What’s in a souvenir?

A souvenir, from the French word for remembrance, is something that one often comes across in their travels. Uncountable souvenir shops promise to give you the perfect memento from your trip, for the tourist’s price. And I’m the first to admit that I’ve got my fair share of cliche, overpriced knick-knacks from across the globe. But I’ve also come across some amazing treasures that I cherish to this day. So, what’s the difference? What’s in a good souvenir?

Ideally, it’s something small that can be shipped or packed easily. It should represent the country and culture so that it can remind you of your trip in a glance. It should also be something personal. After all, it is your memento.

Once you’ve travelled enough, you’ll probably begin to have a bit of a souvenir collection. For me, this means a number of collections actually. My most favourite (and probably cheapest) is my collection of postcards. On every trip I’ve taken, I’ve bought postcards from the places I’ve visited to send to friends and family. I also always bought an extra one for myself. They live in frames on my walls, reminding me of all the adventures I’ve been on.

Another cheap and easy option is to keep coins in whatever currencies you’ve come across in your travels. Shells or stones are a good alternative as well, but may make it harder to keep track of where you’ve been.

And, of course, the most obvious of souvenirs, photos. You can take photos and frame them as souvenirs of your travels. The only trouble with photos is that they’re difficult to capture perfectly. Either you’re behind the camera and can’t be in the shot, or you are in the shot, but it’s still not one that’s frame-worthy.

One way to easily get shots that really capture the adventure, and have all of the adventurers in the photo, is to get someone else to snap the picture. With strangers, it’s often the luck of the draw. Perhaps they have some photography skills and manage to not cut your legs off, or perhaps they don’t. There are services that offer candid vacation photography, captured by professional photographers. However, these can be a bit of a stretch for those travelling on a tight budget. But they can also be very worth it, capturing perfect moments between friends.

I’ve also got a collection of more cliche souvenirs, an Eiffel Tower from Paris, a nazar eye from Istanbul, some of those coins, stamped with pictures of famous buildings on them, and the like. While there are some that I still hold dear, there are others that I find fairly tacky now and would not buy if I had the chance to do the trip again.

The key to a great souvenir is to find something that’s everlasting, while also being representative of your trip. Of course, the perfect souvenir is subjective. It depends on a person’s taste, interests, and budget. But getting a souvenir, and perhaps even building your very own collection, is a lovely way to showcase your travels and to keep them close in your mind. And it is definitely worth having those memories years down the road.


Written by: Sonia Motisca



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