First, let’s put the word ‘souvenir’ into context -
What does ‘souvenir’ really mean?
The word “souvenir” (as a noun) originates from the French, which literally means:
A thing you remember
- While ‘la memoire’ is your memory as a whole
- A ‘souvenir’ is a memory that you hold in this repository, and from which you recall the details.
Memory is subjective. We don’t all remember the same situations in the same way!
And memories fade over time (sometimes faster than we’d like to admit) – In drastic circumstances (such as a traumatic accident) they can sadly disappear overnight. Then, at death, memory disappears forever… unless pertinent moments are recorded in some form (or another) such as documenting an History from the Heart so those left behind can still enjoy times past, over and over again.
But I digress!
While in real terms a souvenir is a memory
What is the perfect travel ‘souvenir’ to you?
And, what sort of souvenir hunter are you?
- Do you buy souvenirs for yourself?
- Are you a trophy hunter who doesn’t mind where it’s made as long as it says somewhere on it it’s from xxx?
- Do you carefully select locally made art & crafts that evoke the culture of the country/region you’re visiting?
- Do you buy souvenirs as gifts for others ‘back home’?
- Do you collect souvenirs that’ll form a collection of a type of item? or…
- Do you collect souvenirs that are by-products of the trip such as ticket stubs, receipts and sugar wrappers from cafes ?
What sort of souvenir hunter are you?
1. Souvenir Trophy Hunter
For some holidaymakers and travellers, souvenirs are like trophies. They’re the hard core evidence that, yes, you really have been to a place. It’s a ‘thing’ that proves your prowess of travelling acumen and physically demonstrates your conquests.
A trophy can be any one of the full gamut of souvenirs available in specified ‘souvenir shops’ that stock soft fluffy toys (representing animals of the region), T-shirts, tea towels, key rings and coasters, all emblazoned (naturally) with the place name where the shop is located and the token purchased (lest you forget).
The sad thing about many of these types of souvenir is that to keep costs down (the trophy hunter is very price sensitive) inevitably many of these mementos are mass produced where production costs are next to nothing miles (often hemispheres) away from where they’re being sold.
2. Evocative local cultural mementos
Hunting down a cultural memento is more of a challenge, but is truly rewarded by arriving home with something you know was made by a local artist or craftsman.
The tricky part is often weight and size – Will it fit in the suitcase/back pack and still remain under the airlines’ weight limit?
Local keepsakes are treasures ~
I loved seeing these ceramic tiles from Turkey finding a new home in Kirsty’s bathroom in Australia!
Evocative items can be tricky, in that not all souvenirs cross cultural divides well!
I have to admit I have been sucked into the local ambience and got carried away with the ethnicity of the region only to find when home that it just doesn’t look quite ‘right’!
There’s a gamble involved ~ There’re times that those sparkly gold threads of stunning sari fabrics spied in the brilliant sunshine of Delhi can be carried off with aplomb, and other times when the subdued damp English light wins and… to be frank – it looks ridiculously out of place!
It’s a bit like coming face to face with a huge exquisitely carved native shield or mask in a friend’s home that no doubt hummed the regional atmosphere of its origination when purchased, but once home in the western suburbs it falls a bit flat.
3. Buying gift souvenirs for others
Everyone loves to be ‘thought’ of by friends who’re off gallivanting in some far flung corner of the globe and souvenirs in this category tend to be more representative of the region being visited.
Friends returning from Belgium or Switzerland often come bearing chocolate.
From Spain, earthen-ware pottery.
Having holidayed in the Shetland Isles, scarves and woollen goods are the order of the day.
4. Ephemeral mementos collected as by-products of the trip
Some souvenirs don’t have to be purchased.
They’re by-products of the trip itself.
Ticket stubs for transportation and entry to attractions. Receipts for accommodation and meals in restaurants. Sugar wrappers from street-side cafes.
These ‘free’ mementos are often some of the best!
Attained as part of activities enjoyed, kept in ziplock bags these are great memory joggers when being flicked though back home. Holding the ticket used when catching a train to Trondheim in northern Norway, or feeling the holes punched in a ski-lift pass used in the Austrian Alps can’t get much closer to the moment.
5. Souvenirs from a journey are reminders of a fantabulous trip
They’re mementos to help you remember your time in a place other than home ~ A weekend away, an annual holiday, a gap year, a round the world trip of a lifetime.
Often the best souvenirs are the simplest and the cheapest.
Some time ago I read a blog post: What we consider a souvenir.
Avril, the writer, opened the post with a declaration that she mainly collected shot glasses and ceramic tiles, but having spent time on each trip trying to decide what to buy she declared that “souvenirs became time-consuming, overwhelming, costly and often put more weight in our luggage.”
She decided she’d send postcards home to themselves, which were not only inexpensive, they were a truly personal souvenir having been handled and written by their fair hand, then posted in the locale featured in the photograph on the other side.
Occasionally they’d also record the moment of posting with a photograph, just as the postcard was being dropped into a post box in some distant land. Putting these photographs, along with other highlights from their travels, onto a photo-slideshow DVD meant their trips could be enjoyed with family and friends as memories flashed past.
My best souvenirs have been my travel journals
or scraps where I’ve jotted down a few impressions.
I’ve been truly amazed at re-discovering place names and people encountered on the road that I’d totally forgotten about… until re-opening my journey jottings and re-reading words I’d written years previously.
What souvenirs do you buy or collect when you’re away?
Have you bought a souvenir that you regret purchasing?
Or was there one that got away and you’ve kicked yourself ever since for not grabbing it when you had the opportunity?
Do tell in the comments below