A suitcase full of souvenirs… or not

Threading WomanWe all have different souvenir styles. Some focus on shot glasses, others on local crafts, and some folks shop for home electronics or clothing while on vacation. There are travelers who prefer unconventional mementos, like recorded music, rubbings, or even words. And plenty of people follow the advice: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”

My souvenir preferences have changed considerably over the years. When I first began to travel, I brought home rocks and shells as well as things I bought in stores that reminded me of my vacation. As I grew older and my suitcase shrunk, I chose to bring home only small items I liked that were made in the community I was visiting. Now, I add in the occasional food or drink item, such as truffles from Istria, tequila from Jalisco, or rum from Cuba. Usually, I just load up on photos and the occasional small item that’s a perfect reminder of the time I spent in a particular destination.

We may all have different preferences, but there are ways to be responsible in choosing what we bring home. Ethical travel advocates (such as Ethical Traveler) remind us to bargain fairly with respect for the seller and to be aware of where our money is going—with the intent on keeping cash within the local economy. The International Fund for Animal Welfare cautions against purchasing wildlife souvenirs, especially products from endangered animals. And Conservation International says that refusing to buy marine ornamental souvenirs (like coral jewelry, shells or sea stars) can help prevent the removal of key components of marine ecosystems for short-term gain.

What’s your favorite souvenir, and what memory does it evoke?

Posted by | Comments (10)  | March 26, 2010
Category: Ethical Travel, Languages and Culture

10 Responses to “A suitcase full of souvenirs… or not”

  1. Katie Hammel Says:

    I buy food souvenirs – pesto from Cinque Terre, Macadamia nuts from Hawaii -, jewelry made from local artists, and I love buying stuff to decorate my house – usually photographs taken in that location. I always try to buy from small shops or direct from the artist at craft fairs, rather than at big souvenir shops.

  2. JoAnna Says:

    Although I like the occasional piece of jewelry, I prefer to save a local beer bottle and buy a bag of the local coffee. I drink the coffee and save the bag. The beer bottles decorate our kitchen, which is cluttered with bottles from around the world.

  3. Tom Says:

    Just photos and local currency for me. Therefore, I am not a big fan of the Euro and countries that have adopted the American dollar as its currency! Funny thing is, I’m from Canada and a great amount of currency around the world is actually minted right here.

    Other than that, I save receipts, boarding passes, event & attraction ticket stubs, etc.

  4. Shannon OD Says:

    Prayer beads from Nepal – I volunteered a monastery teaching English and learned a lot about Tibetan Buddhism and though I don’t actively practice, seeing those beads just reminds me of the entire experience and all that I learned from my monks over those months. 🙂

  5. Dina VagabondQuest Says:

    Locally made earrings with locally found unique materials. They are small and I actually use them. Weird ones including the ash from St. Helena eruption and volcanic rock from Mount Vesuvius.

    I and husband travel light, so we really prevent to buy anything big. We collect flag badges from the countries we visited.

  6. Skoshi Says:

    My favorite souvenirs are the gifts my sister has given me over the years from all of her travels. I didn’t value them when I was younger and only have a few left, but I value them even more now. when I see/use them, I think of my sister, her love of travel, her adventuresome soul, and the relationship we have: A tile on the stove, a glass pendant hanging in the window, a small purse that decorates my wall.

  7. Cathy S Says:

    I like to purchase small pieces of art made by a local artist from the place I visit. Sometimes, I also purchase or find small items from that locale to make my own art, such as beads I recently purchased from a wonderful shop in Asheville. In my post recent blog post, Creative Projects as Stress Busters, I mention that I’m watercolor painting a mat for a print created by a Florida artist, then attaching small seashells to the mat from the same trip.

  8. comedy genius Says:

    A Maori pendent made of jade, at least I think it’s jade. It symbolizes hope and was given to me by a female acquaintance in New Zealand.