Shopping Hell

Shopping Hell

October 1, 2015

And so it goes that Pete came home from an early morning photo shoot with the crotch totally ripped out of his pants and barely hanging on his waist.

Anyone who saw him that morning might have guessed he was doing a walk of shame after a night that was very very good or very very bad. Truth was he was hopping a fence (in an area he probably shouldn’t have been – shhhhh) and the thin red pants ripped mid-hop.

“That’s it!” he said, “I’m down to two pairs of pants.”

I shouldn’t have laughed given the paltry state of my own wardrobe (although c’mon, he looked hilarious, but sorry ladies, no photos), as I sat there in sleeping shorts that I had bought in Bolivia six years back. The elastic was gone and the shorts sometimes only stayed up by one butt cheek. I have a big hole in one of my short leather boots. I have only two pairs of pants myself and one sweater has been snagged all to hell. All of my dresses are becoming faded and out of shape. We’re about to go to Hawaii and my beloved pair of flip flops was destroyed in Tanzania.

Damn it. It’s time to go shopping. We couldn’t put it off any longer.

I remember a time when shopping for new clothes was my therapy and my wardrobe was a work of art. Now, after over 6 years of living out of only 60 litres of space, I have such a strict set of guidelines for my clothing purchases that it takes all fun out of the task and sometimes renders it impossible:

Clothes can’t be white. (Or at least, I must accept that they won’t be white for long as we routinely wash all of our clothing in one load.)

They can’t be bulky or heavy.

They must be multi-purpose and be able to span multiple seasons. The best solution I have found for this is to get short-sleeved cotton dresses that can be paired with a light sweater and leggings in winter.

Leggings must be those made for sports without looking like they are made for sports (or else they will barely make it six months).

Sandals are best in a metallic colour so that they can go from the beach to looking somewhat dressy. (Yes, I realize I am dreaming if I think that my new metallic gold Havaianas are dressy, but I have to work with what I’ve got.)

Gone are the days when shopping didn’t have to be strictly practical. And overall, I am completely okay with that. I don’t miss having a big wardrobe (although I would kill to wear a pair of tall boots some days), and I think I’ve managed to strike a balance between being homeless but not looking homeless as best I can.

Most days I don’t mind. But then there are the shopping days.

Here in Portugal’s second biggest city of Porto, the shopping options are surprisingly slim. There is one long shopping street, but if I have to shop, I want a mall. I want to have a bunch of stores in one place that I can browse quickly because my tolerance for shopping these days lasts about one hour. After that hour, my mood evolves into a state similar to hangriness (can I call it shangriness?) where if I don’t finish my task immediately someone’s head is going to be chewed off.

We found a mall nearby and stopped for lunch along the way (so that I wouldn’t get hangry AND shangry at the same time – which could turn into a super hybrid state of HASHangriness and would likely cause the fall of stock markets the following day). The mall itself was only a handful of stores and as suspected, nearly useless for my clothing needs. A quick tour found no dresses (of course, it’s autumn!) and as cute as those bulky sweaters were, one of them would take up all of the space in my bag. I couldn’t be bothered to try and replace my sleep shorts or find supplemental leggings.

Pete had no problem. His pants count is now up to three.

Pete shopping

I also found no flip flops inside (save for the Crocs versions – AND I DON’T CARE HOW COMFORTABLE YOU SAY THEY ARE – I have some self-respect and refuse to wear them in public), and so I left empty-handed. Although we managed to be in and out in under an hour, so at least my shangriness was kept in check.

Across the street, a magnificent shoe store, and I bought the last pair of metallica Havaianas which happened to be in my size.

All such successes must be celebrated.

Celebrate Shopping

We’ll worry about the rest later.


Want to see more behind-the-scenes posts “in real time”? Go here!


  1. Oh I hear you!!!! I despise shopping when you NEED to buy something. Why do the gods make it that when you don’t need anything, you see all these things you want (albeit can’t carry in your 60L backpack)? And when you require things, they are the hardest to find? Particularly on the road.

    Our best bet for our recent three month trip was to stock up on clothes at LuluLemon before we left Canada. Their stuff is surprisingly versatile. I was able to find trousers that both protected my legs for hikes, yet were cool enough for the humidity of SEA. They may have been called “dance pants”, but they were the best dance pants I’ll ever own.

    1. Good call on LuluLemon. We tried to wait for as long as possible to do a shopping trip – hoping we could last until we get back to North America – just for that reason. There are some stores we know will work well, they just don’t exist in other sides of the world! I shall keep my eye out for dance pants. 🙂

  2. Ugh. Yes to this a thousand times. I will say that shopping here in Mexico is not quite as horrifying as it was in Asia, which frequently brought me to the brink of tears (and the verge of bankruptcy, since anything that would fit me (i.e., a lady with curves) had to be purchased at a mall, rather than a market… also the market clothing never lasts!), but I still look forward to our once-every-two-years trips to Target in the States where I just stock up on everything and say a prayer that it will last for the next 700+ days.

    Also, have you noticed that outside of North America, most places don’t do “casual dresses”? In Asia, the dresses were always lace and silky (read: wrinkly and not machine washable) fabrics that would make you look like you were the black tie version of yourself 24/7.

    1. Thankfully I didn’t have to shop in Asia, because I have heard such horror stories!

      OMG. Shopping for casual dresses is near impossible, thankfully I can usually find one or two in Canada even if it is off-season. Like you, I hit the discount stores or even Value Village and often get lucky!

      Steph – let’s just start our own travel clothing line. Not one company really “gets” this.

  3. Two pairs is plenty! I’m only travelling with one light pair and some thermals! Sounds like you might have transport though.

    1. I admire people who can travel nomadically with very little clothing, but that will never be us. We go from hot to cold, from city to country to hiking in mountains, and then to business meetings and conferences, sometimes all within a couple of months. And we like variety!

  4. Yes, that’s why I take thermals. For the colder areas and for altitude. like I say, you must have transport?

  5. What? You have wheels on your bags? Pure luxury! 🙂

    When I were a boy / packer… we had to crawl along on our bellies pushing our cases with our nose… etc

  6. Urgh I hate shopping too. Ever since I went minimalist, shopping feels like work. I tried shopping for sandals in Mexico. What I thought should be easy because I was in beachtown area turned into a nightmare. Never leaving States again without comfortable shoes.

    1. Yeah, that’s what we need to do I guess, although sometimes our time between visits is too long! Good thing we’ll be back for a visit soon.

  7. Oh I totally feel your pain!
    Be thankful you’re not rotund,with the sort of legs that can never be seen in anything less substantial than widely boot cut jeans. I carry 2-3 pairs at all times and wear them every day, in every climate.
    I’ve only got 60 litres too!

  8. I hear you on the Crocs, LOL! I have a pair for the backcountry only, and bought them in the most hideous color to ensure I’m never tempted to be lazy and walk the dog in them 🙂

  9. Although I love Hawaii I do not recommend shopping for clothes there especially if you’re budget shopping. From my experience you can get away with a bathing suit, a coverup, a cute dress and a pair of sandles for a 2 week Hawaiian vacation!☀️

  10. I have a home and I still don’t own much clothing, AND I hate shopping. I seem to only ever own one or two pairs of jeans (that fit) at any one time, and I wear plain shirts all the time. I just went shopping the other day for long sleeved shirts and bras, and even though I knew exactly what store I was going to and exactly what shirts I wanted (the long sleeved version of the shirts I’ve been wearing all summer), it was still exhausting. I barely kept my sanity long enough to figure out my bra size and find a couple that fit, and then I could finally escape to go meet Andy for lunch. At least I didn’t need shoes, that’s even worse than clothes shopping.

    1. I think that if (when?) we settle down finally, my closet will remain pretty minimal as well. It’s honestly so much easier to not have choice! 🙂 Funny, that shoes are the only thing I typically enjoy shopping for!

  11. This post had me chuckling all over! I feel the same way about shopping, it brings out a whole different side of me that only shopping can do. It also reminded me of when we went on our trip and my yoga/workout pants developed a giant hole in the crotch and we needed to get me a new pair. Finally found a great pair in Ireland and they are still standing strong two years later! Hope you are able to replenish your goods while back at home! 🙂

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