Are you looking for something bit unique to bring home from your next trip? You have come to the right place. Every time C & I go someplace new, souvenirs are a big part of the things we haul back home. There are many souvenir articles available and travelers are always confused about what to buy. Some like collecting a similar type of things from popular destinations like shot glasses or thimbles. While we usually always buy magnets and pennies from most places we also like to bring back a little of the place’s culture with us.
Here are some common souvenir ideas for your next trips:
Pressed pennies – These are incredibly popular in the US. You put a penny and 2 quarters in the penny pressing machine, select from 4 available designs and crank the machine handle. Viola! You now have the cheapest souvenir of your trip. Preserving these pennies is a bit of work, but penny passports are available to make it a breeze.
Magnets – Magnets stuck on refrigerators are the most universal reminders of trips to faraway lands. We have so many hanging on the giant fridge in our kitchen that soon we may need to find another magnetic surface for newer ones. I love picking out unique magnets depicting places and activities we can actually relate to. This one I picked in New Orleans accurately reflects that trip for us since eating the seafood was a highlight of our trip.
Handicrafts – Things produced by the local artisans make great souvenirs. So far I have Navajo sand art from Arizona, colored sand bottles from Petra and Mardi Gras masks and beads from New Orleans. We also have handmade pen-stands and letter keepers from India. I love buying handicrafts because they are really unique to a region and mostly intricate works of art.
Things for home – In the past I used to avoid buying things for home since I was renting and always moving to different places. However since we took the plunge and bought our own house, I have let myself go. Our house now has reminders of our trips in various nooks and corners. Glass and metal hanging lights hang from our window, a saucer from Petra graces a corner shelf, a similar saucer from Los Angeles rests on the kitchen sill. Every time I go back home to India my bag is stuffed with souvenirs for the home. I have a Ganpati frame adorning the entrance of our house, miniature pottery from Kumbharwada (which literally means potters colony), Pune, India sitting pretty in the guest bathroom and beautiful fancy serve ware waiting to be used in the kitchen.
Along with the usual souvenirs, C & I usually bring home things that remind us of the destination or activities or some facet of the trip that fascinated us. Here are some unique souvenir ideas:
Ethnic dresses and jewelry – Clothes and accessories best represent the culture of a place and are incredible reminders to bring back home. Plus it gives me a valid excuse to shop for myself in a new country. I love adding things from various corners of the world to my wardrobe. So far my wardrobe contains a belly dance costume from Jordan, an apron with the Golden Gate bridge gifted by my friends while in San Francisco and a hijaab styled woolen poncho from Qatar. I also have a camel bone necklace from Petra, dirt cheap jewelry from Chinatown, New York, an anklet from the gold souqs of Amman and Navajo dream catcher necklace from New Mexico. I bought a dozen pashmina shawls in Amman for my cousins, friends and myself. C has a sweatshirt from Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway that reminds us of the unexpected winds and low temperatures there. We have ponchos from Disney parks in California tucked away somewhere; some wardrobe additions are more from necessity! Even S has a Bedouin dress from Qatar, mojadi shoes from Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, India, and silk lungi brought by his grandparents on their trip to Kerala, India.
Local products – These are pretty much the most usable souvenirs. We have brought back pralines from New Orleans, water taffy from Atlantic City, Syrian dates, dried figs, raisins and other local dry fruits from street carts near the Jordan-Syrian border, baklava from Amman, Islamic sweets from Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai and local tea from Qatar. I have also brought the Dead Sea mud bath salts, face masks and other cosmetics from Jordan.
Send a postcard home – I read this somewhere and have pretty much fallen in love with the idea. I plan to do so for iconic and long-pined for trips. Choosing a postcard you can relate to and posting it from a local post office is fun. It pushes you out of your comfort zone by interacting with locals in the entire process of searching for a post office and then posting the card. Reaching home before your card, waiting for it and then finally looking at the stamps on the card is a beautiful experience. My one and only postcard till date are of the Treasury at Petra lit-up at night. I am waiting for more iconic trips to add to my postcard collection.
Brochures and other reminders – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While most people throw away maps of tourist places, entry tickets, parking and hotel receipts I love collecting such things. Once in a while when I’m cleaning my desk I come across these things and spend a pleasant afternoon looking at the haunted houses tour brochure from New Orleans, a parking ticket from Eureka Springs, Arkansas or our Petra entrance tickets and remembering our travels to these places.
Souvenir passport stamps – I have heard of some places in the world stamping souvenir passport stamps but have unfortunately not been to such a place. However, I really like the idea and hope to acquire my first one soon. Let me know if you have such stamps.
Things don’t always work out for the best souvenir wise. I wanted to bring a pretty teapot and tea-set from Qatar but all the ones I liked were way outside my budget. My treasured Jordan map magnet fell down the other day and shattered. I paid way more for my camel bone necklace in Petra and I can never be sure if it’s really from a dead camel. On the other hand, I hope it’s not! Who wants a smelly animal bone in their jewelry drawer? My dream is to buy a really big souvenir, maybe a furniture piece or wall décor and then have to ship it back home! The important thing is to remember that souvenirs are for fun and their purpose is just to bring back pleasant memories; souvenirs are never bigger than the destination!