Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tales of a traveling Trader Joe's grocery bag.

On the heels of a very hard post to write, we bring you a really silly post. This post is not sponsored by anyone or anything.

A bazillion years ago when I lived in Oakland, I shopped at Trader Joe's fairly often and wound up with a few reusable grocery bags - the thick canvas kind, not the cheaper plastic kind you can buy now. When we left Portland back in April 2013, we downsized our respectable reusable bag collection to about five, including one of these and Patrick's (now vintage!) Wild Oats canvas bag. They really came in handy on our Canadian national parks road trip that summer.

we traveled with a ridiculous amount of food

When we left the east coast for Poland in September 2013, this Trader Joe's canvas bag was one of the verrrrrry few posessions we took with us.

all we had for 19 months

It was kind of bulky but oh-so-practical and sturdy. We really wanted to be conscientious about not using plastic bags in Central Europe and Asia so we also took a smaller canvas bag that zipped up into a tiny little rectangle, and we ended up accumulating several more in Poland and Nepal, so we really never needed plastic bags when we shopped... Somehow we always ended up with at least 24 of them at any given moment though!

Anyway. In all honestly, Trader Joe's is not our favorite store - they use too much packaging, their produce is definitely not local, you can only get certain ingredients around the holidays, and everyone who works there is disconcertingly happy all the time.

However! When you're planning to car camp for two months and you're on a FUNemployed budget, nothing beats Trader Joe's for things like dried fruit, nuts, whole wheat couscous, pre-cooked brown rice, soy milk, salsa, and yes... boxed wine. So we stocked up at the Trader Joe's near my parents' house in Maryland as we prepped for our US national parks road trip.

[Cue Traveling Trader Joe's Grocery Bag photo project...]

Silver Spring, MD

Much like REI's retail outlets, Trader Joe's stores were few and far between along our southern route across the States. We rationed our sesame sticks and sunflower seeds accordingly, and availed ourselves of every opportunity to stock up on snacks...

Lower Greenville, Dallas, TX

Decatur Blvd, Las Vegas, NV
(we went here twice over a 24-hour period)

Eugene, OR

And then one day about five weeks ago we finally revisited our old stomping grounds.

Hollywood, Portland, OR

I so wish that we had done a Flat Stanley montage of our Trader Joe's canvas bag worldwide tour, but we were too busy giving Clarence his international Flat Stanley moments (and taking 10,000 other pictures). I'm glad we were able to capture some of our US moments though.

This bag was a silly reminder of home wherever we were in the world. Regardless of whether you love Trader Joe's, hate it, or are indifferent to it, it's certainly iconic. Almost every American we ran into overseas would "oooooooh!" when they saw our grocery bag - it was a great conversation starter. Our Hawaiian farm hosts had Trader Joe's care packages delivered from LA on a regular basis and every time I saw that familiar brand on a bag of trail mix, I got a little nostalgic. And during our US national parks road trip, whenever we saw someone with a Trader Joe's grocery bag we would fight the urge to run over and ask them if there was a store nearby. It was oddly comforting.

Fellow travelers, what reminders of home have you taken on your journeys? If you haven't done much traveling, what do you think you would bring along if/when you set out into the world?


  1. Aw, I was at Hollywood Trader Joe's this morning! I often have a sentimental bookmark, even if my books don't make it back home.

    1. I actually had to run down there yesterday morning JUST to get this photo - we probably crossed paths!

      Bookmarks are great. Practical and lightweight!

  2. Ha ha! I love this! We don't shop at Trader Joe's too often either, but I can see how it would be a little piece of home!

  3. I'm not a fan of Trader Joe's either, but I just love this post! I can't think of anything in particular that we take with us when we travel that reminds us of home, except our kids ;)

    1. Haha... that's a pretty good reminder. :)

  4. Ha I love this! We brought our Oregon Ducks gear with us on our travels. Not only did it remind us of home and keep our U of O pride during football season, but we also ended up having great conversations with people from all over the world because if it, and even met a few fellow Oregonians!

    1. Nice! Patrick took his Shamrock Run t-shirt, and a few people along the way said "hey I ran that one year!" And the Polish guy leading the free walking tour in Warsaw was wearing a Dog Fish Head Brewery t-shirt - my brother loves their beer so I sent him a photo with me and the guy... Familiarity around the globe is a good thing!

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