In the heady trip planning days I shared with my good friend Holly before she and her husband traveled to Italy with us I shared something I’d learned about frangrance.On my first trip to Europe in 2001 I took a new perfume that I’d never worn before –Isabella Rosellini Manifesto. The fresh, lightly floral notes with just a hint of spiciness appealed to me. I took a bottle of perfume and the little lotion and shower gel bottles that come in the gift sets. We backpacked for 25 days that summer and I would imagine that some days my perfume had to work hard to mask my clothes that I wore a couple times before hand-washing in a hostel sink.
When we returned home I put the perfume away. I didn’t want it to remind me of work, but of the trip so I didn’t wear it again. I had learned while studying Psychology in college of the power fragrance has to trigger memories.
It was only a couple of months after we returned that the world changed on September 11th. Our world had already changed – we’d both quit our jobs after gaining the perspective those days 5,000 miles from home gave us, and had moved back to my hometown. Brian was working for an old friend in a 100% travel role. I was on the road with him and we were in New York City only a couple of weeks after the attacks. I remember the fear and dread I felt. One night we were driving late to his next job, and I came across a bottle of the perfumed lotion in the vehicle. I opened it and rubbed it into my hands. The sensation was overwhelming. In an instant I was bombarded with memories of the trip. It was dizzying, this sense of being back in time on the trip. I learned first-hand then the power of fragrance on memory. It turns out that even innocuous things like my hand santizer and hair spray had the same effect.
I explained this phenomenon to Holly and though she hadn’t experienced it and was going on just my ravings, she chose a new scent for the trip – a lemon verbena based fragrance, and used it throughout our time in Italy.
A few weeks after we returned from the trip I received an email one day, subject line Magic Potion. I read her delirious account of what had just happened when she opened a drawer and found some scented lotion from the trip. She put it on and was flooded with a hundred memories from the trip. I could feel her excitement as she described what was going on in her mind, because I knew exactly what it felt like.
I’m scraping the bottom of my perfume bottle right now and will finish it up on our trip this week. I think I will retire it – just keeping enough to have a whiff now and then to conjure up some memories. Perhaps I will shop for my next magic potion while in Paris.