How to Satisfy Wanderlust with Perfumes

Perfume can inspire wanderlust as well as satisfy it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve planned my vacations around the harvest period for rose, lavender or jasmine, and fragrances have taken me on many journeys to meet those who grow aromatic materials or those who distill them into essences. At the same time, perfumes can be effective at satisfying wanderlust, as I have confirmed over the past few months.


It’s not surprising that scents and memories have a strong link. Olfactory impressions are processed in the same part of the brain that’s responsible for emotions and memories, the limbic system, and for this reason, memories generated by smells are particularly bright and distinctive. While it takes a very specific combination of aromas and other sensory impressions to plunge you back into a certain time of your life, perfume nevertheless can be a good way to armchair travel.

To assemble a collection of perfumes that inspire wanderlust, I recommend focusing on three categories. The first includes fragrances that remind you of a specific time in your life or a certain person. Fragrances purchased on vacation fall into this category. As I explain in my recent video, Guerlain Chamade is one such fragrance for me. I bought a bottle of extrait de parfum during a visit to Paris, and to this day, whenever I put it on, I remember that day in November, the crowds on the Champs-Elysées, and the yellow street lights reflected in the puddles of autumn rain. Despite many other memories that Chamade evokes for me, this vignette is the most vivid one.

Another category of wanderlust-satisfying perfumes includes notes that remind me of a particular place. A fragrance on the whole may not be linked to any one memory in particular, but its unique combination of accords awakes a recollection. For instance, Annick Goutal Sables with its bittersweet note of immortelle reminds me of the meadows around my grandmother’s village in Central Ukraine. In August, the tapestry of poppies, cornflowers and chamomiles gives way to immortelle and sage, and their caramelized, spicy aroma fills the air. It’s the same nuance that gives Sables its character.

Finally, the last category comprises those fragrances that I search out specifically to inspire imaginary travels. Since my memories of India are inseparable from the scent of sandalwood, I have a collection of sandal-inflected perfumes that take me more or less in the direction of the subcontinent. Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule and Chanel Bois des Iles are among the fragrances that satisfy my wanderlust–and inspire daydreams.

What perfumes satisfy or inspire your wanderlust?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, fragrant offerings in Bali

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38 Comments

  • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

    Thank you for this lovely post and video. I love the photo of the mimosa. We are deciding what type of tree to plant to replace a dying one at the front of our unit block, and I’m going to suggest a wattle – Acacia pycnantha. It is native to Australia (our national floral emblem, in fact), and thus it can endure the hot and dry conditions well. Participating in the mimosa harvest must have been a wonderful experience.

    When I smell “Oceanus”, by The Body Shop, I am reminded of trips up the coast to Noosa with my father and younger brother, because that’s the scent that I thought would be appropriate to the coastal area and inoffensive enough to be worn on the car trip up and back, and while driving around Noosa itself.

    Today, I have been trying to decide which Guerlain fragrance I am going to buy from my lovely Guerlain rep/friend at David Jones this year. I would love to buy Myrrhe et Delires, after reading your review, but it is not even available from the Guerlain website any longer, let alone eBay or David Jones in Oz. I think that I might buy a bottle of Samsara, because I have been perfuming myself using the two large tubes of Samsara body lotion that I received as gifts with a purchase many years ago, and which live in my fridge. It would be great to have a bottle of the perfume. I can spray it on and imagine travelling to India one day!

    I have never been overseas, so there is no fragrance that reminds me of a remote place. I do recall buying wonderful box sets of Shalimar and Mitsouko products in Sydney one year, though. They included perfume sprays, soaps, and gorgeous little miniature bottles. I look forward to seeing all the scent gift sets available in the leadup to Christmas this year!

    With kind regards,
    Tourmaline August 31, 2020 at 7:39am Reply

  • Barbara in Virginia: Annick Goutal Songes will always remind me of my son’s beachside wedding in Jamaica. Where we all stayed were several cabins on a very wooded site with numerous gardens loaded with flowers and birds and on a private beach. Songes can be somewhat heavy, but in that location, it held its own and was perfect.

    Chamade is my wear anytime, any place fragrance. It feels like I was born wearing Chamade. August 31, 2020 at 9:26am Reply

  • jenni: Lys Mediteranee, FM = Juan-les-Pins and a crazy drive in a fast car in the middle of the night and then to wake up with the most beautiful smell.

    Infusion d’Iris Prada = Montreal, the cobble streets, glowing lights, warm sweaters, coats and scarfs – and a chic chapeau

    STELLA eau de parfum = a cuppa in my mother in law’s garden in South London, please take me there. (any English garden will do.)

    Horse by For Strange Women = growing up in Texas – saddling my horse and off on a trail ride — and the beautiful smell of the horse when you remove it’s saddle. August 31, 2020 at 11:45am Reply

  • Sandra: Songes during the summer months remind me sunburned flesh and florals

    Shalimar, takes me to an exotic places, where I seduce myself

    Encens Mythique, I have never been to the Middle East but I would love to believe that this perfume takes me there, sipping tea and listening to someone handsome strum the oud guitar.

    Lili Bermuda Frangipani, take me to Bermuda when we were on vacation..

    Omnia-I am sipping chai tea with my father in law.

    La Danza delle Libellule: I am in Italy with a blanket and a book laying down in the sun eating an apricot (similar to a place in call me by your name book/movie) August 31, 2020 at 2:08pm Reply

  • Nancy Chan: The Body Shop’s Lemon Green Tea perfume reminds me of a childhood trip to Hong Kong. Now I have L”Occitane’s Green Tea fragrance with a touch of Jasmine. August 31, 2020 at 2:14pm Reply

  • Peter: Mahalo Victoria, for your wanderlust post. The highlight of my day is choosing which perfume to envelop myself.

    My father worked for Pan American and we were lucky to travel to Europe as keiki (kids). My travel memory is the smell of Badedas (similar to Vitabath in the US).

    As a teenager I got to visit Tahiti on Easter Break. The smell of Monoi Tiare Oil (Tahitian Gardenia) is French Polynesia.

    Like others, I associate the beautiful Songes with a luxurious tropical resort.

    Zoologist Camel suggests an exotic Middle-Eastern bazaar.

    I’ve only sampled Parfum d’Empire Wazamba, but I liked the idea that the ingredients are sourced from Africa. An aromatic incensed take on the great continent. August 31, 2020 at 8:17pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: G’day Peter,

      What an interesting comment! Alas, I haven’t smelled any of the fragrances you mention, although I remember seeing magazine advertisements for “the Badedas bath” as a child or teenager. I would like to smell Zoologist “Hummingbird” one day!

      Laters,
      Tourmaline August 31, 2020 at 9:04pm Reply

      • Peter: Aloha Tourmaline.

        Your comment reminded me that I still had a Hummingbird sample. It’s sweet with an indole top note. Eventually I get a rich cherry. This is not one of the scary Zoologists. August 31, 2020 at 11:29pm Reply

        • Tourmaline: Now I REALLY want to smell it! September 1, 2020 at 3:55am Reply

  • Mel: Chinatown by Bond No. 9 conjures up the “hippie” shop I used to go to in Atlanta when I was a kid to buy Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple black light posters. August 31, 2020 at 9:27pm Reply

  • Karen A: Perfect topic! Perfume inspired wanderlust is a great way to travel right now. Portrait of a Lady for me evokes Budapest as I bought it there on an overcast chilly day. Do it brings back memories of the beautiful jewel-box like opera house and some of the most delicious pastries ever.
    My favorite rose is La Fille de Berlin which I found in Milan. So besides loving roses and rose fragrances of all kind, La Fille brings back a wonderful visit and seeing an amazing production of Aida.
    The only time I craved a perfume was in Scotland when hiking through some woods. It started to snow and the pines were so so fragrant. Regretted not bringing a decant of Lutens Fille en Anguille (apologies for the spelling!)
    Despite spending lots of time in Turkey I don’t have a fragrance that evokes places visited there, but now I’m so much more aware of all the scents.
    Very fun post and love reading everyone’s comments! August 31, 2020 at 10:44pm Reply

    • Peter: Hello Karen A. I’m a fellow Portrait lover.

      I just finished a mystery novel set in the Scottish Highlands. I wish I hadn’t used up my small sample of Fille en Aiguilles. Such a lovely sweet pine scent. It’s been compared to Wazamba, which is also on my wish list August 31, 2020 at 11:45pm Reply

      • Karen A: Very fun, what is the book? I had always wanted to go to the Outer Hebrides as I’m a weaver and that’s where Harris Tweed is woven.

        I just smelled Wazamba and although my decant of Fille en Anguilles is gone, Wazamba is really incensey and FeA didn’t strike me that way. Both are beautiful!! September 1, 2020 at 1:42pm Reply

        • Peter: Hi Karen A. If you’re a mystery lover I would recommend Deborah Crombie’s “Now May You Weep”. There is even an illustrated map of Aviemore and the nearby Cairngorm Mountains. You learn about family whiskey distilleries.

          Since you’re a hiker I would also recommend Mary Stewart’s “Wildfire at Midnight”. It takes place on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. It’s a fantastic romantic suspense novel. September 1, 2020 at 7:09pm Reply

          • Karen A: Thanks! Book suggestions are always fun! September 1, 2020 at 8:29pm Reply

          • Leslie: Hi Peter, I’ve been meaning to say that I love your posts 😉 I am going to look for “Now May You Weep.” It sounds right up my alley – scottish ancestry and strange love of very peaty whiskey, tweed, and bagpipes… I think I will also try Hummingbird. My favorite right now is Ormonde Jayne Nawab of Oudh Intensivo. It’s perfect to me anywhere. Cheers! September 1, 2020 at 9:34pm Reply

            • Peter: Aloha Leslie. I’m from Hawaii and love ‘travelling’ in my reading. I have a weakness for the traditional British mystery. Have you tried the Ann Cleeves’ “Shetland” series. The isles are a part of Scotland, but with stronger Nordic roots.

              I also really enjoyed Elizabeth George’s “A Place of Hiding” which takes place on Guernsey. Ms George brings the colorful history of the Island to life including the occupation during WW2.

              I’m interested in your Ormonde Jayne Nawab of Oudh Intensivo perfume recommendation. I can get samples through Luckyscent. I’m cautious about Oud, but it sounds like it’s used as a backdrop to an exotic Oriental.

              I did mention Zoologist Camel and Hummingbird, but my favorite is Civet. Love at first sniff! Civet is a potent retro-style Chypre. September 1, 2020 at 11:20pm Reply

              • Leslie: Hi Peter, I love your mention of Hawaii and your travels 😉 I’ve been to Maui and I have never found any place that can match the colors and scents that I experienced there, and it was almost 30 years ago… You really exude zen in your writing – it makes me smile. I will look up the books you mentioned. I have also been looking at Civet for some time. I’m going to give it a try. Thank you! Leslie September 2, 2020 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Notturno 7: Hi Karen A, lovely to see your post here. What lovely memories. I have to try Zoologists Hummingbird. I remember you recommended it and I love seeing descriptions of it on this thread. September 1, 2020 at 6:09am Reply

  • Notturno 7: A Lovely post! It brings memories of Galop perfume, the end of summer and glorious holidays in London. Another year, Caribbean, warm nights and Fracas perfume, Songes and Tuberose Gardenia extrait.
    This summer I’m stuck at home. Enjoying Carnal Flower and remembering lovely holidays. September 1, 2020 at 6:21am Reply

    • Karen A: Hello hello!!! Yes we are stuck at home with memories and fragrances to cheer us up! I hope all is good with you (besides all the topsy turvy stuff….) September 1, 2020 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Sandar: Songes is also a favorite of mine September 1, 2020 at 6:51pm Reply

  • Charlotte Barrow: What a great topic.

    One fragrance that comes to mind is Penhaligon’s Vaara, which takes me to a specific time of year as well as a place: anytime I smell it, I think of autumn in London, the ‘back-to-school’ feeling, weather that is cooling and damp, sweet rotting leaves and the cidery tang of fallen apples. It’s interesting that it evokes these things for me even though it doesn’t specifically smell like them. For some reason I rarely wear it at any other time of year, so I must be reinforcing this association all the time.

    In this case it’s not so much enabling me to travel, but making the world around me more vivid! September 1, 2020 at 5:49pm Reply

    • Johaboha: Une nuit à Bali ‘murmure des dieux’ makes me want to go to Bali and einhale the smell of fragrant fragipani and temples. September 3, 2020 at 11:24am Reply

  • Janet: Prada Olfactories Dark Light will always remind me of Rome. I was traveling there a couple of years ago with my young niece who I love to spoil. I promised to get her a Prada scent, and while there I saw a display of four Prada bottles in dark glass; I had never seen them before and the salesman said with awe: “they are the best.” The name Dark Light alone intrigued me; I sprayed some on and spend the rest of the day smelling my wrist. Needless to say, we went back for the bottle – a treat for myself and now a reminder of that wonderful trip. September 1, 2020 at 10:19pm Reply

  • Filomena: I purchased my first Meo Fusciuni perfume, L’Oblio, in Taormina, Sicilia. I now have many more of his fragrances, but every time I wear L’Oblio, it brings me back to my time in Taormina and how I protected that bottle in my suitcase during the entire 19 day trip hoping it would not break nor be confiscated at customs. September 1, 2020 at 11:17pm Reply

  • Tamasin: I love Ormonde Jayne’s Nawab of Oudh as well…even seeing its splendid name takes me away! September 3, 2020 at 5:27am Reply

  • Aurora: What a lovely post about the power of scent to conjure pmaces. The smell of lavender essential oil brings back Nyons and lazy summer afternoons during the cold months.
    I am lucky enough to be there right now and earlier this week the distillerie was in use and the air in the town was heavenly with the fresh and sweet scent of high altitude lavender. September 3, 2020 at 9:39am Reply

    • Aurora: *places, sorry for the typo. September 3, 2020 at 9:41am Reply

    • Klaas: Oh Aurora, how I envy you 😉

      For me too, nothing beats lavender when it comes to arm chair travel! I have so many good memories with the smell of lavender (summers in Provence, my mom’s linnen cabinet, my dad’s eau de cologne, me wearing Jicky in the 80’s……), the mere smell just releases a bubble of happiness in my chest……it is beyond Proust!!

      To have a whole town smell like it must be so special! September 4, 2020 at 7:43am Reply

      • Aurora: Hello Klaas: There is something about lavender that makes it so evocative. Hoping you will be able to go back to Provence soonan visit Nyons. The distillerie is called Bleu Provence, they have a website of the same name where they sell essential oils and other products. Oh yes, the scent of lavender everywhere when the distillerie was in use was simply magical and there is an artisanal ice cream parlor too. September 9, 2020 at 7:58am Reply

        • Klaas: Did they have lavender ice cream?? There’s a ice cream parlor here in Amsterdam where they sell it in summer sometimes. It is really good with hazenut or salty caramel 😉

          I’ll check out the website, thank you for sharing! September 9, 2020 at 10:42am Reply

      • Eudora: Hello Klaus, how do you feel about today’s Jicky? My daughter and I were smelling Guerlains and it was without hesitation its favorite. September 9, 2020 at 11:37am Reply

        • Eudora: I mean Klaas! Sorry… artificial intelligence… September 9, 2020 at 11:40am Reply

          • Klaas: Hahaha, no worries! It’s basicly the same name but Claus is German and Klaas is Dutch. The Flemish also use Claes…..I know……

            I must admit I haven’t smelled Jicky in a very long time! I used to love it very much though. But then I fell madly in love with Vol de Nuit…..and Jicky was history 😉

            Smelling Guerlains with your daughter…..can life become more sophisticated? Jicky is a excellent choice, one of the all time classics! September 9, 2020 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: Victoria, I also find sandalwood smells in any context transport me back to India. More than that Flowerhead (Byredo) immediately takes me to an Indian wedding or Durga Puja fair in Calcutta/Kolkata. As for Fleur de Cassis, it was probably the perfume that took me down the rabbit hole. It was the first niche perfume I bought, along with Iris Poudre (both F Malle).

    Like you with Chamade, I also find the wanderlust aspect of perfume evokes moments in time and they forever stick in one’s memory. It’s almost like pressing a button when one smells it. Only a few perfumes do that for me, but one is Songes for Rio de Janeiro. September 5, 2020 at 9:49am Reply

  • Klaas: OMG, those essential oils look divine! And it’s my birthday soon…….. 😉 September 9, 2020 at 10:47am Reply

    • Klaas: This was meant for Eudora 😉 September 9, 2020 at 1:12pm Reply

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