Souvenirs; Remembering the Ephemeral

05 March 2013

One thing that always nags me about traveling is how do I remember this moment? I usually take care to journal about my day and take plenty of photos but how do I really bring a memory back with me into my average life? I think that's what's so great about souvenirs; with a glance they instantly take you back to that moment. I don't have to pull out a scrapbook or a diary, just simply look at my trinket on the shelf and I'm taken back to the time I climbed the Great Wall of China. There a couple things in particular I like to collect as souvenirs:


This collection actually started on accident. My very first trip while studying abroad was to Barcelona and, as I was going to the bus station to go back to France, I realized I hadn't bought a single souvenir.

'Shit, Aryn, you're going to hate yourself forever if you don't come back with something!' So I listened to my inner voice and popped into a souvenir store. However, as I looked over all the goods, nothing caught my interest. Time was dwindling down so I grabbed the cheapest things in the shop- a magnet of a mosaic bull.

From then on I just picked up a magnet for each major city that I visited and now these have come to be my most prized possessions. Seriously, if someone were to ask me what I would save in a fire if I could only take one thing, these would be my second choice (after my laptop). I can't wait for the day that I have my own home and I can put these all over my fridge. That would definitely be a great conversation piece when people visit!

Found Objects
Call me a klepto but I also like collecting just regular things. A beautiful rock on a beach in Italy or a glazed, turquoise tile from a Chinese roof- I love gathering these charming objects and then scattering them around my room as decoration. Everywhere I turn there's another memory from my travels.


A recent addition to my room decor is a scratch off map that my boyfriend got me for Christmas. It's perfect because not only is it a beautiful decoration for my blank walls, but it's also a fun and interactive way to show off my travels.

It took a lot of care to scratch off only the countries I have visited; for Luxembourg I had to go in with a fine point tool and carefully scratch around it. For Andorra, however, I didn't even try.

One things this map made me realize is how little of the world I have actually seen. Writing down the names of the countries I've visited seems like a lot but when I actually looked at it on a map I saw that I have only experienced a small corner of the world. Guess I'll have to travel to scratch off some more of my map!

Tips for buying souvenirs for others
Yes, souvenirs are not just  for you. It's always nice to consider your friends and family back home and bring them gifts, too. In general, I try to think about each of my friends' unique personalities and carefully consider what they would like. Because, honestly, there's no point in getting someone a gift that has no use to them.

So firstly I try to think about their quirks or interests: one of my roommates is always very anxious when she drives so in China I got her a good luck charm for her car. Another one of my friends is an art major so I got him a traditional set of brushes and ink.

If I can't find anything that fits someone's personality, I've found that there is one present that always works: tree ornaments. This shows that you were thinking about them and it's something they can actually use. In addition, it works well because a tree ornament isn't something that makes the receiver feel like they have to keep it out on a shelf year-round to show they appreciate their gift.

I picked up quite a few ornaments at the Christmas market in Brussels. Source
In the end, however, all these physical objects are just metaphors. A mosaic bull magnet is not precious to me, it's the memory of walking through Park Güell at sunrise that it represents. That's what I cherish. Buying souvenirs is just a little way that I can bring these experiences home with me and relive them everyday.

Do you collect anything when you travel? How do you choose souvenirs to take home for others?

You Might Also Like


  1. i haven't even thought about buying a souvenir on my upcoming trip! thanks for making me think about it. :)

    i love your little magnet board! thats a cute way to keep them all without getting junky.

    a sowing season.

  2. Thanks! Have fun on your trip!