Take a Field Trip. In My Case, To Cultivate Good Smells.

One of my very favorite new resolutions is to Cultivate good smells. It’s astonishing to me how much pleasure my sense of smell gives me, now that I’ve tuned into it more forcefully.

In the course of my research, along with Demeter Fragrance Library (I love the idea of a “fragrance library”), I discovered a site called CB I Hate Perfume — and learned that an actual store exists in Brooklyn. Fortunately, I have a good friend who is also a smell enthusiast, and together we made a field trip to the store.

I got the idea for the resolution to Take a field trip from my six-year-old, who gets extremely excited at the prospect of a kindergarten field trip. To her, it’s such an adventure, such a treat. Sometimes, I get to go on field trips with her class, and I always enjoy them tremendously, and finally, it occurred to me to look for occasions to assign myself my own field trips.

Visiting the store with my friend was a deeply pleasurable experience. She handed me the wonderful bottle of “Hay,” I handed her “Burning Leaves.” She found “At the Beach 1966,” I found “To See a Flower.” She found “Black March,” I found “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday.”

The resolution to “Take a field trip” yielded so much fun; it was a real adventure to make a special trip to visit this quirky store (which, for the record, we’d been planning to visit long before Geoffrey Gray’s recent New York magazine story about the store’s founder, Christopher Brosius.) But before my happiness project, I would never have dreamed of taking this kind of field trip. First, it involved making a modest splurge, which I almost never did. Second, it meant forcing myself to wander, which I almost never did. Third, it involved an interest in perfume and smell, which I never thought about at all, so I never would have heard about CB I Hate Perfume.

But I did take this field trip — which gave me a wonderful outing with a friend, a memorable New York City adventure, and the continuing pleasure of spraying myself with “To See a Flower.”

Do you take your own field trips? Where?

* I was thrilled to be included in this list of 7 must-read books on the art and science of happiness. I’ve read them all.

* Want to launch a group for people doing Happiness Projects together? Email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com for the starter kit. Want to see if a group exists in your area? Look here. Want to talk to people about starting a new group? Start a discussion here.

  • Jbator

    I loved going with you G!  Your pal in perfume, J.

    • gretchenrubin

      Awwwww! Next we go back to Flower District.

  • The Napkin Dad

    I take solo field trips to museums and I sometimes lead my photo group on field trips (one to the zoo coming up next week).  But I wish I did more of them, and I wish I had one or two good friends who I could call nearby who would be up for it.

  • anony

    I’ve done scent field trips before too – mine is usually to the perfume counter at Barneys or Liberty (when I’m in London).  Looking forward to reading other people’s comments about where else to field trip to.

  • Joy

    This is wonderful advice and I’m happy you found cbihateperfume. It is all about the experience, the discoveries and the memories we create. “Take a field trip” could also be extended into “Make every outing a field trip” and take the time to really notice our surroundings instead of rushing through our days.

    • gretchenrubin

      GREAT suggestion! Just calling it a “field trip” in my mind made a big

  • Katie

    very cool 🙂 in school we just learned that your sense of smell is the only sense you have that does not have to travel through a part of your brain called the thalamus. as a result, it can have some pretty cool emotional effects on you. so your observation has a scientific basis 😀

  • This is really good suggestion Gretchen! I ave never gone for a field trip for at least a year or so and i would like to go now after reading your blog.

  • I love scent — and only recently became conscious of my love — as well. Definitely something that makes me happy! And CB I Hate Perfume is so wonderful … 

  • Lil

    This week my buddy Robert and I biked to Falmouth.  That was the first day I broke the thirty mile mark riding my bike.  We paused at a nursery in Falmouth.  They had a great display of herbs.  The scent of sage brought back the spaghetti sauce my  mother used to take all day to cook.  I could not get enough of the lemon scented geranium.  On my dining room table is a blue and white china pot filled with lemon scented geranium and sage.

  • safranum

    Gretchen–this is why I grow fragrant roses.  People enjoy roses, but most of the ones sold in stores have no fragrance.   When I give someone a bouquet with pink Johan Strauss, golden Brandy, and two-tone Double Delight,the recipient usually exclaims, inhales, and then says “aaaah!”  with a smile.  When visiting my husband’s grandmother in a nursing home, a Russian lady with no English who was a complete stranger enthusiastically petitioned me in sign language to please please please give her some–which I did.   I hope it gave her some pleasure.  Perhaps that will be me one day, begging for the delicate smell and luminous colors of fresh roses from a visiting stranger. 

    • gretchenrubin

      WHY are they breeding the scent out of flowers? it makes me so sad. what a
      lovely thing to do.

  • Casapinka

    This sounds like what Julia Cameron calls an “Artist’s Date.” Her book, “The Artist’s Way,” changed my life. One fun field trip for me is to go to a movie in the middle of the day when I have a hundred other things to do. I get popcorn and soda (total price gouging – or, a moderate splurge.) Another is a walk around a beautiful park, where I concentrate on all my senses. What I see, smell, hear etc. That said, I look at life as an adventure and try to make even going to the car wash a field trip!

    • TracyM

      I LOVE the idea of making “even going to the car wash a field trip!”. I heart field trips. 🙂

  • Bev

    I think my field trip would include Lush bath bombs, fresh flowers, marks and spencers lemon shower gel and fresh coffee and toast. Now i know what i’m doing today, thanks.

  • Bev

    I think my field trip would include Lush bath bombs, fresh flowers, marks and spencers lemon shower gel and fresh coffee and toast. Now i know what i’m doing today, thanks.

  • Bev

    I think my field trip would include Lush bath bombs, fresh flowers, marks and spencers lemon shower gel and fresh coffee and toast. Now i know what i’m doing today, thanks.

  • TracyM

    A few years back, when my child was a pre-schooler, I was a part of a group called the “Mommy Adventure Club”. (http://www.mommyadventureclub.com/)
    They were organized field trips for moms, and they were so great. Some where outings that included our kids, so the locations were kid friendly, And some outings were kid-free!! One of my fav’s was an outing to the Norton Simon Museum and then a visit to a tea house. She was so creative – even had a kid-free day where we went to a Bollywood film and visited indian eateries and shops.

    Living in Los Angeles can get to me sometimes, yet I recently made myself a pledge to “embrace LA” because this city really does have SO much to offer. Field trips will go a long way in helping to foster my appreciation. (I recently visited the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum for the first time – awesome!!)  Thanks for the reminder Gretchen. I want more field trips . . . . Mar Vista farmer’s market this Sunday, here I come. 

    •  I live a little south of you, and I’ve been trying to do the same thing recently, namely embrace Orange County’s history and local culture.  There is so much to experience if we take the time to look for it; thanks for reminding me about this unspoken resolution! 

  • LOVE the field trip idea. as a photographer, I take them fairly often. but i need to add more variety and fun to my outings 🙂

  • Deirdre

    I’m surprised to hear you’ve read The Gifts of Imperfection. I really enjoyed your book and Brene’s, as they are both that unique mix of memoir and research—but you do such an amazing job of linking people up or pointing to other books and I’ve never heard you mention her. Have you seen her TEDx talk? Really worth watching.
    Also, I found it ironic that so many of the books on the list are about Buddhism and the practice of meditation, which seemed to be the ONE thing you weren’t willing to try during your year in the book. Have you tried it since? Maybe I should be applauding your right to “be Gretchen” and decided it’s not for you without trying it, but I can’t help thinking those of us who live more in our heads need it the most.

  • That list of happiness books should include Dennis Prager’s “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  That book seriously changed my whole perspective and made me start thinking about happiness as a choice.  His Friday Happiness Hours on his talk show are great, too.  I would love to hear the two of you chat, Gretchen!


    • Cece

      I, too, have been surprised NOT to find Dennis Prager mentioned here.  He sees being happy as a MORAL imperitive. 
      I love the idea of declaring an outing to be a ‘field trip’ and it’s got my creative juices flowing.  Thanks once again, Gretchen!

  • Yay for field trips!  I love that you and your friend found one called “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday,” which is one of my dad’s favorite movies ever.  Makes me want to take my own field trip just so I can smell it! 

    And great idea from Joy about calling regular expeditions “field trips!”  When I’m working with my math tutoring students I’ll joke with them about taking a “field trip” to the kleenex box when they need a tissue.  Or taking a “field trip” to the kitchen to practice gallon-pint-cup conversions with water or act out word problems about food with stuff from my fridge.  It’s totally silly but they get really excited!

  • That actually sounds like a fun project, just to take the time to wander in the city, and find something unexpected. Hopefully, I can embark on something like this soon, I know my field trip would mostly involve food establishments and marked down books stores.hee

    • Mrs.Love Doctor

      Are You single..I know i am baby……

  • Happiness through your nose – what a wonderful way to cherish the beauty life has to offer 🙂
    I do field trips too, although most of them are more aimted towards gustatory pleasures I confess 😉

    • Yetlaalvarez

      I Suggest that you fdhfhdsfsbdvxcyvhfdnbvfhv….Sorry my kid threw my laptop…

  • Wiremarianne

    I love to take field trips to different parts of my city and just wander.  It’s amazing what I discover!  While exploring Elizabeth, Colo.  I found an Apothecary shop.  I now have a natural remedy for the arthritis in my thumbs! 

  • MissPrism

    I’d toyed with the idea of visiting CB when I was next in New York (which is seldom, as I live in the UK) – but I was there earlier this summer, and this post encouraged me to do it!

    I absolutely fell for “A Room With A View” and I’ve worn it every day since.

  • Barbara

    Corny but I love to Iron on a sunny morning – the scent of freshly ironed cotton and linen makes me smile – Ironing out those wrinkles becomes a challenge and everytime I spray with a can of starch I remember what it was like when we had to make our own starch – I used to iron when my babies were taking their nap so that all those break-in-the-day memories are tied up with the scent of freshly ironed pillow cases and sheets and shirts and handkerchiefs and even a kitchen towel or two.