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Collecting Memories

A little, red double decker bus from London as a Christmas ornament on a Christmas tree

Collecting Memories

Traveling is not just about visiting new places; it’s about collecting memories that last a lifetime. While photographs are a wonderful way to capture moments, souvenirs add a tangible element to those memories. Traditional souvenirs like keychains and shot glasses can quickly clutter up your home and collect dust. Instead, consider these creative ways to collect souvenirs that are not only meaningful but also practical and unique.

Eiffel Tower Christmas ornament
  • Christmas Ornaments: My kids and I started this tradition many years ago, and Clay and I have continued it. We collect an ornament from each city we visit, trying to find one that symbolizes that area. Whether it’s a miniature Eiffel Tower from Paris, a hand-painted ceramic tile from Portugal, or volcanic ash from Seattle, these ornaments will add a touch of wanderlust to your holiday decor every year. When Clay and I were very new in our relationship, we visited Wisconsin but could not find the right ornament. He surprised me at the airport with a block of cheese that was technically a keychain, and it did the job perfectly. We display the ornaments on the tree every year, giving us the opportunity to relive those trips. 
  • Clothing: You can find all kinds of wonderful outfits and accessories when you travel. We try to make sure anything we buy on a trip is something you can’t get at home, and, ideally, it’s made in the place where we are. I have some beautiful scarves I’ve purchased at roadside stands in Italy for very low prices. And every time I wear them, I get to talk about my trip.
  • Local Artwork: You can support local artists and bring a piece of your travels home by collecting artwork from your destinations. Look for paintings, sketches, or prints that capture the essence of the place, whether it’s a colorful streetscape, a breathtaking landscape or a vibrant portrait of the locals. Not only will these pieces add beauty to your home, but they’ll also serve as conversation starters, allowing you to share the stories behind each artwork with your guests. As we’re currently traveling from home to home as professional pet sitters, we love experiencing our host’s travels through their artwork. Though we don’t spend much time with them in person, we get a nice feeling about who they are through their artwork. 
  • Handmade Crafts: Seek out handmade crafts and artisanal goods that showcase the local craftsmanship and traditions of the destination. Whether it’s pottery, textiles, rugs or jewelry, these unique souvenirs are not only beautiful but also support local communities and preserve traditional craftsmanship. Look for markets, craft fairs, or artisan workshops where you can find one-of-a-kind treasures to bring home with you.
Multi-colored spice display in Istanbul
  • Food and Drink: Indulge your taste buds and bring home a taste of your travels by collecting local food and drink items. Whether it’s a can of sardines from Portugal, a jar of spices from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (where they’re incredibly inexpensive), or a box of chocolates from a boutique chocolatier in Bruges, edible souvenirs offer a delicious way to relive your travel experiences. They also make great gifts for your family and friends, giving them a taste of the places you’ve visited. Just make sure to check any customs regulations and expiration dates before packing them in your luggage.
Shadow box full of seashells
  • Natural Treasures: Connect with nature and collect natural treasures from the places you visit. Seashells from a tropical beach, pebbles from a mountain stream or pressed flowers from a picturesque meadow serve as reminders of the wonder of the natural world. Make sure to check local regulations before you take anything from its natural home or try to bring it through customs.   
  • Functional Souvenirs: Look for souvenirs that are not only beautiful but also serve a practical purpose in your everyday life. This could be a handwoven basket from a local market or a hand-carved cutting board you can use in your kitchen. You’ll get a memory of your trip every time you use them!
  • Collectibles: Create a collection of small, collectible tokens from each destination you visit. Whether it’s coins, stamps, patches, pins, or magnets, these small and portable souvenirs are easy to collect and don’t take up much space in your luggage. One of our friends collects money from each location they visit, which is also a fun way to share different cultures with visitors. You can display them in a dedicated shadow box, bulletin board, or travel journal to create a visual record of your adventures around the world.

Each souvenir tells a story and serves as a tangible reminder of the places you’ve been and the experiences you’ve had. So the next time you’re traveling, skip the tourist trinkets and seek out souvenirs that are as unique and memorable as your adventures.

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.

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