I’ll admit. I’m one of those people who can’t travel without buying souvenirs. Still, I tend to avoid the kitschy, tourist shop tchotchkes.
Okayyyyy, so I’ll also admit that I do sometimes wind up with a cheap ol’ trinket that means nothing other than to prove I was there. That’s the exception to the rule, though. I try reeeeeeeaally hard to find more meaningful mementos for each trip.
For me, the ideal souvenir fits into at least one or two of the following categories:
- It has traditional or cultural significance.
- It’s one-of-a-kind or something I can’t find at home.
- It fits my aesthetic.
- It represents a moment I want to remember.
And, looking back over my past few years of travels, I’d like to think I did a pretty decent job of souveniring with this list in mind. Here are some of my favorite buys:
Antique shop crab (Savannah, GA / September 2016)
Savannah was my first real solo trip. I woke up at 3 a.m., make the 5+ hour drive from Sarasota to Savannah, spent the entire day exploring, watched the sunset on Tybee Island, then drove straight back. All in one day. I love antiquing, so naturally, I had to pop into a few Savannah shops – and that’s where I found this gem.
Mini Eiffel Tower figurine (Paris, France / January 2017)
Paris was my first international solo trip, and visiting the Eiffel Tower fulfilled a major childhood dream of mine. Though you can buy miniatures of the Eiffel Tower basically everywhere in Paris, I purchased this one in the gift shop on Eiffel’s second floor. It’s one of those exceptions to the no tourist trinkets rule because where I bought it means more than what it is.
Vintage thrift shop jacket (Paris, France / January 2017)
Not only do I love antiquing, but I also have a thing for vintage fashions. With Paris being the fashion capital that it is, I had to check out at least a few thrifty, vintage stores. This jacket was one of my finds. The instant I saw it, I knew it was coming home with me. And, it did.
Zippers at a flea market (Barcelona, Spain / May 2017)
Before I visited Barcelona, I started making bracelets out of zippers. (Thanks, Pinterest!) Though I didn’t plan to buy any zippers in Spain, I got all sorts of excited when I spotted a bin of them at a flea market booth. Zipper bracelets are cool. Bracelets made of zippers from Barcelona are cooler.
Tile painting of Minori, Italy (November 2017)
Staying in Minori while on the Amalfi Coast of Italy was one of the best travel decisions I’ve ever made. While many other towns on the coast are quite touristy, Minori has a charm and beauty that isn’t overrun with hordes of visitors. I popped into a few small shops along the main street and found this hand-painted tile of the town – with a view similar to what I saw when looking out the window of my hillside Airbnb. What’s more, the ceramic tile was created right in Minori. It was THE perfect souvenir to mark my time there.
Sea Glass from Diamond Head Beach (Hawaii / March 2018)
My dad found this beach, and I’m super glad he did. Walking along the shore, we literally picked sea glass right off the surface of the sand. There was so much that even with both of us collecting it, we still left plenty for the next beach bums who happened upon that spot. Sea glass is a rare occurrence in Florida, so I consider it treasure. Hawaii sea glass even more so!
Swiss Army Knife (Lucerne, Switzerland / May 2018)
Okay, so a Swiss Army knife is a pretty basic, touristy-type purchase. I mean, pretty much EVERY shop in Switzerland sells them in multiple styles and colors. And, I realize that I can also purchase one in the U.S. or online. But purchasing a Swiss Army knife IN Switzerland?? That, to me, felt special. Authentic. It’s also proven to be quite the practical purchase. I find myself using the tools on a regular basis. Total souvenir win.
Trail marker fragment (Interlaken, Switzerland / May 2018)
While in Interlaken, I hiked above town to Harder Kulm. It wasn’t the most rugged or lengthy hike I’ve ever completed, but it IS a medium level difficulty mountain trail. Basically, it’s a lotta elevation packed into a short trek. Glutes. on. fire. Anyyyyyway. On the way up, I found this fragment of red trail marker on the path and immediately picked it up. I knew I’d want it to remember one of my hiking adventures in Switzerland.
Arrow cookie cutter (Luxembourg / December 2018)
In case you aren’t aware, I kinda have a thing for arrows. I even wrote about it here. So, imagine my delight when I happened upon an arrow cookie cutter while wandering the Christmas market in Luxembourg. Take my money. I will likely never use it as a cookie cutter; I just wanted a tiny, metal arrow… from Luxembourg.
Kiwi sweatshirt (Queenstown, New Zealand / March 2019)
I was on my way to get ice cream when I spotted this sweatshirt in a shop window. A kiwi on a record player. So clever. So New Zealand. I had to have it. Ice cream temporarily forgotten, I waltzed into the store, tried it on and bought it. And THEN I got ice cream.
So, there ya have it. Some of my faves. While my travel memories will (hopefully!) last far longer than any physical memento I buy, this stuff has the power to generate those memories – and that is where their value truly lies.
Do you have a favorite souvenir from your travels?