Taking Home Unconventional Souvenirs

Souvenirs tend to be a big money trap for the traveler. Even if you’re staying away from the tourist gift shops, buying souvenirs can be hard on your budget especially if you’re traveling for a long period of time. You also have to consider the space they take up in your luggage. Also, note how many relatives and friends send you key chains and fridge magnets every time they go out of town. Do you really need another souvenir like that in your “collection”?

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t take your own souvenirs as a remembrance of your own trip. There are inexpensive, lightweight mementos that you can bring home. All you have to do is to think outside the box. Or outside the souvenir shop, for that matter.

One souvenir you can take is recorded sounds or music – an idea I owe to my third grade music teacher. Before the start of each lesson, she’d play a tape of music or chants from her trips abroad. Apparently, she’d always carry a tape recorder during her trips so she can capture the songs of street musicians, the sound of unusual instruments, and the chanting of spiritual leaders. She even had a track that captured the rhythm of a room full of typewriters in a busy New York office.

Many travelers also draw or paint their surroundings in sketchbooks. If you’re not confident with your drawing skills, you can opt to do rubbings instead. To make a rubbing, place a sheet of paper or a page of your notebook directly on top of a textured surface. Then, take a pencil or crayon and rub it over the paper. You can do rubbings with almost any rough surface including leaves, coins, tombstones, walls, and relief sculptures.

For those who have a love of languages, why not collect words? You can make a conjugation chart of the most commonly used verbs in a language. Usually these include the words for eat, drink, be, say, and do. Alternatively, you can also collect local proverbs and sayings. These souvenirs are especially interesting if the language is written in a script that is different from your own. If this is the case, knowing the International Phonetic Alphabet will come in handy when recording pronunciation.

Apart from being budget-friendly and easier to carry, benefit of gathering souvenirs this way is that it makes us more involved in local culture compared to store-bought trinkets. Keeping in mind the ideas behind vagabonding, that’s always a good thing.

Do you take home unusual souvenirs from your trips?

Image by celinus

Posted by | Comments (11)  | June 18, 2009
Category: Money Management, Simplicity, Vagabonding Advice

11 Responses to “Taking Home Unconventional Souvenirs”

  1. Caron Margarete Says:

    Hi Celine, my personal fav with travelling apart from collecting music is to collect quotes from other travellers or English-speaking/ translated locals. Sometimes they’re really random observations, hilarious anecdotes, wise and true words or simply a new idea or way of thinking that I’d like to adopt. I like to add it to the notable quotable section of my journal, write a bit about how the quote came about and where I was. Fabulous inspiration for my writing but also great memory triggers. Great post, thanks!

  2. Natasha Says:

    I always bring back one-page restaurant menus, a street poster, maybe an issue of the local paper–anyhting visually inteersting…

  3. David Says:

    i am a cheap-skate…everything i used to buy gets lost, stolen or i gave them away…so now I take pictures and put them in a photo album so I can have them forever.

  4. eileen Says:

    If the trip is long enough I’ll usually end up with some toothpaste or shampoo, and if the clothing/accessories are something I’ll wear, then maybe some of that, too. Barrettes and shirts, mostly, though in Tokyo I was staying at a friend’s house and needed slippers, so I brought those home, too.

  5. Downtown Says:

    Magnets – everytime you open the refrigerator you see them and they remind you of where you were and what you did. They are small and pack easily for getting home

    Clothes – Maybe it’s cheesy but I love sweatshirts with the names of places I’ve been. I bought 2 identical (except for colour) sweatshirts when I was in Alaska and I wear them all the time.

    Pictures….man, they bring back the best memories!! Plus video (just from a camera, but still sweet!)

  6. Renato Says:

    I spend some deciding what I would like to buy and take back at the end of my trip. I am then too lazy to buy it, I postpone and I usually forget about it before the end of my trip. So I have one more reason to go back if I really liked the place.


  7. Travel-Writers-Exchange.com Says:

    I really liked this article. I never thought about bringing home “unconventional” souvenirs. A sound recording would be great, especially if your in the Amazon Rain Forest!
    The next time I travel, I’ll put some thought into my souvenirs. It beats the same old, same old T-shirt.

  8. Hotelier Says:

    I always try & get one good picture of my hubby & I, for our holiday wall. I pick the best one and get an 8×10, I try and get a good picture that represents where we were.

    In China we have a pic of us standing on the Great Wall.
    In Thailand we are riding an elephant.
    In Tahiti we are standing on our over the water bungalow
    In Jamaica we’re climbing Dunn’s River Falls
    In Kenya we were standing with the Maasi Warroirs
    etc etc etc

  9. brian from nodebtworldtravel.com Says:

    I don’t take souvenirs, they tend to weigh me down. I like to send postcards to myself, family and friends. That way everyone can share in the trip.

  10. macy Says:

    I don’t like spending on not-so-practical things, so I take pictures as souvenirs. When I really love the shot, I have it framed and use it as decor at home. One framed memorabilia I love so much is the compilation of logos of medical scrubs of nurses from different hospitals. Pictures were taken during a seminar.

  11. » A suitcase full of souvenirs… or not :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] 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 […]