Souvenir Sagas

I’ve always been a little baffled by the travel souvenir. Do I have to bring something home? Will I regret it if I don’t?

Shopping for the ‘right’ souvenir has been a continuing saga for me really.

When I was younger I often bought small, inexpensive trinkets (crap). The kind of mass-produced items you find in any tourist trap – photo key chains, shot glasses, patches, magnets and those mini figurines of major landmarks. These usually lasted about 6 months in my apartment before being tossed out. Then I got smarter, or so I thought at the time, and decided to start a collection of turtle figurines.

CN Tower figurine

CN Tower figurine

Travelling Buddha figurine

Travelling Buddha figurine

 I bought ceramic and soapstone turtles from Mexico, Cuba, Peru and Zimbabwe. These too, ultimately ended up being given away, donated or thrown out. Terrible. Next I moved on to limiting my souvenir purchases to functional items only.  This served me quite well for a time. I had a good run on souvenir photo albums, picking up a few in Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica. I also quite enjoyed using the beautifully hand-painted ceramic spoon rest I bought in Spain (until it broke) and to this day I open beer bottles at home with a bottle opener I bought in Beijing  – it has the Great Wall of China etched into one side and The Palace Museum on the other. These things make me happy but I don’t print pictures very often these days and my bottle-opening needs are covered.

Souvenir Photo albums

Souvenir Photo albums

Beijing bottle opener

Beijing bottle opener

My husband likes to buy a Christmas tree ornament in every city that we visit. This is actually surprisingly easy to do, no matter what season you find yourself travelling in and it’s provided for some interesting chatter around our Christmas tree over the past few holiday seasons. But that’s HIS souvenir of choice.

Today I rarely buy myself anything when travelling, preferring my experiences and the photos I take to be my tokens of the places I visit. I don’t have much need for a tropical-patterned sarong in Canada anyhow and I can’t convince myself I need ANYTHING enough to actually carry it onto a plane with me (the horror).

That said, I’ve recently been faced with the souvenir dilemma again. Once (maybe twice) a year, my husband and I travel together sans children. This is a relatively new experience for us and so to help limit the parental guilt that sometimes creep in we typically bring back a little something for our girls. They’re now the proud owners of bright pink travel pillows with Barcelona written across them, several decorative tubes filled with chocolate Smarties from Paris and Stockholm and a Viking hat from Iceland. Not so impressive, I know, but in my defence they both seemed genuinely pleased with everything at the time.

Viking Hat and Barcelona travel pillow

Viking Hat and Barcelona travel pillow

Turns out, I’ve created a second generation of souvenir-challenged travellers. We were in Ottawa (Canada) last weekend and gave our girls the opportunity to each choose a souvenir to remember their time in the capital city. One daughter said she wanted a large ceramic cat with a constantly waving paw like the one she’d seen in a coffee shop that morning (??). It wasn’t for sale.  The other picked out a plastic piece of jewellery – a ‘memento’ that most definitely wasn’t even made on this continent let alone by a local artist. She’s 4. But how could I expect them to choose any wiser with ME as their souvenir-buying role model.

What do YOU usually bring home as a souvenir from your travels? Please share it with me in the comment box far below. Otherwise, the saga will continue….

2 responses to “Souvenir Sagas

  1. I find myself souvenir-challenged sometimes as well. My mom has always asked me to bring back a magnet from wherever I’ve been, and our fridge has truly become a scrapbook of sorts of our family’s travels (but mostly my own). I wish I had them on my own fridge.

    Now when I go to new places, I try to bring back a magnet for both of us. I also like to send a postcard to the house. I have roommates, so this is a nice way to drop in and say ‘hi,’ but I also know I’ll be the one to keep the postcard when we part ways.

    • I love postcards too. They almost seem old fashioned these days but I think people on the receiving end LOVE getting them and you’re right, they’re a great memento of your trip too. My Dad used to ask me to send him beer coasters from my travels. I collected dozens for him and then started asking people I met during my trips to send him beer coasters from their own hometowns/countries. He started getting them in the mail from all over the world. Pretty awesome.

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