Souvenirs to me are so much more than a little chachkey. The best souvenirs will bring you back in time with a flood of memories.
My earliest exposure to travel was from my Dad. For work, he would frequently travel to Israel, Japan, and China. I would be so excited for him to go because he’d always come home with the coolest stories about the strange food he ate, or the things he saw. Best of all, he always brought home the perfect souvenirs for my brothers and I. When I was around ten, he brought me a traditional Chinese outfit. It had an intricate pattern in silk material with gold trim and was unlike the t-shirt and jeans I wore regularly. I remember excitedly showing it off to my friends. Over the years I was given a small tea set and paintings in other languages that spelled out my name. These items were so unique and special that not only will I never forget them, I still have them!
I’ve carried the sentiment of finding special items while around the world during my travels now as an adult. Here is how I try and select the best items that will have meaning for years to come.
- Always purchase something local. That means I don’t want to be in Europe, but purchasing something that I could find on Amazon. I almost exclusively will only buy one-in-a-lifetime items from locals. This often ends up being from street vendors! To get a feel for a place I love visiting markets or perusing the streets. This is where you’ll feel the heart and soul of a place. I’m typically looking for art, hand-made jewelry, or pottery (like a small cup or vase).
- When you see something that sparks joy, buy it. When I was in Amsterdam I bought a beautiful painting from a man standing on a street corner with a small stall set-up. His art caught my eye and I instantly knew I had to have some pieces. The next day I was contemplating buying another piece from him and we decided to walk by the corner again however he wasn’t there. Luckily I had already purchased some pieces but if I hadn’t, I would have been devastated.
- Avoid clothing. Yes, I know my story above mentions a beautiful Chinese outfit that I received as a kid that was the best gift ever. That’s the exception. Otherwise, I avoid buying clothes. Clothes get food stains, they get run down after wearing, your size will change, and styles change. I can’t tell you how many t-shirts I’ve purchased on trips that I’ve never worn because I’m either too afraid they’ll get ruined or I look back and think “why on earth did I buy this?”
- Find things to bring home you don’t need to purchase! When we were swimming in the ocean in the Bahamas I noticed something bright white on the ocean floor. I thought it was a golf ball and figured my husband and I could play some type of game of catch. We dove down to grab it and discovered it was an empty sea urchin shell! It was filled with gunk so we carefully emptied and washed it. We grabbed newspaper from the gift shop to wrap it for the journey home and now this beautifully intricate shell sits on a shelf in our living room every day.
When it comes to finding something special, I urge you to find something that has meaning to you! My husband likes to buy local hot sauce wherever we go. I obviously like art but find out what speaks to you, bring it home, and infuse that joy in your everyday life.