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Change Away

5 May, 2011 (09:00) | Travelogue

I’ve always found that traveling is often the perfect time to try something different.

Often, there’s no choice in the matter. Visiting foreign countries and different cultures can foist changes in diet, routine and lifestyle on unsuspecting travelers, if only momentarily. In India, it’s not only difficult to obtain a good old-fashioned burger, it’s socially unacceptable. Damningly, if a traveler isn’t ready for some such changes, he or she can be punished, ostracized and end up in an unforeseen quagmire.

For the most part, I embrace the change. I bask in the novel and take great pleasure in the unique. It’s easy for me to break with routine and try something alien or at least variant.

The rare exception to this are my trips home.

Boston is a city with much to offer: history, culture, food, sites, and people. It has a vibrant sports scene, excellent theatre, plenty of beautiful surrounds, and myriad museums and institutions.

Yet rather than finding myself discovering the new, I consistently finding myself falling into the old routines I’ve left behind. My schedule, which has adjusted surprisingly easily to the wee hours, slips into late nights and late mornings. My activity level drops immensely, going from regular hikes, biking and walking everywhere, and a varied and regular sport schedule to a vast amount of sitting and reading, playing games, watching TV, and riding around in a vehicle.  My mother’s offers to cook special requests of yore and our penchant for returning to the same places I ate as a teen leave my stomach full of less healthy options than the staples of my current diet.

And when I return to the high aeries of Colorado, my fortnight away leaves me breathless, bloated, and broken physically. I still look forward to my days frolicking with old friends and visiting with my parents, but it’s becoming readily apparent to me that it takes far more work to live healthily in the urban maze that is Boston.

The greatest tip on traveling I’ve picked up is to travel light. If I have the money to replace smaller items in each location, it makes my life easier to do so.

With that in mind, I omitted several of the toiletries I normally stock in preparation for my trip. Specifically, I abandoned shaving cream and aftershave, leaving them lonesome in the confines of my bathroom.

The oddity of my toiletry preferences isn’t that impressive when compared to the lengths people go to looking for their exact item, imported from France, made from the finest l’oil de chevre (goat oil) and sold by some fanciful foreign-named company (and made in New Jersey, most likely). My tastes are, for the most part, pedestrian and utilitarian: cheap, effective, easy. I generally purchase shampoos plus conditioner since I only have to wash my hair once. If I can get one that will function as an effective body wash and/or soap, all the better. I purchase whatever toothpaste is on sale at the time and stock floss and mouthwash based solely on what happens to be around. My indifference is, for the most part, paramount.

But one item has remained consistent since high school: my aftershave.

I don’t purchase anything fancy or expensive. Aqua Velva’s Ice Sport aftershave is both inexpensive, fitting in the lower end of cost of the lower end of after shaves, and made simply, being primarily alcohol-based. The general consensus seems to be that alcohol-based aftershaves dry out the face and are reasonably bad for the skin, but I’ve always found that they do a better job with nicks and cuts, something I constantly battle. Plus, I like the way it smells.

For the last five years or so, my aftershave of choice has become scarce, disappearing from shelves of drug stores and groceries. It still exists, but its waning popularity has made it difficult to find. Boston proved no different. Despite four different stops in search of it, I saw hide nor hair of its telltale blue bottle.

Last night, I purchased a different brand of aftershave. My hands hung mournfully as I left the store, the small box clasped in my hand. For some reason, this change, moreso than any other I might make, ate at me.

For as much as I may enjoy change, there are elements of routine I find comforting, my aftershave being one of them. Though I took no issue changing shaving creams, razors, toothpastes, shampoos, or any other bathroom accoutrement that I use, my choice in aftershave was somehow more personal and connected than I ever would’ve wanted.

I’ve prided myself for years on my quick adaptability, whether it’s to a new locale, situation, food, or anything else. Yet here I was, nearly devastated internally over what? Aftershave?

Mentally, I took note not only of the change I was about to undertake, but the irrational reaction to it. And while I will soon find out if I even truly care about my aftershave, I have to wonder if change is as easy for me as I once thought.

I’ll be in Boston for one more week, and during that time, I’m planning to have dinner with my parents as we did nearly every Friday; I’m planning to attend dim sum brunch at one of our favorite haunts for Mother’s Day; I’m planning to catch up with old friends and visit old haunts; I’m planning to get a lot of reading done. In all, everything old will be new again.

But though my visit will remain an exploration of the old, I will make an effort to do a few new things: I will take a brewery tour in New Hampshire; I will visit some new restaurants; I will cook a new dish for my family; I will wander a new neighborhood and explore; I will meet some new people; and, if nothing else, I will try a new a aftershave.

And maybe, if I like it, that change will come home with me.