Most of us bring from trips photos of cities, lakes, dunes, or mountain peaks, which constitute the visual memories of landscapes. Meanwhile, in the recesses of our memory, we also hold a smellscape.
Smellscape is an internal record of olfactory experiences and emotions associated with them. When particles of volatile substances enter the nose, a signal is send to the brain that activates its three sections – the hippocampus responsible for memory, the amygdala which is the centre of emotions, and the orbital-frontal cortex where cognitive processes take place. We all know how it works: the soil signals the coming of spring by smells long before any flowers appear on its surface.
The aroma of salt water
The nose assures us that we are at the ocean, and therefore none, even the most carefully composed sea perfume, can recreate the aroma of salt water, which makes us feel relaxed. Similarly, strong smells and emotions are experienced when coming back from a trip and entering home, whose scent tells us, “You are safe”. Surely, everyone can recall a nice smell experienced during a journey.
For some this will be the aroma of Indian mango lassi, for others the resinous scent of Canadian forests or the unique smell of the hustle and bustle of the New York subway. However, there are less known places with extremely distinctive fragrances that are also worth visiting.
Morocco, Chicago, Singapore
Most of people going to Morocco associate Fez with oriental aromas of spices sold at the local soukac. Meanwhile, Fez is also the centre of tanning, with numerous workshops filling the air with the stifling scent of fresh and ready-made leathers – an experience not for the faint- hearted. In turn, a completely different smellscape can be encountered in Chicago, where, thanks to the biggest American cacao processing site, a couple of districts are drowned in a balsamic, slightly nutty, warm aroma of cocoa. Every day, citizens update the city map with new data regarding the presence and intensity of the fresh chocolate aroma. However, beware! The brain reaction to this smell evokes a sudden urge to eat this addictive delicacy. In this context, it is worth mentioning a small town called Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, where the famous film “Chocolate” was shot. The town, however, smells differently from what you may expect, as it is full of the aroma of fresh, sweet-herbal anise and liquorice.
The smell comes from St Peter’s Abbey, which has been producing pastis-flavoured candy for almost one hundred years. In turn, Singapore, which is instinctively associated with the sensual aroma of blooming frangipani and jasmine, brings to the minds of many travellers a completely different scent, namely the aroma of broccoli and spices. Another surprising sensation, which can be experienced in Saariselkä, is the ubiquitous smell of wood tar that the wind brings from Urho Kekkonen National Park, where the city is located. What is the source of this smell? Apart from animals, in the park tourists can also enjoy tarred wooden sculptures that illustrate the richness of fauna of this region. Although intensive, wood tar has become the sign of this place, and can be bought in shops with souvenirs.
The scent of memories
It is worth doing a simple training of fragrance awareness, at first once a day, that comes down to focusing attention on scents present in the environment. Where am I? What do I feel? What emotions does this smell conjure up? Identifying smells evoked during relaxation makes it possible to use them later to consciously affect one’s mood. When looking for an original souvenir from a trip, it is worth acquiring local perfume or essential oils.
The south of France offers lavender oil, whereas rose oil can be bought in Bulgaria. Just a couple of drops added to a bath will enliven memories of your holiday. Fragrance has an amazing power to transport you in time and space. So open your nose and enjoy the trip. Surely, everyone can recall a nice smell experienced during a journey. Smellscapes are created on a daily basis, when going for a walk or doing everyday chores.