How to Acquire Fresh & Meaningful Souvenirs
The word souvenir comes from the French word for remember, which comes from the Latin subvenire, meaning “occur to the mind.” It’s a fitting word, then, to capture the function that souvenirs should serve: to help us remember our travels, to prompt a memory to “occur to our minds” long after our travels have ended.
Historically, souvenirs first became popular on religious pilgrimages—pilgrims would collect small bottles of soil from their destinations to take home with them. Today, we gather souvenirs from our travels to refresh our memories and to have something to look back on fondly.
That being said, if you’re like me, you can often find yourself overwhelmed with souvenir shopping. We’ve all been there: sometimes frantically airport shopping to get those last-minute mementos before our flight departs. Despite worries about cost, boredom with commercial souvenir shops, or disorganized collections across trips, it’s important to remember that souvenirs can be affordable, interesting, and collected for use and display.
With that in mind, keep reading for some ideas on how to keep your souvenir acquiring fresh and meaningful.
As much as possible, search for local markets to find souvenirs that aren’t mass produced. Local artisans’ handicrafts make great souvenirs not only because they’re unique and beautiful but also because they’re sustainable. Ask for the location of fair trade stores, or if you’re in a hurry, visit a local grocery or drug store to shop like the locals do. My favorite kinds of artisanal souvenirs are home décor items, jewelry, and apparel. All enhance the beauty of your daily life while reminding you of your travels. Some of the most popular home décor souvenirs worldwide include the gorgeous blue-and-white Delftware ceramics from the Netherlands and wooden animal carvings from African nations like Kenya, Angola, and the Congo. If you’re interested in collecting across trips, you might consider a gallery wall of local art or maps from your travels. Jewelry, from costume to precious pieces, is another great way to take your travels with you in your daily life. Consider buying amber jewelry in eastern Europe, especially Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, or seashell jewelry in the Pacific, especially in the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Samoa. If apparel is more your speed, don’t miss the ubiquitous elephant pants in Thailand, chullo caps in Peru, and ponchos in Bolivia.
Put Your Wallet Away
If you’re worried about what souvenirs might cost, don’t! Some of the best souvenirs and collections are cheap and even free. Why not pick up matchbooks or coasters from your travels and display them at home in a vintage bowl? Or, for a couple of dollars, you might buy a few postcards—especially at destinations where photography is prohibited—and display them on a clothesline or felt board. Patches and pins pack well and have a cool, retro vibe. When you get home, add them to a jacket or display them on a hanging embroidery hoop.
Indulge Your Tastebuds
For a tasty but passing souvenir, consider foodstuffs, including liquor and spices. Food specialties make great souvenir gifts, as many believe that the soul of a country truly lies in its cuisine. When buying food souvenirs, be sure to read up on what you’re legally permitted to bring back to your home country and declare your food at the border. Worldwide, don’t miss the chocolates in Switzerland and Belgium, tea in Sri Lanka and South Korea, salt in Iceland and paprika in Hungary, and, of course, scotch in Scotland and rum in the Caribbean. Regarding the latter, purchase liquor duty-free at the airport or in a local distillery or shop.
When In Doubt, Lean Into Kitsch
If you’ve searched high and low for the perfect souvenir, and you’re coming up empty, my advice is to lean into the cheap and weird. With a little imagination, even cliché souvenirs can become truly unique. For example, shot glasses can be converted into mini planters for herbs and succulents; just add different shades of pebbles to the glass to give them a layered look. And, on occasion, embracing local tchotchkes is simply called for! When in New Zealand, why not buy a replica of the ring from The Lord of the Rings? You only live once!
One of my favorite things about souvenirs is that looking at them adds a special joy to my day. A crisp memory comes back to me like a flashback, and for a moment, regardless of my surroundings, I’m transported.
Wherever your travels take you, I wish you continued visits through the magic of souvenirs. And when you’re ready to get started planning to make those memories, I’m here to help!
You can book hotels or resorts directly on my link below and still lock in extra Vivo Travel Design amenities such as complimentary breakfast and resort credit as well as room upgrades and early check-in / late check-out when available. As always, I am here to assist if you would rather have me arrange your stay for you.