Memento, keepsake, or souvenir, all names for items that you might cherish after a wonderful vacation. These items vary, but we all search for something to help remind us about an amazing holiday. Whether we search for a postcard to send back to our loved ones, maybe a trinket to place on the counter or magnet on the fridge. It’s a fascination that so many of us have as we tour the world. What item do you bring back as a remembrance of your trip?
I remember my fascination with souvenirs when I was just a young kid. I had started traveling with my grandparents. As we continued to travel, my grandparents refrigerator kept losing space on it for magnets. One of their favorite collectable items, were magnets found at their favorite travel locations. Every time we went to visit, I would jump over to the fridge and see if there was anything new and exciting from their recent travels. Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Gettysburg and more, all scattered across the refrigerator like badges on an officer. It was even more exciting to look at a new magnet from a place that we went together. The slight jog down memory lane was always something to look forward to as we traveled up those steps to grandmas house.
Their other travel keepsake? Taking large quantities of pictures and videos of their entire time away from home. Although the quality would be lacking at times, there was never any doubt about the fun had on these trips. Two hour long videos of grandpa recording our itinerary, as if he was part of the National Geographic filming crew. Grandma also played a part, she would constantly gather everyone together to take those candid photos at each location. The end result? Shelf upon shelf in their family room with videos and photo books, representing each trip and year. I never realized at the time, but these keepsakes would allow us to lose ourselves in happiness further down the road.
Through the years, other people in the family started different collections. One brother started collecting shot glasses from everywhere he and other friends and family had been. Fast forward to now, several of us collect coasters from different breweries we have been to. When you enter two of their “man caves”, you see coasters scattered across the walls, each one unique to the personality of the brewery.
I have two things that I do to help relive my moments from a trip. I take many photos, always looking for that perfect angle to capture the beauty of the landscape we are in. More than likely, I inherited this from my grandparents. The other thing I look for (as an avid coffee enthusiast) is a coffee mug from each location. I find intrigue in looking for a place that has the perfect coffee mug to distinguish the personality of a city.
The creativity behind a coffee mug can be found everywhere. Every gift shop you ever visit in a city will have plenty of coffee mugs for you to revel in. Various mugs with top attractions in the area, maybe the simplicity of declaring your love for the city with I heart *insert location here*. Or it could be just an abnormally large coffee mug to help others find truth in the fact that you need coffee to wake you up in the morning!
In Athens, it was downpour constantly, but I wanted the perfect coffee mug to declare the importance of the Ancient greek gods on this civilization. Several shops later and I had found the perfect pairing of Zeus, Athena and Dionysus scrolled across a blue mug, that looked like it had been dug up from ancient times. I reveled in my find!
Vancouver, BC had me searching for the inspiration of a cup with an Orca on it. These beautiful animals have played an importance in the indigenous culture in the area, and I have always had a fascination with orcas. A perfect symbol of Vancouver to remember. As we walked down the Gaslamp district, I finally came across a shop with an eco friendly coffee cup with the perfect sketch of an orca draped across the neutral background.
So many cities across the world, with the perfect coffee mug to distinguish their unique attributes. Many stories that I could continue with, but I think you get the idea. My cabinets at home are filled with these memories of travel. All it takes to bring me back, pull out a cup and fill it up. The memories of our time in Germany, or maybe the morning in front of the Eiffel Tower, all pour into my mind as I imbibe my hot coffee for the day.
Through our travels, we always make sure to take back several souvenirs for loved ones. A brother that has a passion for Lambic beers? Make sure to stack a couple of bottles of beer from Belgium! Maybe parents that indulge in cheese and wine as much as you do? A perfect pecorino cheese from San Gimignano in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Or a mother and grandmother with a passion for the church, could simply not go without a postcard mailed from the top of the Vatican. The only thing better would have been for the Pope to bless it before it took to the mail!
Travel is meant to be shared. It’s meant to be an amazing experience of other cultures and what they have to offer our small world. Some times it might be sharing the places you’ve gone with others so you entice them to go out and see the world. Travel will never be a solo trip altogether. Now more than ever, we have to relive the moments that we enjoyed while traveling. During a time that we are confined to a much smaller space within a global pandemic, it can be all we have to balance our lives a little bit.
The best test of time, will always be a photograph. I always think of the “In color” song by Jamey Johnson when I think of photographs. Needless to say, they play an importance in our travel. As a baton passing from my grandfather, I started my own collection of photo albums. Each year I compile photos of where we had been for the year. Not in large albums with excessive printed copies, photo books made digitally. They reduce the space in the house and fit perfectly within my coffee table. While I drink my coffee, I can always scroll through the albums and get a bit more detail about our last trip.
This brings me back to my grandparents and their photo albums. After my grandma passed away a couple of years ago, we went to her apartment to start clearing out items left behind. As we rummaged through various items, we came across a massive box of photo albums. My mother, brother and I all sat down in front of the box with anticipation. Captivated with the images that lay before us, we talked, laughed and cried over the various pictures we came across. It really didn’t even matter on the picture quality, it helped us relive the moment. I didn’t realize how important these mementos were until we sat in front of that box. It brought us away from our phones, tv and other nuances in life at the time. All that mattered was remembering the precious moments we had.
The glass or plastic can make up a mug or an image on a magnet. It’s not the material that matters, it’s the memories that they can bring. No matter what your keepsake is while you travel, search for it. Find that perfect item that allows you to remember what made your time special. Long after you’re gone, you have no idea about the profound effects they might have on your loved ones.