I confess, I do have a box full of shot glasses and even a few fridge magnets. Having grown up as a traveler, I collected these items over the years. But now, these items just sit in a box and collect dust because I’ve come to realize that I have no desire to decorate my house like a tourist gift shop. Although the collection of shot glasses came in handy during college, that was the extent of their use. Now that Josh and I travel so much, we’ve discovered that our best travel souvenirs which we treasure most don’t come from a tourist shop.
What’s Considered a Souvenir Anyway?
Technically, a souvenir can be anything. But since when did a souvenir equate to t-shirt with the destination printed big across the front or a shot glass with a logo (or inappropriate saying or picture) printed on it? To Josh and I, travel is about the personal memories and unique experiences that we had; and only rarely did those moments have anything to do with a shot glass!
Honestly, Josh and I aren’t big shoppers at home or when we travel. But if we are going to pick something up on a trip, we want it to have some kind of unique memory tied to it. And we want to be able to display it in our home proudly so that we can enjoy it! It may be something as small as the wooden spoons for the kitchen that I picked up in Tuscany, the jerk seasoning from Jamaica that we love to use when we cook chicken, or dried peppers from Thailand. We also enjoy bringing local coffee / tea from all over the world! All of these items bring back great memories from our trip whenever we use them; after all, that’s the point of a souvenir!
Choose Unique Items that Support the Local Economy
Whenever possible, we try to avoid the mainstream tourist shops. So much of the items are mass produced, generic, and do not support the local economy because they are often made elsewhere (well unless you are visiting China). Shopping from local vendors and craftsman is one of our favorite things to do because we can have more of a personal experience, and we feel better knowing that our money is going directly back to the residents and not to a big corporation overseas! And throughout our travels, we have discovered that our absolute favorite type of souvenir to bring back from a trip is local art!
Local Art is Our Best Travel Souvenir
Art can consist of so many different things, and it varies in size and price so it can apply to a wide range of traveler’s preferences and budgets. The reason we consider art the best travel souvenir is because so often it has a story behind it. Whether it is a cultural piece with religious or historical significance, or if it is a piece that we watched the artist create right in front of us. Perhaps it is made of local materials or depicts a local structure or sight.
We also enjoy picking up artwork because it’s actually something that we enjoy displaying around our home — it would never be hidden away in a box! In fact, I would love nothing more than to grow old and be able to look around my home full of memories of our travels and adventures over the years!
Another benefit to buying local art is that it is a great way to support the local economy and help to keep traditions alive. It gives a reason for generations to pass down craft skills or an incentive for people to be creative in developing their own artistic craft. Especially in developing nations, these are crucial ways that people can earn a living without having big companies take most of the profits. It also gives us the opportunity to interact with the locals on a more personal level.
Priceless Travel Souvenirs = Memories!
Overall, we have grown to cherish these unique travel souvenirs and pieces of art that we have collected during our travels. Each item has a story and a memory. If possible, we try to connect with the artist and get to know them. Also if they are willing, we enjoy taking a photo so that we can remember the moment even more. These moments are what make travel so special. So next time you think about grabbing a quick souvenir to remember your vacation by, take a moment to look around you and try to find something unique, like a piece of art!
Share with us your Best Travel Souvenir from your travels!
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