Funny story: I live in the desert.
We weren’t *supposed* to be here.
When my husband got selected for school out here in Twentynine Palms, CA, it was a little bit exciting — “we’re moving to Mars!” — but then, once school was over, he was one of two students who got stationed out here.
As our friends moved away to San Diego, Hawaii and North Carolina — which, trust me, is a veritable metropolis compared to the desert life — here we stayed, for three more years, at the place where everyone in the USMC community gently dubs “the dirt.”
And you know what? I love it. But that’s a story for a different time — for now, let’s just focus on raising a hand if you’ve ever been stationed as far away from civilization as you’ve ever experienced.
A good friend of mine recently summed it up brilliantly, when she said, “Civilization, to me, is anywhere with Target and a Chipotle.” Perfect, right?
I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I’m a girl who has always lived in urban areas, towns and cities with all the culinary and social amenities that I could possibly wish for.
And, yes, I took it for granted.
Because when you live over an hour from an urban area — with a good movie theater, a mall and a Chipotle (sigh) — you really know what I mean when I say, I miss the little things.
When it comes to shopping, though, I’ve learned that living without a good mall close by (or a Target), is actually incredibly easy and infinitely more fulfilling.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t squeal with excitement if we traveled to a city with the Target stamp of civilization — more like, “shut up and take my money!” — but getting by without is actually incredibly easy.
And no — aha! — it doesn’t just involve the Internet.
1. Discover local!
I know this is a cliche, but it’s so, so true.
Think about it: Are you missing your trips to Trader Joe’s? Is the commissary letting you down on your stock of organic fruit n’ veg? Ding! Farmer’s markets!
Are you missing the delightful selection of mark-down hand soaps and body lotions at Target and Marshalls? Ding! Shop local, my friend.
Seriously: everywhere you go, there’s someone with a handmade soap company. Yep, even out here in the Mojave desert!
The other thing to look out for is companies run by other military spouses. Boutiques (online or otherwise), beauty supplies, all that good stuff — the likelihood of there being someone close by who runs an Etsy store, an Arbonne shop, Roden + Fields, or something similar, is HUGE.
Give back to your fellow spouses and shop around your base community! All it takes is a few questions, a bit of digging on Facebook, or a vendors event and you’ll be hooked up with some sweet new trinkets and products that you’ll almost certainly choose over the Target selection any time.
Furthermore, you can feel happy in the knowledge that you’re giving back to the community.
2. Shop online — sometimes.
I will never forget the words of a wise friend when I first moved to Twentynine: “I was sad, for a bit … and then I discovered Amazon Prime.”
First rule of remote duty station survival, right there — buy Amazon Prime. Sure, you shell out a hundred for the year, but Amazon Prime is twenty-first century convenience at its very finest (plus, you get to watch Downton Abbey on demand, yo).
That said, online shopping can be a huge let-down if you’re buying certain things. I’m thinking here, about my awkwardly small, wide feet that could not be shoved into the most perfect Nordstrom rack score, and of my dismay that Rent The Runway dress actually did run large. Sometimes, you just gots’ to have a changing room and a heap bigger than a small child.
This isn’t to say I don’t buy clothes online. I just buy certain things online and save the boots and the ball gowns — all the stuff that it’s really worth trying on, preening, poking — for those rare trips to civilization.
I apply a similar rule for home goods, make-up and smell-goods.
For example, if I know exactly what I’m getting, then Amazon can shut up and take my money. If it’s a new shade of eyeshadow, a big piece of furniture, a new scented candle, then it’s got to be waited for.
Because, let’s be honest, returning online purchases is a pain in the booty, the sort of job we all wish we had a robot to do for us.
… And since that isn’t the case: be selective about your online shopping.
3. Do It Yourself
Whatever your skill set, there’s a DIY you most certainly can do. So take a cue from the White Walls community and go ahead!
I have a wonderful friend who transformed her garage into a wood shop. Chances are there are people around you who are profesh DIY’ers. And it’s cool if you’re not WW-level 5000 yet, but start small.
Comb the Internet like a wily cyber-wolf — Pinterest, Facebook pages, design vlogs, Instagram — and see where it takes you! Then order that sticky wallpaper, those Scrabble pieces, or those lovely chalk paint markers and give it a whirl!
4. …if all else fails, get thee to the PX.
We all know that the PX is a treasure trove. Sure — the women’s clothing section is always far less on-trend than the men’s (just me?) and the home goods section is hit or miss…at mine, anyway!
But you’ll always save fat stacks on gadgets and gizmos aplenty at the good ol’ PX. Who’s going to argue with that?!