S is for Souvenir – Happy Hints for Remembering your Journey

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?
australian souvenirs
  • 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 ~

Local craft work and architectural items can be a delight. souvenir

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

Ticket stubs and Mementos

Mementos and ticket stubs


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.


Postcards from gotpassport.org


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 🙂



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16 thoughts on “S is for Souvenir – Happy Hints for Remembering your Journey

    • It puts souvenirs into perspective when you get the true meaning of the word, which is memory recall – and purchasing an item is such a small moment in the scheme of things 😉

  1. Great post! I usually go after two types of souvenirs — the ephemeral mementos (which live in an organised box at home) and leather bookmarks. I just can’t bear to part with things like train tickets, etc, especially when they might be useful down the track when I just can’t remember where that train went to! I actually just wrote a post last week about why I collect leather bookmarks. It’s something I’ve done since I was traveling around England when I was 7 and it gives me a great thing to look back on that doesn’t take up too much space!
    Kristin Repsher recently posted..Macaron Heaven at Adriano Zumbo’sMy Profile

    • I love your leather bookmarks as souvenirs post 🙂
      Collecting tactile (and wisely small and light) mementos is wonderful for re-igniting memories of places – and I love holding items I know I’ve carefully felt and selected in those far flung places visited.

      And I’m so with you for ephemeral mementos!

      • I know this is super delayed, but thanks so much for checking out my leather bookmarks post! I completely agree with you on being able to pick something up and having it transport you back to when you were picking it out. There’s so many leather bookmarks on offer in England that I often had a choice to make and for many of them, I can remember why I made the choice I did.

        Interestingly, I found some very cute leather bookmarks up in Cairns a few weeks ago! The top of one is folded up into the shape of a kangaroo, and the other has a crocodile head and jagged little teeth!

        I’m glad other people collect ephemeral mementos like I do — my boyfriend thinks I’m a bit of a hoarder keeping all those random receipts and brochures!

        • Blog posts are eternal 🙂
          So, no time limit on thought ponderings!

          Thank goodness ephemeral mementos are fairly thin and light so don’t take up huge amounts of space or weight.

          Having just written a post about photographs and what to do with the plethora of those I accumulate (digitally), I’m beginning to think the ‘coffee table’ type books one can get printed are potentially a good way to go not only for those images, but also scan in a display of ticket stubs/receipts to incorporate into the layout?

          • Linda, that is a great idea! I scan in receipts and stuff all the time…but only for things I buy at home (or insurance, phone bills, etc). It would be really good to scan in all those receipts and ephemeral mementos, since they are exactly that — ephemeral. I bet if I go back through a lot of mine now that most of them will be faded beyond recognition.

            I love making photo books. I’ve done a number of them for family through Blurb.com and they’ve come out great, especially when printed on premium paper. It makes it easy to find Christmas presents every year!
            Kristin recently posted..We All Dislike Travel SometimesMy Profile

          • Great to hear of your success with photo books – and your suggestion for going the extra with the premium paper –
            Add in a few stamps and postmarks from PCs posted home to yourself and the images of collaged ticket stubs/receipts and we really have a souvenir!

          • The premium paper is definitely worth it! The book I am currently selling for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal doesn’t come with premium paper by default (to keep the cost down) and my family has told me that they can tell the difference in how glossy the paper is (and how nice it makes the photos look).

            I am really inspired now to make a book with postmarks, receipts, etc in it. Maybe I’ll have to do one for my upcoming TBU/TBEX trip! I’ll let you know if I do and how it turns out 🙂
            Kristin recently posted..Photo of the Week: Arthur Ashe Stadium & The US OpenMy Profile

  2. It would vary on the place I visited:

    Mirano glass necklace from Venice
    Big bowl and Rugs from Turkey
    Champagne (didn’t last long) from the champagne region of France
    etc etc
    Lots of fridge magnets

    I think I may head more toward tea towels next time I travel.

    I love seeing Journey Jotting products in various Aussie places!
    Sally Foley-Lewis recently posted..Managing Decisions & Problem SolvingMy Profile

    • Ooooooo – I love the sound of that Mirano glass necklace, and rugs from Turkey – you’ve got me drooling!
      I bought a classic Italian table cloth adorned with olives and olive branches when I was in Italy this year which now lives on the table on the verandah –
      I breath in a breath of that trip every-time I go out there ~

      Exciting to hear you keep spotting our Journey Jottings on your Aussie travels 😀

  3. Ahh, your site is just so appealing Linda and I love this post about souvenirs. It really got me thinking. I’m a bit of a nicki nacky noo souvenir hunter, and in the past I would always go for the ‘dust collectors’! Not any more though 😉 I think your journey jottings maps are the best souvenirs now, works of art in their own right that we can add our own amateurish touches to be stored as memories for future generations 🙂

    • Thank you so much Jo for your lovely compliment 🙂

      I have to say I think our personal stories from a place are the true souvenirs from our travels.
      I’m perpetually on the hunt for new ways and means to record (in as simple, quick and easy a way as possible) our experiences so we can re-experience them in years to come when our memories start to fail us 😉

  4. We try not to buy too many souvenirs because it just adds to the pile so-to-speak, but if we’re somewhere special I’ll look for a Christmas tree ornament. Every year when we decorate our tree, it brings back so many memories as we pull out each ornament from our travels.

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