I love stepping into a new city, a unique place, a place other than home. I’ve always said that travel is something that allows us to see the world from a different perspective.
If I could travel every day, I would.
But let’s face it – many of us just don’t have the luxury to be traveling all the time. And with the current world situation, it just wouldn’t be prudent.
So if I can’t realistically travel every day, why not bring travel to me instead?
I didn’t have this thought back then. It wasn’t the reason for holding onto it.
I just liked it, and I wanted to keep it.
Even if I had already purchased a new one.
Moving to a new apartment in NYC
When I moved from my first Manhattan apartment to my current apartment in August 2018, I was so excited. I had found a cute studio in Murray Hill with five large windows, allowing in tons of sunlight.
It wasn’t perfect – there were no closets and it was small – but the selling point was a small balcony off the 19th floor with an exhiliarating view of the city.
I didn’t even care that it was tiny. I’d figure it out.
I’d make it work.
Downsizing and simplifying my belongings
While I was moving from small space to small space, I knew I wanted to keep less things in general. I had the chance to let go.
Moving is never that much fun when thinking of packing up and physically hauling boxes, but it’s always a change in scenery.
This new place would be an opportunity for a fresh start and outlook on the city, another chapter within the chapter of New York City.
Preparing old items for a new place
As I cleaned and sorted and thought about what would make the cut to my new place, there was one inexpensive, replaceable, worn out and unnecessary item that didn’t quite fit into the vibe of my new place.
But regardless, I packed it up and sent it along with the movers, thinking to myself that I’d find a place for it.
In the meantime, I had already purchased its replacement.
But there it sat in my new place, in one of those boxes.
New meanings from old memories
Some big moments can seem so trivial and some small moments can mean so much.
Such was August 2018.
Such was the moment of being on my own, living in NYC, that very moment of unpacking the boxes in my second NYC apartment.
It was while being in a long-distance relationship, having worked at a Chinese e-commerce company for over one year and having not worked for two years prior to that, knowing the journey I made from Taiwan to get here after studying one year of Mandarin Chinese and living with my octogenarian grandparents.
And previous to that felt like another lifetime: Ten amazing years at Kohl’s Department Stores.
So many lifetimes within lifetimes, it seemed.
But for a moment, while tearing open the tape that held each flap of cardboard together and emptying the contents of each box, I just felt something.
On one of those nights of unboxing, I ventured to Grand Central Market to pick up my dinner while I continued to reminisce and start putting things together.
I’ll forever remember the exact feeling of sitting on the black tile floor in the kitchen, nothing yet in its place but fully in progress, chomping down on delicious cornichons and looking forward to continuing the chapter in my life of living in the city.
It was so much fun putting away my belongings into new spots, in a completely different place. But I had made a decision: The bathroom at the new apartment would have a minimalist, light-colored, open vibe.
That item, hiding somewhere in the boxes, wasn’t going to work.
It had been replaced.
After all, certain items like dish towels, sponges, bath loofahs, bath towels – when they were worn out and met the end of their life cycle – they would be discarded and replaced.
So I decorated the new bathroom with only items that worked in the deemed style, vibe and personality of the new place.
Shades of light blues, light greens and white only. The replacement item fit in nicely.
Clean and definitely pristine.
But missing something.
An old item turned new again
As I unpacked more and started getting the apartment to a more settled and livable state, I discovered it.
The thing I had almost thrown out in the process of packing, but had kept for whatever reason, even though I had already purchased its replacement.
And there it was, already replaced in the new bathroom, but still speaking to me.
I almost threw it away.
After all, the new streamlined, floral border-sportin’, crisp white replacement fit in better with the rest of the room’s light greyish blue damask towels, the dusty sky blue memory foam bath mat and all the light green towels hanging behind the door.
It almost seemed like it was a big deal – a new shower curtain fitting in to the new vibe.
It almost seemed trivial – an old shower curtain that had run its course.
But it wasn’t trivial – it meant so much to me.
And so, I found a new home for it, one that was unplanned, unexpected and happened spur-of-the-moment, because I couldn’t let go of the worn out, tattered and very replaceable item.
A shower curtain I had purchased when putting together my first Manhattan apartment, one that was a stepping stone to this current place, an apartment I had furnished item by item because I had come to NYC with only one suitcase.
It was just a simple shower curtain I had ordered online while lying down in a bed I put together piece by piece in my first NYC apartment, after finally starting to work again after two long years of not working, still having been in a long-distance relationship then, starting a chapter then that felt like a new lifetime.
It was a new beginning and it perhaps back then, it lived as the leader and the primary role in my first Manhattan apartment, decorating my bathroom, functionally keeping out the water while being pulled across the tub.
But here it was, outlasting an almost discard at the old place, outliving a potentially defunct course forward with its pretty new replacement and somehow finding new meaning in a new place.
A portal to the world
And so the old shower curtain found a new purpose.
I decided to clean the old shower curtain and hang it on the inside of the new one.
It’s now sandwiched between the new shower curtain and the clear shower liner, and I actually love it even more.
Now, while taking a shower or a bath, I can see the old shower curtain in a new light.
A lovely but simple world map, colorful and joyful, countries and places highlighted in different shades, the old shower curtain always just had so much pizzazz, punch and personality.
I loved it back then at my old place while brushing my teeth, observing it from the outside.
Now, it was repurposed, only allowing for my observation from the inside of the tub, a very specific time and place from a very specific activity.
But while going through the typical routine motions of taking a shower, I’m able to be transported.
I stared at Australia when longing for my now husband and then boyfriend, Alex, to finally be able to immigrate to the U.S. I looked at China and thought of the travels to Guangzhou with my first job in Manhattan.
I stared at Wisconsin, thinking of where I grew up. I looked for Taiwan, thinking of my grandparents and a place I had loved as a child and a place where I had discovered new meaning after living there as a 30-something.
I glanced at numerous places of travel, of countries and cities where I had dwelled. Paris, Switzerland, HCMC, Busan, Hong Kong, Salzburg, California, Florence, the UK, Munich, Florida, Québec, Japan, Brugge, Jaipur…and much more.
This tattered shower curtain held so much meaning for me in so many ways.
Reading and imagining the lifestyles of those living in other countries, other cities, places other than where I am, I’m able to travel. Travel back. Travel forward. Travel into. Travel from.
Bathtime, when possible, is now a combination of reading magazines and sometimes listening to music, but it’s also looking up at something that is a symbol of transition in and of itself yet imparts other meaning.
Travel, as I’ve always said, allows us to view the world from a different perspective. But I’ve also discovered, in looking at things of old, in those everyday, seemingly trivial items we can also find new meaning in them.
P.S. I think Mr. Light Green Bath Towel doesn’t mind the old shower curtain. He feels the old curtain’s more his vibe than the new one, anyway.