Trying to find the perfect travel souvenir? This often ends up being one of the most laborious efforts of a trip. Instead of wasting your time browsing knickknacks you can get anywhere, keep the following tips in mind to effortlessly find the perfect memento of your trip.
Browse The Markets
For travelers who enjoy culture and shopping, an experience that should be added to any travel itinerary is browsing the local markets. Typically, these markets showcase the most local goods and foods as well as provide the opportunity to interact withlocals. You'll also find you can get surprisingly good deals at markets, and can often haggle to bring these prices down even lower.
Skip The Tourist Shops
Going off the above statement, even if you don't shop at local markets you should still try to buy as local as possible for a truly genuine travel souvenir. Tourist shops selling items you could buy anywhere or that are mass-produced in Chinese factoriesdon’t really have relevance to the destination you're visiting. For example, instead of getting a magnet or mug that says "Tahiti," why not purchase a hand-carved bowl or cup made from local wood? The latter does a much better job of giving the recipientan idea of the place you visited.
Choose Something Locally Made
The best travel souvenirs are locally made, whether it be a work from a local artist, a bag woven from alpaca hair, a hand-strung necklace representing a local tribe or something else made with the local culture in mind. When shopping, ask artisans aboutthe stories and meanings behind what you're looking at. For example, when I was in Ghana I loved watching the artists paint, listening to them talk about the meaning of the symbols in the depictions or who the dancing women were. Sometimes you'll be surprisedby what you hear. Another example is when I was in Trinidad and, while browsing a local market I found a large nut. I was told it was a donkey eye (not a real one, a nut that looked like one), and that schoolchildren would often rub it on the ground tocreate heat and tease their friends by giving them a slight burn. For older generations, putting a donkey eye in your pocket meant success and wealth. To many, the donkey eye is also great for making jewelry. Essentially, this seemingly worthless itemheld many meanings to different people.
Make Use Of Your Photographs
Don't just throw your photos on Facebook; use them to create a great travel souvenir. Keep in mind, the gift recipient – unless you're making the souvenir for yourself – probably doesn't want to see 100 selfies. Make sure to take different kinds of photos, from scenery to locals to food to interesting attractions, and make a collage, coffee-table-style scrapbook or photo-focused piece of artwork you or they can hang on their wall.
Making something not only saves you money, but also gives your travel souvenir a personal, more thoughtful touch. The best way to do this is to take some kind of class or workshop with a local artisan. For example, in New Zealand I participated in a woodcarving workshop and learned how locals carved national symbols into pieces of wood. Another handmade souvenir favorite from my travels was on Taketomi Island in Japan where I learned from a traditional weaver how to make a placemat using organic materials and dyes on a wooden foot-pedal-operated sewing machine. The handicraft had a local saying that Taketomi women gave to their significant others to tell them they would always love them.
Keep The Recipient In Mind
When choosing a travel souvenir, keep the recipient and their personality in mind. This is especially true when buying for someone else, as, being the traveler, you'll most likely find many items have special significance since you actually experienced the destination. If you're buying for someone else, remember they probably don't have this same connection to the place, so you'll want to get something that both reflects where you are and will be well received. If your friend hates art but you buy them a painting, or doesn't wear jewelry and you purchase them a bracelet, your souvenir will likely get packed into storage; however, opting for souvenirs your friends will appreciate because it's something related to their interests will get full use.
Use Something You Pick Up Along The Way
Sometimes you pick up interesting, culturally reflective items along the way that can also double as travel souvenirs. Chopsticks from a dinner in China or a tile from a Moroccan mosaic maker you met can have much more meaning than a shot glass you bought at the airport.
Check The Laws
Especially with food and drink, there are often laws about what can be shipped or brought on airplanes. Once in Florence, I went to an outdoor market and purchased a bunch of foods, spices and wines to send home to my parents; however, when I tried to mail it the post office said I couldn't ship food or drink. Let's just say my hostel was well fed that night. The point is, check the laws so you don't waste your time and money – or end up without a souvenir.
What's the best souvenir you found on a trip?