“You’re so ungrateful? I’ve heard that line so many times when it comes to expressing my thoughts on horrible gifts, it doesn’t even phase me anymore. That being said, I’m not ungrateful, I just think that people should put more thought and effort into picking the perfect souvenir. Go further than your normal, “My mom went to The Bahamas and all she brought me back was this awful t-shirt.” (I hope my mother doesn’t read this!)
A souvenir is suppose to invoke a feeling so strong about a destination that it makes the receiver want to get up and visit, at least in my world it does. There are so many things unique and only available in a particular destination that make for very special gifts. It doesn’t have to necessarily cost you a pretty penny, it just has to be one of a kind, can’t get it anywhere else but [insert destination].
When purchasing the perfect souvenir for friends, family or yourself, here are a few major rules that I love to live by:
- Is This Too Expensive? I usually allot a specific amount of money before every trip to spend on keepsakes. Let’s be honest, most people don’t appreciate souvenirs, they usually just love to hear the words “bring me something back” coming out of their mouths. While I don’t spend a lot of money on souvenirs, this doesn’t mean that my gift will be ‘cheap’ and unauthentic. My last visit to Santorini I purchased a hand painted volcanic stone for a reader. It was inexpensive yet authentic.
- Is This Unique? When I visited Florence, I brought back miniature bottles of wine from the Chianti region. I toured the ancient Castello del Trebbio which was turned into a vineyard and as a souvenir bought bottles of wine. It was unique to my experience and couldn’t be purchased anywhere else. People love to boast about gifts that no one else can get their fingers on! I know I do.
- Will They Appreciate It? While I’m super excited to buy one of a kind souvenirs for family and friends, I always ask myself before purchasing, ‘will they even appreciate this”? My sister is strict in her demands, “I want a magnet for my refrigerator”. While a magnet is as basic as a souvenir gets, this is what she specifically asks for. While I don’t appreciate magnets, she does. I have a friend that hates cheesy souvenirs and prefers me not to bring him anything back from my travels, but I do anyway! He loves to cook so I buy spices or sauces that he can’t find anywhere else! They’re not expensive, they’re unique and he appreciates it.
- Is It Legal? Some people never even think about a souvenir and jail in the same sentence. But, ignorance can land you a spot in jail, or stuck at the border for hours. If you go to China, Hong Kong or New York, leave the knock-off designer bags, you might get away with one, but a quantity will raise cause for concern. Shopaholics, step away from the shoes or leather goods made from endangered or protected species. Do not buy souvenirs made from ivory, tortoiseshell, reptile skins, furs and some corals and seashells, and please leave the exotic plants and animals in their habitats.
Buying the right souvenir takes just a little bit of thought. While photographs are my most prized mementos, I love to purchase textiles; beautiful pieces of fabric that I can have made into whatever I like. I also love finding unique pieces like works of art, or paintings that can fit well into someone’s home that doesn’t scream souvenir but yet sparks a major conversation.
What are your favorite or most memorable and unusual travel souvenirs?