Buying Souvenirs – Clutter Collectors or Treasured Keepsakes? ~
Popular travel destinations are filled with souvenir shops where one can buy all kinds of keepsakes including shot glasses, post cards, silver spoons, playing cards, stickers, tea towels, T-Shirts and so many more eclectic items. Depending on the type of souvenir shop, most of these souvenirs have a name, logo or image from the location but are very likely made in China.
When I travel I am quite picky about buying souvenirs because I have been caught off guard and swept into the moment of purchasing something to bring it home and have it never used, worn or looked at again. I then end up with something that gets tucked at the back of a cupboard taking up storage space to eventually being donated to a thrift store. I find souvenirs can be a waste of spending money and can easily contribute to the clutter factor in my home.
When my daughters were nine and twelve years old I took them on a two week tour of Southern California which included Disneyland. Both girls had received some spending money and the deal was they could buy what they wanted but when the money ran out, there was no more available for the rest of the trip. While at Disneyland my younger daughter fell in love with a Mickey Mouse hat. Not the basic little beanie hat with the mouse ears, but the very expensive one that Mickey wore in the Fantasia -The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that even had a built-in mechanism so it could light up. It was quite large, very plush and very bulky. My immediate reaction was ‘Oh Dear’ for a number of reasons. Not only would it take up a lot of room in the suitcase for the rest of the trip plus I did not see any continued use or purpose of the hat once we got home. I did try to gently dissuade her from buying it but she was too passionate and too determined to wear this hat while enjoying the park. As a result, most of her spending money was used up and this hat was carted around the rest of the trip never to be looked at again after we came home.
I find buying souvenirs a ‘ying and yang’ proposition. You want to have treasured keepsakes from a trip but on the other hand will they just become forgotten clutter and dust collectors once you get them home? I have a sister-n-law who is fortunate to have traveled to hundreds of wonderful locations around the world and very rarely purchases a souvenir. In her home you will not see any evidence from any of her travels. Conversely, I work with a colleague who has also traveled extensively and will only purchase authentic or traditional clothing and artifacts from genuine artisans from the locations she is visiting. Her home is tastefully decorated with treasures from her many excursions around the world. In both homes you do not see any shot glasses, snowballs or tourist destination coasters cluttering up their living spaces.
I tend to be in the middle of both my sister-n-law and my colleague when it comes to souvenirs. I like to have a little something from each of my trips as a keepsake but it has to meet certain criteria before I make the purchase and transport it home. Here is a little checklist that may help you think twice before you end up buying something that ends up just being clutter when you bring it back home:
- Low budget – I would rather spend my travel money on different experiences and events than on goods and products
- Locally made or at least made in the country I am visiting – The more custom made or handcrafted the better
- Easy to transport – It can’t be too bulky or too heavy. Airlines are becoming increasingly strict about what and how much you can transport without paying extra fees.
- It can’t be found or purchased where I live – Why buy something that you can easily get at home?
- Adaptable or functional once I get it home – It has to fit into my home décor or my wardrobe or it is something that will be used frequently.
I am presently in Brisbane, Australia spending a month with my daughter who is here attending medical school. For her birthday and for a break from some pretty intense studies, I took her on a three-night trip to Cairns. What a beautiful city and what incredible ‘bucket list’ experiences we just had!
We took the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which was a 7.5 kilometer trek in an enclosed gondola over a rainforest canopy with a couple of stops along the way to tour this ancient rainforest at ground level along a boardwalk. At the top of the mountain was the delightful village Kuranda where we browsed through some of the lovely shops, had a delicious sandwich at one of the outdoor eateries and toured an incredible Butterfly Garden home to 1500 butterflies and moths in all kinds of colours, sizes and designs.
The next day we took a tour to The Great Barrier Reef and went snorkeling for about three hours. Again we saw up close numerous forms of sea life and different schools of fish in every colour imaginable. We even saw the infamous clown fish known as ‘Nemo’ through our snorkel gear.
So what souvenirs did I buy as keepsakes for this trip? How much did I spend?
I have had a hobby for as long as I can remember and that is to buy a fridge magnet every time I visit a new location. This little souvenir meets all of my criteria and provides a simple but delightful keepsake and reminder of all of the places I have been. The only things that appear a little cluttered are the upright freezer and second fridge located in the mudroom in our home where all of the magnets are kept. Every time I open up the fridge or freezer I have a pleasant reminder of places and experiences we have been.
I bought this magnet to remind me of the amazing butterfly garden we visited and the Ulysses Butterfly we saw up close.
I bought this magnet to remind us of the two hour train trip we took down the rainforest mountain that ran from Kuruada into the city of Cairns.
Lastly, here is the locally made magnet we bought at the market in Cairns. It has a colourful fish painted on it to remind me of the incredible schools of fish I snorkeled with in The Great Barrier Reef. I chose not to take any photographs of this experience because I did not what to fuss with renting an underwater camera and I sometimes just want to experience the moment without looking through the lens of a camera.
This was one of those moments.
All for a total cost of $10.00!
By the way, my daughter upon returning home from Disneyland shared that the Mickey Mouse wizard hat was maybe an impulse purchase and a mistake. It still remains in storage and has not been looked at since. It is now eleven years later and she has had the opportunity to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Disneyland in Tokyo and hopes one day to go to Disneyland in Paris. She has not purchased any other Mickey Mouse hats in any shape or form and has made some other brilliant and memorable souvenir purchases during her other travels since she was a little girl visiting Disneyland for the first time.
What are your thoughts about souvenirs?
Here are some other photographs of our trip to Cairns, Australia…
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Other related posts about how to be organized for traveling and this fabulous trip!
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