This blog post was updated on August 12, 2021.
I was cleaning out my office last night and I found the following contents in a box shoved way in the back of my closet: a tiny Eiffel Tower figurine, a snow globe from London and a stack of postcards from Spain. Of course, I thought it was a great idea to buy these at the time, but as you can see by where they’ve “lived” for the past decade, these souvenirs didn’t really withstand the test of time. This made me start thinking about what to look for in a souvenir. Here are my guidelines, feel free to adapt them to your priorities and shopping style.
• Do you love it? I mean really love it? Many souvenirs seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself if you truly love it or if you’re buying it because it’s the thing to do (see my Eiffel Tower example above). If you really love it, and if seeing it or using it will always conjure up memories of your travels, then go for it.
• Do you have anything similar already? If you collect things, like snow globes (which I obviously don’t— again, see above), then this guideline is moot, because the whole point of a traveler’s collection is to have similar objects from different places. However, if you’re not a collector, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re buying a souvenir that’s similar to something you already have. Perhaps you’re buying precisely because it’s similar to something you already have. Which leads to the next guideline…
• Will you use it? If you purchase something that you already have, then chances are you won’t use it. I always ask myself these two questions before purchasing anything: How often will I use this? Where will I put this in my house? If I can’t answer these questions, then the purchase probably isn’t worth making.
• Is it authentic to the area? I make it a practice of buying products that are authentic to the area I’m visiting. Oftentimes, these are only things that can be purchased there, which makes them special. I enjoy meeting artisans and buying their products directly. Then I have a story to go along with my souvenir.
• Will it withstand the test of time? It’s worth reflecting and perhaps spending a bit more to make sure your souvenir will stand the test of time. When I was twenty, I traveled to Turkey. I purchased a traditional prayer rug that has moved with me a dozen times since then. Each time when I unpack it, I fondly remember my trip and the beautiful country of Turkey. I can’t imagine ever giving this rug away. This souvenir, though costly to me at the time, has withstood the test of time.
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