A good vacation is more than just a good travel experience. The majority of your time and energy may be spent actually getting from point A to point B and exploring while you’re there, but the weeks of anticipation in the lead-up to a trip are almost as exciting. The same can be said for remembering a trip. Being able to lose yourself in the memory of some faraway beach, colorful cityscape or nature scene is one of the best reasons to travel. It’s a sign of a trip gone right when you find yourself returning to memories again and again.
But with time, memories of even the most enjoyable trips can fade. Details are lost and the trip as a whole becomes boiled down to individual snapshots or general ideas. For that reason, it helps to have souvenirs. The French word souvenir literally means “to remember”, and it’s one of the best ways you can hold on to the details of trips gone by. But not all souvenirs are created equal. Gimmicky plastic trinkets and slogan-covered t-shirts may be easy to find in airports and gift shops, but they don’t convey the same sense of connection that a deeply meaningful souvenir can hold.
To help you find more of the latter instead of the former, here’s a list of meaningful souvenirs you can be on the lookout for during your next trip.
One of the best parts of traveling to new and foreign lands is discovering new and foreign flavors. Sampling local cuisine is among the best ways to get a sense of a place and given the strong link between memory, scent and taste, bringing home spices is a great way to bring home a piece of your trip.
Even at home, there’s something special about finding just the right card to convey just the right message. But an already special token of appreciation becomes even more meaningful when it comes from overseas. All the better if it’s written in another language. Use tools like Google Translate to figure out what a card says before your purchase and aim to find a message about appreciation, such as a simple “thinking of you” card. That way when you stumble upon the card sometime in the future when remembering your trip, the card will read as if you’re thinking longingly of the trip itself rather than an intended recipient.
Carefully taken photos
Now, photos as souvenirs should go without saying. Taking photos is the reason we all have phones in our pockets. But when you take a million forgetful shots including five different angles of the same subject with the hope that you’ll go back and delete the bad ones later, the series starts to lose its meaning. Opt instead for a mindset of taking as few photos as possible and only ones that really capture the essence of a day spent exploring. Set the mental limit of capturing your entire trip in just 30 carefully taken photos and see how much more selective you become when snapping, and therefore how much more meaningful each photo becomes as a souvenir.
Give yourself an annual reason to remember a great trip by bringing home holiday decorations. Whether it’s a Christmas ornament, festive garland, a painted winter scene or a holiday candle, getting something that you take out to celebrate the winter holiday season will bring with it an extra bonus of travel memories. And you don’t need to limit yourself to the end-of-year holidays. If you’re someone who decorates for holidays throughout the year, buying seasonal holiday decorations is a meaningful way to fold travel memories into your year.
Postcards are a time-tested way to connect past trips to present moments. Often featuring photos or artistic renderings of the vacation destination, it can be fun to mail a postcard to yourself while on your trip to collect international stamps along the way. Fill the postcard with bits of information like where you went that day, what your favorite meals were, and any sights you saw and it will serve as both a journal entry and a souvenir.
In some people’s books, refrigerator magnets might fall under the umbrella of tacky hokey souvenirs, but when carefully selected, a collection of magnets can be a tasteful and meaningful addition to kitchen decor. The key is to have a plan. Choose magnets that follow a similar theme or pattern and go for similar color palettes. That way they’ll look like a nicely assembled collection and you’ll get the chance to remember your trip every time you head for a snack.
Want to incorporate your travel memories into your everyday life? Bringing home a coffee mug can do just that. Tea and coffee mugs are universal and can often be found in fun patterns that, like refrigerator magnets, can create a collection of coffee mugs when together. Add an extra layer to your souvenir’s poignancy by bringing home coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Yet another example of a souvenir that when grouped together makes a nice collection is the pinch bowl. These small bowls are perfect for holding jewelry, countertop spices, coins, candles, candies and more, making them versatile to have around the house. And their compact size makes them easy to bring home.
Perhaps the most meaningful souvenir you can bring home from a trip is original art. Art often captures the colors, culture and scenery of a place and can be proudly displayed around your home for decoration and recollection of your trip. Art can range from small pocket-sized drawings and paintings to large canvases and sculptures, making it a meaningful and versatile way to incorporate travel experiences into your everyday life.
A good souvenir if you like to keep things simple, ticket stubs are a great way to remember the ins and outs of what you did and where you went on a trip. From museum visits to boat and bus tours or excursions, these tickets will also often feature the time and date of your trip. Keep them safe in an envelope or scrapbook them into a more formal collection, ticket stubs are a versatile and affordable souvenir.
A notebook or journal
Another simple, straightforward and cost-effective souvenir is a travel journal. You can keep detailed notes about your experience or a simple itinerary, whatever is best for jogging your memory. A notebook or journal pairs well with a carefully taken series of photos for fully capturing a travel experience.