Last month I published a post on my Top 4 Most Regrettable Purchases, but of course there is a flip side: all the things I in the last year that I am grateful for. The list got quite long– I don’t regret the plants, the art supplies, or the instruments we have, for example, so I tried to narrow it down to things I have bought in the last year. The sixth item is one exception that gets a mention because of how much I used it this year.
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In 2013 on Christmas day, I unwrapped a gift from Mr. Mechanic: my first kindle! At first I was not sure why Mr. Mechanic would even get me a Kindle as I was rather vocal about preferring physical books. I love the smell of them, their heft, the act of turning pages. I like to know how much I’ve read and how much I have left, not by a little percentage bar but by seeing the bulk of pages on either side of my bookmark. I still go in bookstores to get lost in a maze of rows and rows of shelves– but I’ve ultimately succumbed to the convenience of the Kindle. It has journeyed with me on countless airplane trips and stood in as a library at my fingertips.
Four years later I traveled with the Kindle stowed safely in my backpack as usual, but when I got to my AirBnB, white lines scratched across the surface, obscuring the words. I looked up new models but they all had fancy features, light up screens, and better internet connectivity. It was all extra bells and whistles I did not want. I wanted my simple, small, non-back-lit screen. I ordered the exact same model off of eBay and it arrived in great condition. I’ve since installed Overdrive, an app that lets your borrow books from your local library, and I take it with me everywhere.
2. Bike ~$240
Even in bicycle-friendly Portland, I put off getting a bike for a long time. I tried to make due with a hand-me-down children’s bike, with brakes askew and sticky rubber handlebars.
Needless-to-say, I did not enjoy riding that bike. Finally, we got around to selling it on Craigslist and I searched for a road bike to start commuting. I picked up a 2005 Specialized Sequoia in great shape from the previous owners, a couple living in the suburbs who preferred their hybrids.
This speed demon was $240 and I ride it to work every morning. My ride is smooth and nearly effortless on the new road bike and I enjoy riding it every day, so much so that I went ahead and sold my car.
3. Rice Cooker
I used to be extremely dubious about owning a rice cooker. I can cook rice perfectly well in a pot-and-pan, so why clutter up my counter and kitchen with another gadget that can only do one thing? However, that “one thing,” is something I do very often. I cook rice at least twice a week, and with a click of a button could let the rice cook to perfection. Unfortunately my two-year-old Black + Decker version stopped working last week, so I can’t really recommend that model. I’ve been dithering over replacing it with an instant pot or a different version of a rice cooker. If you have any suggestions please let me know!
4. Any Plane Ticket Ever ~$200+?
I did a lot of travel in the last year. I was working in the UK for six months, which meant I could take a $30 flight to any surrounding major European city. I took full advantage of this and took several trips to visit some old friends and make some new ones. In each place I made sure to partake in the local cuisine and tour around the city. Each trip adds up, but the memories made are irreplaceable and 100% worth it to me.
5. USB Wall Charger w/ Extra US, UK, EU Adapter
Thinking about travel made me remember the one thing I was most grateful for having while traveling abroad: a four port USB wall charger with adapters. In many of the hostel rooms there was only one outlet for 4-6 people who all wanted to charge their phones at the same time. With this wall charger we could all plug in. I think work actually reimbursed me for this purchase, but I would definitely spend my own money on this one if that one is lost or broken.
6. Backpacking Backpack
One summer we went to the REI Summer Garage Sale. The sale features merchandise that has been used and returned, and is sold as-is. It’s for members only, and I don’t think we are members, so we must have had a pass or went with a friend who is a member. We did not have a goal in mind for what we needed (so dangerous at a sale like that!) and it was a mad scramble inside. I unearthed an Osprey pack with a stiff back support and a waist strap.
I wavered before buying as I still had an old backpack that was starting to tear at the seams. I had won it in a raffle at an old workplace and it served me well backpacking through Europe. Ultimately the deal won out and I paid $80 for the Osprey pack that had been returned due to being ‘too small.’
I have now used it on nearly every one of my trips and LOVE it. It fits well, carries the weight well, and has convenient pockets for important things during travel. It fits easily in the overhead on planes. I took it on our 5 day backpacking trip and managed to carry food and supplies for the entire trip, plus a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and a huge water bottle wrapped in the straps on the outside. It also has a built-in waterproof cover that came in handy as it rained relentlessly our first day.
Do you have something that surprised you with its utility? What was a big (or small!) purchase you use all the time?