I know there are plenty of travelers who eschew purchasing souvenirs when they travel. They’re big on the whole “collect memories not things” mantra. Well, I’m a firm believer in the notion that one can have both. If I’m not a nomad (never my thing, never will be), why would I want to live in a stark place with nothing to remind me of my past travels?
I think a lot of people hear the word souvenirs and automatically think of tacky, “kitschy” things like shot glasses, cheap replicas of famous landmarks, and the one I “love” the most, vulgar t-shirts. But no, I don’t buy any of these articles. What I list below are items I love to pick up on my travels and most places you visit will have them.
Okay, unless you’re keeping them around for posterity, spices are not something you’ll be able to look back on with fondness 10 years later. However, as a culinary addict, I love nothing more than picking up something food related that I can use later on in my own kitchen when I cook. I bought a packet of spices at Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne Food Hall on my trip there in June and can’t wait to start using them. I’ve also bought saffron in Morocco and basil in Rome. Not to mention, spices are incredibly easy to pack and take home with you. While a bit bulkier, olive oil is also a great article to get.
If you don’t cook, obviously any food or treat that is a specialty of the area you’re visiting is also a great souvenir-on my trip to Savannah last month, we bought a bag of peanut brittle, a local favorite there.
I’m huge into decorating my home with beautiful wall art I’ve picked up on my travels. Whether it’s the panorama picture I got this past March from Arches National Park or the little wall hanging curio I got as a child at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, these are all perfect and lovely reminders of past trips since I get to see them all the time. But even better is when you buy a piece of art from a local artist on the street; I did this once when I was in Costa Rica. If you live someplace, you don’t want bare walls, now do you?
This is the bibliophile in me, but in the last couple of years I’ve started to collect children’s books from foreign countries I’ve visited. I’ve gotten a Tintin book in French in Brussels, a Tintin book in Spanish from Peru, and most recently, a children’s book about trolls from Norway-obviously this is a book I will just have to enjoy the pictures since my Norwegian skills are lacking. If you have children or even just nieces/nephews, these are wonderful AND educational gifts to educate young people about other countries and cultures. If you love to cook, another favorite thing to get are cookbooks. These are timeless, truly.
Christmas tree ornaments
This is something D and I didn’t start buying until the last couple of years. But now with every destination we visit, we try to pick up an ornament although sometimes this isn’t always easy as some stores don’t have them. While some perhaps are of the mass-produced look, others are handmade and just lovely. My favorite is one of the newest ones we got last month in Savannah-an angel figurine that was made from a seashell from Georgia’s coast.
Okay, so magnets are my guilty souvenir pleasure. But just like with wall art, nothing is more sterile to me than a plain fridge. I started collecting magnets back in college during my study abroad days and have been doing so ever since. Every destination we visit, we pick up a magnet although believe me when I say they’re classy-nothing tacky or vulgar about them. And as a refrigerator is something I open and shut multiple times in the course of the day, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing all of the incredible places I’ve been so lucky and fortunate to visit over the past decade. Another plus-these are incredibly easy to transport.
Okay, so technically this is a sixth but it’s somewhat different which is why I’m including it. In addition to buying postcards to write and send people (maybe I’m the only young person to still do this?), postcards also make for a great souvenir. Why? Well, for starters they’re cheap, not to mention so lightweight. On my trip to Scandinavia, I ended up easily buying two dozen postcards (I only sent about four). I bought a variety from each of the places we visited and obviously on a cruise, one visits a good number of destinations. I used a lot to decorate my photo album of my trip and the rest, well, they’re there to do with whatever I would like with.
What are some items you like to pick up on your travels?