Why I Don't Do Souvenirs
Plastic magnets and metal key chains are a nice momento, but I prefer great stories, lessons learned and fond memories any day.
Before I moved back to NYC for graduate school I planned a month long trip of seeing new cities and sleeping friends couches. The plan was to pack up my apartment, move all of my belongings into my much smaller place in the city and then live out of a suitcase until the first day of orientation when I would make it back New York. This was all fine in theory, but as I executed the plan I realized how much stuff I owned and the emotional weight of it all. I was responsible for so many things that it seemed to tie me down and complicate my life. I managed to move and enjoy my vacation, but that month of living out of one bag (despite even that being way over packed!) was a huge revelation to me... I don't need stuff to live the life that I want! And actually, stuff is hampering me from living the life that I want.
It was in 2013 that I got into minimalism. I stopped accumulating things and began appreciating what I had more. I believe minimalism is on a spectrum and is different for each person. For me it was about living lighter and viewing money differently. I now see money as tool for freedom (freedom to travel amongst other things) and not just for more things. I began measuring the cost of things as a fraction of a plane ticket or how many gelatos in Italy that would be (one pair shoes began looking much more delicious when converted to gelato!). This was exciting because it's what matters to me, being a traveler and having the mental and physical space in my life to explore.
So in essence I decided to say yes to travel and no to all the things that cluttered my life or didn't fit into my values.
Now how does all of that relate to souvenirs!? Well I am so glad you asked! It goes back to minimalism and acting in line with my values. Prior to this mindset I would feel obligated to buy everyone I loved, worked with or even mentioned my trips to a token from where I went. Not only was this expensive but it was totally unnecessary. Typically I would bring home tons of tote bags, notebooks and other random objects that my gift recipients didn't need and although they appreciated it, probably didn't really want. Often times the souvenirs I would buy would be low quality knick knacks and I realized I was just cluttering their lives with things, exactly what I had decided to stop doing in my own life! When I thought about what I would prefer over "some thing" it was a time and conversation about life and lessons and the new cultures explored. And once I decided I would no longer feel obliged to get gifts for everyone I began to get time back on my travels and found myself getting a gift only when it truly reminded me of someone and I knew they would cherish it.
So I suppose all of that to say it’s not that I don’t get souvenirs at all… I just don’t make it a mandatory part of my trips anymore. No more last minute shopping on the way to the airport. And even for myself I rarely bring items home unless it is a particularly beautiful rock from a pebbled beach, a beautifully designed postcard, or a delicious bar of chocolate I couldn't find back home!
If you are like me and feel that the ritual of souvenirs can be overrated but like to bring home tokens to share with family I have found bringing home edibles to share, sending a postcard from your destination or taking perfectly posed photos with fun stories to tell on your return is a more than adequate substitute!
I'd love to know what you think! Do you enjoy buying and/or receiving souvenirs? Do you think I am totally missing the point of them? Or do you agree and think souvenirs is something you'd prefer to skip? I would truly love to know!