As a teen, I went to Stonehenge and returned home with the most ridiculous souvenir.
I found an ugly rock, of which I was convinced two things. First, that it had to be 3,500 years old, thereby museum-worthy, and second, that it wielded magical powers.
The rock weighed about 15 pounds and I actually hauled it back with me to the States in my checked luggage. All these years later, I have no idea what happened to it.
Do you also have a ridiculous souvenir in your past?
In my life, I have made more than a few souvenir mistakes, and I resolved years ago to be extremely mindful of what I purchase abroad.
There is one kind of travel souvenir, however, that I never regret bringing home. The intangible kind.
Intangibles travel souvenirs for me have included:
1) A new food experience I want to recreate at home.
Turkish kunefe and lahmacun, Japanese soba, Argentine steak with Chimichurri are all dishes I couldn’t wait to prepare in my own kitchen.
2) A new friendship I’ve made during a trip
I’m still in touch with people I’ve met in youth hostels, standing in line, and on guided tours around the world.
3) A wonderful memory of a unique experience
Listening to jazz with Frenchmen in the Czech Republic. Playing drinking games in Cape Town. Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Alaska. Riding a camel in Egypt. Hitchhiking in Africa. Wading in crystal clear water in Tahiti. Living on a beach in Zanzibar. The memories go on…
4) A deeper knowledge about a country
I have so much more respect and understanding about the world from time in China, Taiwan, Namibia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so many more countries.
5) Improved language skills
I never knew how far high-school Spanish and French would get me in my lifetime… even in obscure places where you might not expect to use these languages. I was once asked to translate for a visiting Cuban dentist and basketball player in Namibia!
6) An interest in a new destination or region
I visited Argentina, and now the whole South American continent is calling me. I met another traveler in Egypt who said Turkey was the best vacation of her life. She piqued my interest, and you know what? Turkey tops my list of favorites too.
7) A fresh perspective
From traveling around the world, I’ve learned that there are so many ways of living a life. Who says one way is right?
8) A renewed energy and excitement for living
Not jet-lag. Not laundry. Not 150 unanswered emails. Nothing can dampen the new zest for life I feel returning from a trip.
Perhaps the best thing about all my intangible souvenirs, is that unlike the Stonehenge rock, I know exactly where they are. I don’t have to go through a storage unit looking for them, wonder if I sold them in a garage sale, or feel disappointed when they broke prematurely. Whenever I want to, all I have to do is make a cup of tea and take a mental trip to Africa or Turkey or Italy.
What intangible souvenirs have you’ve brought home?