The Adventure in Buying Toothpaste Abroad


Packing for my first ever trip abroad, I remember cruising the aisle of the local Wal-mart looking for travel sized toiletries to pass thru the TSA checkpoint before departing the USA.

Crest toothpaste. Check.
Travel toothbrush. Check.
Travel deodorant. Check.
Travel floss. Check.
Travel mouthwash. Check.

Newark Airport from Satellite

Newark Airport from Satellite

I arrived at the sprawling Newark International Airport with plenty of time to spare before heading through the security checkpoint. I grabbed a sandwich, a coffee, and sent some goodbye texts to family & friends. When I made it through the queue up to the TSA officer, I foolishly fumbled with my ID and boarding pass as if it was my first time getting ready for a flight.

I eventually made it through the initial screen and through the X-Ray machine. However, little did I know what I thought was travel size, did not fall into proper TSA guidelines. So, most of my toiletries I had purchased just days prior were simply thrown away.

Well, hurdle number one just appeared, not even making it a full-day into my two month trip abroad.

When I first landed in Germany, I was fortunate enough to be staying with someone from Couchsurfing. When I arrived to their apartment, I made sure to ask them where the nearest neighborhood shops and grocery stores. Luckily for me, it was right around the corner.

The challenge behind trying to find toothpaste was my complete lack of knowing the German language. Albeit, I was trying to learn German for a little bit before my trip. While standing in the brightly-lit supermarket, I vividly recall pondering whether I was holding denture paste or toothpaste. As you can imagine, both boxes has teeth with an over-exaggerated sheen & *sparkle* on them.

I handed over freshly minted Euros with some high-society portrait on the front flanked by artistic designs.

To this day, I think that I chose the correct product.

There’s something about being out on your own in a foreign place for the first time.

That gut feeling that makes you hesitate a little more.

Even though the Aldi was a couple hundred yards away, it still felt like a daunting task. Looking back it’s rather silly to look back on that experience and think that I was afraid. Especially after traveling throughout Eastern Europe, Cairo, and other more foreign places than safe Germany.

The best part of having to find this Aldi, navigate the streets of Düsseldorf, and try to pick out the right product made me get out there and explore the local neighborhood. Little did I know, but leaving toothpaste behind and buying it abroad has kinda become a weird tradition of mine.

I like the thought of becoming a `local` in a place that I’ve never been before.


Life-Long Learner, Explorer, & Web Developer. Currently a Software Engineer at Jazz.