Thursday, May 11, 2006
Having a strategy can reduce the chances that you'll do something dumb and buy a souvenir that is just plain junk.
1) Don't confine the notion of what a souvenir is.
Souvenir boutiques will be found in abundance in any major tourist area, but that doesn't mean you must confine your souvenir-hunt to specialty shops. Any token of your trip — from restaurant place mats to pressed leaves to local candy — can serve as a personal keepsake. If seeking gifts for loved ones at home, check department stores and supermarkets before you hit the souvenir shop — odds are you'll find something cheaper (and just as authentic) in these types of places.
Often when on camping trips, my Dad will make his own souvenir by carving a stick into a ladle or pancake flipper. Past favorites have included minature canoe paddles or spoons. I generally make pointy sticks, but I don't bring them home. But by far and away the most popular is the propeller. Once in a while he carves a propeller then scrounges a nail from a picnic table or camp kitchen and nails the propller to a stick so that it can spin in the wind when you hold it out the window of the car.
My parents are going to Isreal in a couple of months and I hope he brings a stick home to make me a new propeller. Even if he doesn't, I need to a new propeller to replace the one in the back of my car that is getting wrecked.
2) Save souvenir shopping until the end of the journey.
Let a souvenir be a souvenir — a keepsake of experience — and don't go off shopping for knickknacks before you've had some real travel adventures. Not only will this give you a social context for your destination before you start commemorating it with collectibles, but it will also save you the hassle of dragging this new found loot around with you as your journey progresses. An added bonus is that, as a shopper, you will have a better sense for the price and quality of your souvenirs once you've traveled and made some comparisons.
This is something that I've convinced Tracie of. Who wants to drag a digerydoo around Australia for an entire year. It's better to buy the souvenir when you know you'll only have to drag it home. Stuff is too heavy and we have too much already.
3) The experience is more important than the keepsake.
In the end, shopping anywhere is still just shopping. Don't let the hunt for souvenirs get in the way of amazing travel experiences.