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:
September 2016 // Savannah, GA: antique shop crab
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.
January 2017 // Paris, France: mini Eiffel Tower
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.
January 2017 // Paris, France: vintage, thrift shop jacket
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.
May 2017 // Barcelona: flea market zippers
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.
November 2017 // Minori, Italy: tile painting
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.
March 2018 // Honolulu, Hawaii: sea glass from Diamond Head Beach
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!
May 2018 // Lucerne, Switzerland: Swiss Army knife
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.
May 2018 // Interlaken, Switzerland: trail marker fragment
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.
December 2018 // Luxembourg City, Luxembourg: arrow cookie cutter
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.
March 2019 // Queenstown, New Zealand: kiwi sweatshirt
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?