There’s no better excuse to go shopping than Christmas – it’s a feel-good experience, dreaming up the perfect gift ideas and wandering around the stores and snapping them all up like a treasure hunt. After all, it’s all in the spirit of giving. In Ibiza however, Christmas shopping – in my humble opinion – is nowhere near as easy as it is for those who live in a big city. The stores here are quite limited with stock (and not so festively inclined, aside from the big high street brands), and the island just doesn’t have an abundance of novelty stores – you know, the ones that are ideal for accessibly priced stocking fillers. That’s not to say we don’t have amazing boutiques and concept stores – we do, it’s just that they are admittedly quite pricey, and when you have a list as long as your arm for people to buy for, sometimes you’ve got to be a little budget conscious.
After a week spent traipsing the streets of Ibiza in search of the perfect gifts (finding some, but not all), I decided to turn my thoughts to the wonders of the internet. After all, with plenty of time to spare and almost anything you can ever dream of right at your fingertips, I figured I could win at Christmas this year. That is, until I realised that even online shopping in the first week of December doesn’t guarantee your gifts will arrive in time for the big day. Such is postal life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean… sadly things don’t arrive overnight, or whenever they say they will (sometimes four-day express postage has been known take up to 17 days in the middle of the year, not even factoring in extra time to allow for Christmas). Opting for couriers doesn’t make it easier either – nine times out of ten, whether you live in the campo or in the pedestrianised part of Dalt Vila like I do, they ‘can’t find your address’ or ‘tried to make your delivery but no one was home’ (even though you know full well you were home all day). Then you’ve got to do your best to find their warehouses (which seem to always be closed whenever I have time to pass by – namely lunch time or weekends) to go and pick up the parcel yourself, thus defeating the purpose of door-to-door delivery. Blame dodgy GPS, blame a bad work ethic or just blame no one and accept it – it is what it is. The longer you live here, the more you get used to allowing time for these things. Patience, as they say is a virtue. Although when it comes to Christmas shopping, one’s patience can wear thin quite quickly.
So, having given up on island and internet shopping, my last chance was a visit to a big city – which I just so happened to have planned for my vacation this week anyway (cue the feeling of being chuffed with myself). There I was, in the land of the free, the home of the brave, and perhaps most importantly, the undisputed global capital of consumerism, the United States of America, with all the world’s retailers right on my doorstep, ready to tick all the boxes that I needed to be the best gift giver-er of all time this Christmas. And then the strangest thing happened. There I was, on a high street to beat all high streets, surrounded by tinsel and sparkle with lovely Christmas songs floating across the airwaves, when I felt totally and utterly overwhelmed by all the choices before me. All of a sudden, shops filled with quirky gift cards and eclectic joke presents seemed a bit forced and fake. There were far too many people jostling with one another to be at the front of the railing or queue. Row upon row upon row of novelty socks – with anything and everything you can think of, from the Mona Lisa to spicy chilli sauce bottles, cats of all descriptions and of course, a million varieties of Santa Claus imagery – just seemed to totally ridiculous to me. Why on earth does anyone need a 200-square metre retail storefront dedicated to socks? And (right next door) why do festively wrapped boxes of chocolate (or saltwater taffy or flavoured popcorn or the like) need to cost three times the regular retail value? Christmas seems more like a competitive sport over there.
Something was shifting inside me. For my entire adult life, I had always happily been swayed by advertising campaigns. I was addicted to things you’d buy just ‘for the sake of it’ but didn’t need. It seems living on our little island for more than a decade has had more of a profound effect on my shopping habits than I’d ever realised. While I still had the desire to shop for gifts for my loved ones, I decided I’d much prefer to buy gifts with a purpose. To carefully shop with each person in mind rather than to grab loads of little bitsy things simply to beef up the volume of a Santa sack or gift bag. Now I’m dreaming of a conscious Christmas… with no need for armloads of dozens of unneeded plastic bags. And perhaps even less wrapping paper and ribbon. I’m heading back to Ibiza, pronto, where I can take my beloved traditional Ibicenco shopping basket out with me (in order to say no to plastic) to re-scour those shops I previously dismissed in the thick of my Christmas shopping conundrum with my new Christmas mind set in place. What better present to give your friends and family than the gift of Ibiza anyway? The bounty from the white isle is plentiful – handmade woven baskets, hats and espadrilles, luxurious leather goods, one-of-a-kind fashion creations, beautiful and meaningful jewellery, beauty products made from Mediterranean ingredients sourced here on the island and of course, the best ‘build your own hamper’ style ingredients in the world (think Hierbas, gin, craft beer, local wines, fresh teas, artisanal coffee, chocolate, jamon, locally made cheeses and so much more edible goodness! On that note, I think I’ll make a hamper for myself too!). I should have paid more attention to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she said ‘If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard’. Because as I said before… what better excuse is there than Christmas to go shopping in Ibiza, especially if it means you get to spend hour upon hour searching your beloved island for heartfelt gifts and can support local businesses and brands in the process? It’s all about the spirit of giving…