We all want to come back from a trip with something to remember it by. I know, I thought the same to myself many times, why are photos simply not enough. I can take 2,000 of them on one trip. We’ve all come home with snow globes, keyrings, fridge magnets etc. I’m not going to tell you to avoid these things like the plague. What else do you take back for your kids class mates who are 8? I will however tell you how to purchase a long lasting memory that you can take home.
Inspiration of souvenirs
When I was a little girl I used to spend hours in my mother’s jewellery box. Most of her jewellery was costume jewellery and of little value. She was not letting me play with her strings of diamonds that is for sure. A couple of the pieces I loved to daydream about. One of these was a solid silver apple. I now own it and wear it a lot. The other was a silver charm bracelet. When she travelled around Europe in her brown flares and wedged heels in the 70’s, so bought a charm from nearly everywhere she visited. There was an Eiffel Tower, a koi fish, a clog and many more. I loved hearing where all the pieces where from and asking about those places. 40 years later it is still interesting to me. That my friends, is the type of souvenir I am going to teach you to pick up.
Tacky sounvenir consumption
I was recently in Singapore and I bought T-shirts and fridge magnets. I bought key-rings (key-chains for Americans) and I bought a Merlion statue. My kids wear the t-shirts to bed. They are not for their Sunday best but they are fun and they like the fact that they were bought overseas. I will continue to let them buy stickers and postcards, but, there is a limit. I am teaching myself and the children that this type of souvenir looks so good when you are there but do we NEED that once we are home.
I’ve included a photo of a pile of souvenir’s I just found in a bag. 5 months after our trip. Never looked at since they were purchased. These and the t-shirts are the type of souvenir I am going to teach you to avoid.
Some rules for souvenir shopping.
Do some research on the local culture. Why? If you understand the culture you will understand what is important to them. For example Mexico uses a lot of silver. From which you can assume that there is a lot of silver to buy. Malaysians wear sarongs. I bought a sarong of textured fabric when I was there and have had it made into cushions on my couch. It looks amazing. No other house in Sydney has them either.
Understand the limitations around bringing gifts home. Australian customs have a set of rules around woods and animal mater
Legalities change from culture to culture. In Singapore you are not allowed to eat or drink on the subway for example. In Amsterdam you may very well be able to partake in smoking marijuana. Be sure you don’t have any on you when you leave for home.
Allow time to explore.
If you are in Paris for a conference for 3 days and are then attempting to get souvenir’s you may be limited to what is at the airport. That is not necessarily bad, but it will be limited and potentially not what you were looking for. Do you need a souvenir from Paris if you were there for a conference? If you have time to wander through the streets, find a local market. Try to get away from the ‘tourist’ track and ask where locals go to buy gifts. Ask a local. Ask the concierge if your hotel has one.
Make new friends.
By making friends you have no better souvenir than that. Continuing to keep in contact with them long after the holiday and remind them of the great time you had is the number one souvenir you can have. Boasting about your weather or your food is also a playful reminder.
Leave space in your suitcase.
I tend to carry a fold up bag with me as I pack as much as I can and I do not leave room for anything. Even after applying all the techniques I know my suitcase is full. My carry-on however usually has some room. Can you ship it home? If you can send the item home safely – do so. It is so much easier than waiting for unusual luggage at the airport. Seriously that line takes 2x the time of the normal baggage collection and I will remind you that you do need to do both.
Why do you want to buy GAP when you are away? Are there local brands that in the world of globalisation that you do not have access to? Personally I like to know my label before purchasing. I like to know their manufacturing process and if they use animals to test on so I don’t purchase willy-nilly. What is this area famous for? Do they have a local artist who is very popular? A girlfriend went to Bali on holiday and she bought two ceramic drums. They are divine. She shipped them home and they are a lovely reminder of her holiday in Bali. No Bintang t-shirt for her. You are supporting local business. That means that the money you are spending is going back into the economy you are in.
Get something that is useful.
Do you need a new bag? Do you need a summer hat? You will appreciate a souvenir so much more if you use it. Knick knacks throughout the house are fine but useful items such as cheese knifes or salad servers get used all the time. (well they do in my house) To throw this theory out the window I recently bought a set of ten pin bowling pins on holiday. Totally unpractical and certainly not easy to ship. But, I love them.
They are my new door stoppers throughout my house. I admire them every time I walk past them. I am reminded of my holiday and where they came from. Do they have anything to do with where I was? No. But they are a quirky addition to my house that I had wanted to find for about 18 months. I had seen them in a house in a magazine and even researched Etsy for them. So I argue they are useful. Useful to my sense of pride in my home.
Keep the person who you are buying for in mind.
Just because the souvenir at the gift shop you went to was full of monkey products does not mean your mother-in-law will like it.
Give yourself a little treat.
You’ve had your mind set on a new piece of jewellery for some time. Why not remind yourself of your holiday with a new bracelet. If holidays are not for indulging what is?
Soft toys are for children under 3.
They are the only people that may get some use from them.
Food products such as sea salt and herbs and spices are not a good choice to take home. Take the details of their website and when you are home find a local distributor or if they deliver.
DO NOT BUY what you don’t want to display in your house.
The legend of the Rooster of Barcelos
The legend of the Rooster of Barcelos tells the story of a dead rooster’s miraculous intervention in proving the innocence of a man who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. According to the legend, silver had been stolen from a landowner in Barcelos, and the inhabitants of that city were looking for the criminal who had committed the crime. One day, a man from a neighboring town turned up and became suspect, despite his pleas of innocence.
The authorities arrested the Galician and condemned him to hang. The man asked them to take him in front of the judge who had condemned him. In an effort to confirm his innocence, the Galician pointed to a roasted cock on top of the banquet table and exclaimed, “It is as certain that I am innocent as it is certain that this rooster will crow when they hang me.” The judge ignored the Galician’s appeal.
However, while the pilgrim was being hanged, the roasted rooster stood up on the table and crowed as the Galician predicted. Understanding his error, the judge ran to the gallows, only to discover that the Galician had been saved from hanging thanks to a poorly made knot in the rope. The man was immediately freed and sent off in peace. These ceramic roosters can be found everywhere in Portugal for sale.
They are now considered a good luck charm. This is the type of souvenir that invites conversation and will forever be a treasured gift. It contains a travel memory but has expanded your understanding of other cultures with it.
Souvenirs are big business
According to CNN there was 2.3 billion spent on souvenirs in 2013. The amount is staggering. I cannot accurately say if this is related to US travellers only or of it is broader than that. Regardless the statistic by itself is the equivalent of a lot of fridge magnets. Who actually uses them anymore? The other statistic they have is that 427 billion hours are spent on aimlessly trying to find souvenirs.
The five reasons to buy longer lasting souvenirs and avoid tacky tourist souvenir shops.
- You are supporting local business.
- You are buying a real souvenir that locals have in their houses.
- There is time to enjoy one more activity rather than trawling through shops.
- Your clever purchasing will invite conversation and give you a chance to share your travel stories and remind you of your adventure.
- Your reminder of your travels will calm you and sooth you as you go back to busy everyday life. You will, if only briefly, be reminded of precious time away and a lovely memory.