For some, souvenirs are a big part of travel. My first big trip was studying abroad in Spain; at that point, I was very excited by the idea of souvenirs. I wanted to be able to bring something home for my parents and close friends. I, of course, also wanted to bring back my own treasures for myself. This souvenir buying quickly became too much when I took a little time off school and traveled around seven countries in two weeks. Not only does one have to think about the money spent on these souvenirs but also getting them back home.
Now, I only buy souvenirs that really mean something to me and that I can use. In Israel, I bought a hamsa ring, which has symbolized protection in many societies over time. I do have a shelf in my room that I display my favorite souvenirs on, some of which were given to me by others, some bought, and some random items that I have picked up over the years. From left to right (in the picture below): an “olympic” coke can from when I saw the olympic flame in Wales, an empty bottle of Sídra from Spain, an evil eye from Istanbul, a puzzle box from Budapest, a small oil lamp from Istanbul, a wine glass from Northern Michigan with change from around the world in it, a glass from Blissfest, a (half full) bottle of rum from Puerto Rico, and behind it all a fan that a friend in Madrid gave to me.
I have accidentally collected change over the years as well. Somehow, I still have about 20 euros (15 of it which I keep in my wallet for when I want to mess with bartenders or the like). I also have 16.7 shekels from Israel, 2.18 Bristish pounds, 3.55 Turkish Lira, 380 Hungarian Forint, 1.50 Romanian Leu, 40 Czech Koruna, 9 Croatia Kuna, and a random 10 cent piece from Brazil. I suppose if I would have exchanged all of this I would be a few dollars richer, but I think it is just as cool to have this change from around the world. Mixed in with my jar of change are random bottle caps from beers I have tried around the world.
My most prized souvenir is a necklace that I wear everyday. On it are three charms: a peace sign that my mom gave to me before leaving for Spain, a black fist that is “el mano de suerte” (the hand of luck) that my Spanish host mom gave to me before leaving Spain, and a small shell that represents El Camino de Santiago which I walked 330km along in 2013.
I have friends who have interesting travel collections. One of my very close friends collects beer coasters. She picks them up wherever she goes — the plus side: they are free! Another friend of mine collects patches of the flag from each country he goes to. I think this is also a great idea because you can sew them onto your backpack or the like.
To me, the most important thing about traveling is the experience and the memories. I don’t need to have a collection of random things to say I have been to a place. I do love some of my small trinkets that constantly remind me of times spent traveling, but I don’t go out of my way to find them. If some souvenir type thing speaks to me, I will get it. Or if something makes me think of a friend or family member back home, I will pick it up for them. If I do bring something back for a friend, it is often food or drink because I like to share the culture of the places I visit with others.
How do you feel about souvenirs? Love them or leave them?