I hate to shop.

So when I took a recent but long-awaited trip to the hilly Cotswolds region of the United Kingdom that promised “Time for shopping!” I was less than thrilled.

“It’s free time,” my travel companion said. “You could do anything. Go read a book.”

Of course, I did not follow her advice. Having paid for the experience, I would have all of it – but just go look. Ha!

Instead, off I went, driven by a something-to-remember-this-trip-of-a-lifetime-by temptation and a need-to-fit-it-in-my-suitcase reality. What I hadn’t expected was that “Time for shopping!” there would mean “Time for shopping!” here in the U.S., too.

My finds were innocent enough – small and inexpensive, or so I thought: a yard or so of blue gingham fabric from an antiques store; a beautiful greeting-card print of a Cotswolds cottage; and the lightweight standby of all travelers, a scarf. It was an impulse purchase from the Blenheim Palace gift shop. (Unfortunately, I was about to miss the van and only later noticed it was made in China.)

The rub is, I’ve managed to spend the past month, and more than each item’s purchase price, trying to prove to myself how useful they are.

The gingham is, of course, practical only if I transform it into the apron I had envisioned, which led me to a sewing shop, which led me to a pattern involving large metal grommets, which already has exceeded the cost of the fabric and a duplicate apron at Williams Sonoma.

The cottage print would be perfect, I decided, in a simple sage frame with ivory matting, which would bring out the color of the lettering on a housewarming sign I already own (“Home Is Where Your Story Begins”). That’s perfect, since I’d like my story to have begun in such a charming cottage rather than a brick ranch in Georgia.

Off to the hobby shop I went, where I discovered that only a custom frame would work to showcase the card, which itself cost only 2.75 pounds.

But the most-consuming search was to find a top to match that oddly beautiful shade of blue in the made-in-China scarf. After hours of local shopping to find this indescribable color, I started scanning the tops of all my female friends to see if I could come up with a brand name.

When one told me she’d found hers in a store I’d already searched, I almost grabbed the label out of her collar to disprove it. “Maybe it was the outlet store,” she said, and quickly offered directions.

Lest I discourage other travelers who’ll have “Time for shopping!” on summer trips, I should add that sometimes it is possible to find the perfect item on a trip.

When that happens, by all means, buy it.

I had not been home a full day before it hit me that one of those “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs would be perfect for an anniversary coming up that week. The couple would think I had bought it on my trip! Having just left a country where the signs were ubiquitous, I was sure I could find one here. Seventeen stores later, I was still empty-handed.

If that’s not a story to relieve shopper’s guilt, I don’t know what is. Go forth and shop.

Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.