowly by looking for and focusing on positive experiences that have nothing to do with shopping. Yesterday, to my partner’s great surprise, I suggested a hike in the beautiful countryside nearby. We spent two hours walking, went for a swim in the river and had lunch in a picturesque little town. It was a perfect day and I didn’t buy a thing for myself.

    • Your time the other day sounds wonderful! I’m sure your partner really appreciated the shift, as my husband did. I identify with SO much of what you wrote, too. There was little I enjoyed doing besides shopping, but I’m glad that’s starting to shift for me – and for you, too! The experiences really do bring more joy than the things. It’s time for me to cultivate more hobbies…

  5. Fantastic post! You are definitely making progress on the ‘fuller life’ part!
    I’m experiencing something very similar – I’m just back from the airport, away from a three-day trip to visit family. Before, I spent these trips in a haze of overshopping. Now, I just bought food (not going overboard) and school shoes for my children (okay, there was a small slip, I bought a pair of sandals for myself, but before I have returned from a similar trip with a new wardrobe). I felt more present and focused. Instead of forcing my family to tour malls and hypermarkets, we ate strawberries and watched beach volleyball and went to an art museum together – and I took my children for a walk to learn about wildflowers. It’s strange how much I enjoyed these simple things.

    I keep track of my spending using the Toshl app on my iPhone. It has a sobering effect on my spending. I have set a monthly budget (my aim is to save a considerable sum every month) and it really helps. I still experience occasional slips, but they are much smaller.

    • Your 3-day trip sounds wonderful, FrugalFashionista! I’d like to take a trip like that soon… It seems like you are making a lot of progress on cultivating a fuller life, too. I think it’s fine that you bought one pair of sandals while shopping for your children. I don’t think the point is to NEVER shop again, just to do it more consciously. I want to be able to still enjoy shopping but not have it be ALL that I enjoy. I’m sure it will still be a process, but I wanted to share one victory I experienced lately. Thank you for sharing yours, too, and thanks for telling others about the iPhone app you’re using to track spending. Tools like that can be so helpful!

  6. Wonderful post Debbie! We honeymooned on Catalina, and although we don’t spend our anniversaries there, we do spend a few days in Avalon every year because we love Catalina! Also, my grandmother grew up on the island, and my brother is there frequently, in fact he is there right now.

    • Love the passage and the photos you posted, Terra. How cool that you honeymooned on Catalina! We took a short honeymoon there after we got married and then a longer trip to New Zealand six months later. I always enjoy visiting Catalina and this time was even more enjoyable than usual. There is SO much more to enjoy there besides shopping!

  7. Debbie I felt tears well up in my eyes as I read this wonderful post and saw your and your husband’s happy faces.
    There is cause for celebration that you resisted the shopping urge completely on this trip to Catalina and also spent lots of quality time with your husband. Don’t dwell on what time and money you may have squandered in the past – enjoy the precious moments of now and the future that you so thoroughly deserve.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Megan! You’re right in that I should focus on the present and the future instead of the past. We all make mistakes and our past experiences are what shape us into who we become. I’m growing happier with who I am and having to face my “demons” has played a large role in my growth. I’m excited to see what unfolds moving forward!

  8. Happy Anniversary! You both look so happy. I just returned home from a nine day trip to New England to visit our families. In the past there has been a lot of shopping done on these trips. This year I did shop and I did buy things, but like you said it was a piece of the pie, not the whole pie. I also hiked, swam, shelled peas, made friends with a rooster, went out to eat, made a lasagna for my mother, and most importantly spent time with my friends and family. I was feeling a bit conflicted about buying something because I haven’t been buying anything. After thinking about it I decided I’m okay with it. My mom, sister, and I love going shopping together. We live 1000 miles apart and it only happens a couple of times a year. I stopped and thought before purchasing to make sure I wasn’t buying just to buy. Now that I am home I’d like to get back to very limited spending.

    • Your trip sounds wonderful, Tonya! I’m especially intrigued that you made friends with a rooster 🙂 As I mentioned to FrugalFashionista above, I think we can still shop and enjoy shopping, as long as we don’t go overboard with it. Like you, I’m nervous about that and much more hesitant to buy these days. I’m afraid of making mistakes. But I still want hobby to be a hobby, just not my ONLY hobby! Congrats on your fun vacation and all of the amazing progress you’ve made! I’m happy to be sharing my journey with you and other wonderful readers.

  9. Happy belated Anniversary! What an insightful post. I have always fallen for the shopping spell on a trip. Every trip I would take, my mission became, what am I going to bring home to remember the trip? At first, this seemed harmless, a logo t-shirt here, a scarf there, but as my traveling increased in frequency, so did the ‘reminders’ which started to turn into clutter. Silly me, I don’t need an item, the memories of the trip itself are enough. Now when I take a trip, I focus on the activities to do there, especially the one’s that I cannot do at home. Memories of those activities, and a few photographs that I have taken myself, are memento enough.

    • Thank you, Lisa! The next anniversary will be rolling around before I know it… Yes, I was always into buying souvenirs for myself and others and the shopping took up far too much of my focus while traveling. I’m glad to be finding more enjoyment in other things now and I’m sure that will seep into my travel as well (I haven’t traveled much recently). Memories and photographs truly are the best mementoes!

Comments are closed.