Everyone who's done some traveling knows that powerful urge to take home a souvenir or two to remind them of their time away. Many of us also know the feeling of being burdened with trinkets and mementos bought in haste that don't really have a place in our lives, but we feel guilty to cast off. I remember absolutely NEEDING a few of these. There was not one, but 3 extra large street paintings from our wedding in the Dominican Republic which caused a fuss when it came to packing for home. I was determined! There were also several coconut lanterns, junky shell jewelry, goofy t-shirts, mugs, sarongs, hats, etc. So what can a traveler gather that will serve as a meaningful reminder of their adventures for years to come? Well, here are my top 5 favourite souvenirs to pack up and proudly display at home!
My number 1 essential souvenir is a collection of beautiful photos taken as we travel. Probably not a surprise since blogging our travels has been a hobby of mine for years. But even without the added incentive to chronicle our adventures so completely, I still enjoy these photos in other ways around home. Use your pictures to create photo books ( like this one of our Banff trip ) or photo art like these Artifact Uprising Photo Blocks ( here's one from our Vancouver vacation ). Magnets, iPhone cases - so many useful and fun products can be made out of your images. Then of course, there's slideshows and photoshares to show interested friends and family. I feel so uplifted when I look back at our collection of travel photos. On a cold dreary winter day, it's a quick fix to warm the heart.
Collecting found objects from your destination is both free and unique to the experience. There is a process that occurs as you walk quietly along a shore picking shells and stones, or up on a glacier selecting a small smooth rock to slip into your pocket. You are enveloped by the land and more attuned than ever to how temporary your presence is in it's ancient timeline. Everyone can enjoy these ponderous moments, or the inquisitive ones that follow. Learning about the world through hands on exploration is what ties us to it, making those visceral connections. It's meaningful travel that both child and adult alike will benefit from.
One word of warning, be responsible with what you take away with you. Living creatures are obviously a no-go. Most of the time living plants are as well. Rocks and shells, pinecones, pressed flowers, tiny fossils - keep your picks to what there is already plenty of. You wouldn't want to take away from the next persons experience of an environment. A trick we use with our forraged finds is to gather separately and then pool our findings together, selecting a handful of our favourite pieces. Displaying these at home can be a lot of fun too - get creative and they quickly become art.
We're not the only culprits when it comes to hurried souvenir buying. Those traveling with children are well aware of how persuasive a child can be when vying for a stuffed animal or themed toy. Seeing us pull out our wallets more than normal can really send the message that it's time to shop while the getting's good !!! A great way to avoid the rush for junky and overpriced goodies is to start your child on a collection before they even leave home. This way, they're more likely to become focused shoppers in search of a special treasure. We have two perpetual collections in our house. One is the classic crushed penny tokens that are gathered in a "penny passport" album. You can find these machines at almost every attraction, even most of the popular natural ones. Luke has almost two albums full - but I've seen some creative displays done with them as well.
Another fantastic collection we've started is one of destination themed children's literature. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding local book stores or shops with racks of themed stories for children. These collections are wonderful because they can teach a child more about their new surroundings while in them, and remind them of what they saw when they return home. Sharing these stories with friends and classmates is also a wonderful way to start a discussion about their experiences. Don't forget to date and dedicate each story to your child on the inside cover!
Here's where all the money you saved buying tacky t-shirts and nick-nacks pays off! Why spend your travel dollars on many generic trinkets made in a Chinese factory when you could buy one really special locally made product to enjoy in your home. Duck into unique shops and studios to find something made with local resources or in a way traditional to the area. I loved these handmade straw brooms in a Granville Island shop and bought a smaller hand broom version. Textiles also make great mementos because they pack easily and can be used in many ways in the home. Avoid the guilt of splurging on something unique by budgeting ahead of time for one really special piece to bring back with you. You'll feel good about knowing you're supporting the local economy too.
Cuisine Inspiration & Recipes
You know that amazing chicken salad you had on the beach with that fresh lime mojito? Yeah - I do. Take that mouth watering culinary experience home with you and try to replicate it! Be creative with the local cuisine you sample while traveling and you might just discover a new favourite combination of ingredients. The added sensation of sipping your cocktail on a beach may be missing, but in a pinch it'll do. Look to gather ingredients that won't break any travel restrictions on organic material. Good options are spices, spirits, preserves or cooking oils. My in-laws bring back vanilla extract, rum and coffee from the Dominican Republic every year. Full confession, they also bring me a few bags of Lime Lays chips and I DO NOT SHARE!
Hope you enjoyed this roundup of 5 meaningful souvenirs! Tell me about your favourite things to shop for abroad. Is there something you've brought home that is extra special to you? I'd love to hear about it!