Wednesday, March 3, 2010


As an avid traveler, who usually travels on a tight budget for chunks of time with all my possessions shoved in a backpack; I've found that buying great souvenirs can be tricky. But over the years I've found a few items that make perfect gifts for others or gems to hang on to, without weighing myself down or spending a fortune.

My favorite souvenirs are Christmas ornaments, jewelry, scarves, postcards, books and bookmarks. Most of those items are very small and can be nestled into a bag and carried with you. Christmas ornaments are fun because you forget about them and then get to rediscover them each year. Your tree becomes a scrapbook of your favorite travel memories.

I love finding pieces of jewelry that have a stone the area is well known for. These are a few of my finds over the years, wood beads from Budapest, a blue glass pendant from Murano, vintage pearls from the Portobello Road markets in London, etc. Each piece reminds me of the trips I found them on every time I wear them.

Scarves are great because you can use them on your trip to dress up an outfit, keep warm on a chilly night, wad up into a pillow or blanket on a train ride, etc. I have a rainbow of colors from different trips and I remember where I got each one. My favorite is the striped blue one I bought in Paris.

Bookmarks are great because it's obvious where I got each one and I just slide them into a book in my bag and they take up almost no room. I love buying books written by authors who were from the place I've traveled to. I bought Kundera and Kafka in Prague and Alice in Wonderland in Oxford. Though they are heavier, they are my favorite things to carry home with me and I can read them while I'm there.

I love sending postcards to myself (in addition to my friends). Then when I get home I have a beautiful card waiting for me and it has unique stamps from that country. It's also fun to read a quick line about what I was doing the day I sent the card. I stick the cards on my fridge or in a book and it's always a treat to find them later.

One of the most important things to remember is to buy something that reminds you of your trip, but that you actually love. People tend to buy things just because the area is known for that. A trip to Russia may make them decide to buy those nesting dolls, but if you don't like them to begin with, why shell out the cash?

Also, buy items that represent your lifestyle. If you have 3 teenage sons, don't buy an expensive glass vase. If you have a tiny apartment, don't buy a complete set of fancy China. There are lots of free souvenirs you can take home with you too, like subway maps, cardboard pub coasters and matchbooks from hotels.

What are your favorite souvenirs?

Photos by moi.

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