Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 15: 5 Ways to Remember the Trip Without Shelling Out For Souvenirs

Do you buy souvenirs when you travel? Travelers are divided into two categories: the I-went-to-Destin-and-bought-this-sea-shell people and those of us that curl up our noses at such trappings.
While you won’t find me purchasing a Starbucks coffee cup in Beijing, I do like items representative of our travels. Double points for anything that is useful or can be enjoyed daily. The hand carved wooden spoons from Thailand are some of my all-time favorite utensils; I use them constantly when I’m cooking.  Ditto for the inlaid mother of pearl pen that sits on my desk. Admittedly I grab for my gel pens far more often, but I like seeing its shimmer among my more practical writing accoutrements.

I’ve already talked about visiting the grocery store as one of my favorite things to do when I travel and how unique consumables make great gifts. Tsh talks about taking a cylinder mailing tube along on their travels to mail purchased art home.

Here are five more ways to remember the trip without weighing down the luggage:

1. Show me the money. We came home from China with random denominations of Yuan. I photographed the colorful notes for our photo books and then we gave it away.
Chinese Yuan

2. Take a picture of it. This is obvious but easy to forget. Don’t just photograph the main tourist attractions. You obviously want photos of the Eiffel Tower, but you want pictures of the memorable little details too.

When we moved, our broom got misplaced. I ended up buying a broom from the Asian grocery store that the clerk assured me was “very popular.” Apparently you have to be in a secret sweeping society to master this broom. Not only did I fail to sweep up any dirt, every time I used it I got bristles everywhere.

When we were in Thailand, I saw this type of broom constantly. I’m pretty sure it kept showing up
just to mock me. Finally, I took a picture of it, as a kind of personal Where’s Waldo moment.

Asian broom

3. Pay for the experience, pass on the trinkets. This is again obvious but it bears repeating. In The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Anchor says that “common sense is not common action.” It’s one of my favorite quotes.

When our kids saw an especially alluring ‘Made in China’ trinket on the street, we reminded them that we were passing on that purchase in favor of an activity.

Even if they were momentarily disappointed, visiting this kitschy amusement park was a trip highlight for them and money well-spent for us.
Chinese amusement park 
4. Invest in people. Shopping is one way to boost the GDP of another country; tipping is another. Tipping is cultural, expected in some places and not (or very minimally) in others.

We travel with small kids. We’re noisy, messy and often there’s a doorman who’s helping schlep children, bags or a stroller into or out of a taxi. Consequently we’ve learned: not to stay in fancy hotels and to take extra treats with us. We tip at the time of the service, then when we leave a hotel we have the kids pass out chocolates or other little American goodies. The staff always love it and it’s good for the kids too.

Along a similar vein, the housekeeper in one of our hotels recently was especially helpful and kind. Ordinarily we would just leave money for housekeeping in the room upon checkout. But we wanted to make sure this particular woman received the tip, so my husband hunted her down. He told me that she was so appreciative, thanking him with tears in her eyes. I don’t know if it was the money or the gesture that was meaningful to her, but I do know that this was a good reminder for me that investing in people – even if it’s only a few dollars – is always worthwhile.

5. Savor the moment. Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time looking for the perfect shot or item to represent our time away?  Often we package this desire as a way to remember or appreciate the trip. But that’s worth re-examining.  Unless we’re on assignment, we don’t actually need the photos (or the t-shirt) to prove how fantastic or exotic our trip was. After all, WE WERE THERE. Instead of trying to capture the moment, we should enjoy it to its fullest while we can.


Are you traveling to China? New Hope Foundation is in need of travelers going to Beijing from the US, UK, and Australia to help bring in much needed supplies for the children in their care. None of these supplies are “restricted items” and do not have to be declared at customs. The items will be mailed to you within your country of origin. New Hope Foundation staff will be at the airport to pick up the supplies in Beijing. Go here to learn more.

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