As of right now, with no tangible prospects of travelling overseas anytime soon, we’re having to get creative with the ways we experience travel, or at least achieve those similar feelings associated with exploring a new city.
For me, scent is a powerful tool of transportation, and noting unfamiliar smells is something I love most about wandering a previously unexplored destination — whether it’s the smell of local bakeries as they bake bread in the morning, foreign flowers blooming in a park, or salty seas spraying a small coastal town as the swell rolls in.
Over my own years of travelling, I’ve developed a way of enhancing these smell sensations. I’m certain I’m not the first to do this, but I can assure you this hack works to prolong the blissful feelings of a holiday, long after you arrive back home and returned to the routines of normal life.
My hack? I buy a new perfume on every trip I take. Here’s why it works.
The perfume I buy at the beginning of a holiday might be one I’ve researched or sampled prior to the trip. I may opt to purchase it at the beauty counter of an airport (duty-free!), or alternatively, I’ll pop into department stores while browsing blindly on the holiday until I land on one I love.
I can recall so vividly discovering and falling in love with a Viennese-made perfume in Tokyo once that has never been made available in Australia, which is special in and of itself, but I digress.
After purchasing the perfume, the hack involves wearing it every single day as you explore your new destination. Spray the scent each morning before you head off to visit galleries, markets, restaurants, cafes, beaches, bars, you name it.
By wearing your new scent every day on your holiday, you’ll begin to form ‘smell memories’ that solidify a connection between with scent itself and the happy memories you made in the destination.
Every time you smell the perfume for years thereafter, you’ll be transported right back to your holiday; to the times you spent drinking limoncello spritz in the sun, zig-zagging the bazaars of Instanbul, and wandering the Louvre.
It may sound a little ridiculous, but there is a science to back up why this works. You see, when a smell enters your nose, it travels into the olfactory bulb, which is a spot at the front of the brain that helps process scents.
The olfactory bulb makes up part of the limbic system, which is defined as a set of structures that deal with emotions and memory. Another part of the limbic system is the amygdala, which is the centre for emotions and emotional memory.
Scientists believe that this close relationship between the olfactory bulb and the amygdala is why scents spark feelings of nostalgia. And when certain smells trigger memories, the response feels more emotional, as opposed to factual. You still with me?
Anyway, all of this is to say that my collection of perfumes feel like portals to my own memories made in happy times. When I wear Le Labo’s Santal 33, I feel like I’m in New York again. When I spray L`Occitane’s Fleurs de Cerisier, I find myself right back in Kyoto.
I know the opportunity to follow in my footsteps is near-impossible right now, but I recommend saving your next perfume purchase for when those borders open back up again.
For now, try using an older perfume and see if the scent sparks any nostalgic memories for you. Who knows, you may find yourself at the beach club in Bali, even if only for a moment.