What’s the stupidest thing you ever bought or took home as a souvenir? Souvenirs that makes you roll your eyes now, or you possibly have already thrown away.
For me, it’s this little Vietnamese doll key chain. It’s too big to use, and yet, I still have it!
I’ve finally decided that I don’t need to collect everyone’s currency anymore. I will usually have a little left over anyways, if I think I need to save some to look at later. But really, I’m not doing educational tours, displaying what other people’s money looks like, and I’m definitely not using it to buy anything here. So it sits in a box in my drawer, perhaps awaiting the day that I return to said places and want to buy a stick of gum.
My view of souvenirs has changed as my travel experiences change. On my first international trip I bought things because I saw them in a lot of stores and thought buying one would help me remember that place better. This is false, by the way.
What I’ve learned is that the best souvenirs are either 1. functional or 2. carry an emotional attachment. If I will use something in my every day life, it becomes a functional reminder of that trip, a happy memory to brighten my day when I use it.
Photo books, prints, and paintings are also fun souvenirs because they add beauty to your home, serve as conversation starters, and carry personal connections.
If we want to talk function, I have to mention the things you buy that you use on the trip. Umbrellas when it rains. Sunglasses when it glares. Fancy food to tickle your tongue. It’s functional meets memory making meets memory triggering when you return home.
And while we’re on the topic of souvenirs, I’m just going to say this one time: Be kind to the sellers. Bartering is part of the fun and the culture, but don’t be rude. This is someone’s livelihood also.
Reasons to be picky about souvenirs:
- Unless you want to pay shipping, you have to carry them around until you get home. That means heavy and bulky things should be considered critically. Think twice before you buy a hammock or a chair.
- They cost money and usually the advertised souvenirs are not cheap. I manage this two ways: 1. I buy local things, like chocolates and children’s books. 2. I include souvenirs in my travel budget. That said, every frivolous thing you buy adds to your trip expense, so choose wisely.
- You have to put it somewhere when you get home. In this minimalistic day-in-age, less is more. I have found this to be especially true for souvenirs. I prefer to buy one thing I will use often versus four things to store in a memory box. I love to go through my every day life and run into something I bought elsewhere. For example, I bought a children’s book in Spain that I read with my Spanish speaking students. Nearly every time I use it I remember the day I bought it with my sisters while exploring in Barcelona.
- This is not your last chance to buy it. Travel doesn’t have to be once in a lifetime anymore. Airlines have transitioned from luxury liners to public transportation of the skies. And you have (hopefully) many, many years to live. The choices that led you to this trip will likely lead you to another. You don’t have to buy all your souvenirs in the first place you go.
Which leads me back to my original question: what’s the stupidest thing you ever bought or took home as a souvenir?
Bonus questions: Do you have any souvenirs that you collect from every place? And, how do you decide if something makes the cut?
I am a full-time speech therapist and a part time traveler. I grew up in the Midwest, spent a semester in Honduras, and 4 years in Brooklyn, New York, before moving to Pennsylvania. I tend to be a little type A in that I like lists and planning but city living and globe traipsing have taught me a lot about flexibility and resilience. You can read more of my travel tips and inspirations on apanueloworld.com.