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The Secret To A Truly Wonderful Souvenir
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by Amanda Keith
Exactly what is the point of souvenirs? In my humble opinion it should be something that evokes a wonderful memory, that transports you back to a time and place when you were vacationing and enjoying every minute of it and makes you smile. In fact, perhaps even at that exact moment, when you knew you just had to buy something to memorialize the moment or place or day.
But how do you accomplish this without ending up with just a lot of junk, quite possibly 'Made in China'? Now there are times, I confess, when some crazy thing will catch your eye and it won't be especially valuable, or useful, but you just buy it anyway. For example, when I was visiting Pisa, Italy, there were all sorts of 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' souvenirs, as I'm sure you can imagine: it seemed like everything in the shops was leaning somehow! As I visually surfed through the offerings I saw a 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' small, of course leaning, bottle of limoncello. It was so tacky I just had to buy it! Not something I would usually do, but it still makes me roll my eyes and smile a little when I think of it (the limoncello was awful too!).
The best way to get a really great souvenir is to research the area you're visiting beforehand. Find out what they're known for, what they specialize in. This way you can find something that truly reflects the region, and often, because it's big there, you'll be able to find something at a good price. Many areas in Italy, for example, are known for their leather goods. Searching out your perfect leather bag, belt, etc. would be a great souvenir that represents Italy, there are deals to be had, and you will also save time: you don't need to be searching through all the usual stuff at more conventional souvenir stores if you know what you're looking for is more likely to be found elsewhere. Limoncello is also another great Italian souvenir - just don't buy it in a Pisa souvenir shop!
Another souvenir-buying strategy could involve something that you associate with the place you are visiting, either before you go, or after you've had a chance to explore a little. For example, if you're visiting London, you must go to 'Harrod's' department store - it's a very famous and phenomenal place to shop for just about anything. When I was there I decided I had to have something with the Harrod's logo on it. I ended up choosing a shopping bag for which they are very well known. It's just a black patent tote bag with 'Harrod's' written on it in gold lettering, but I can use it when I travel as my secondary (ie. purse equivalent) carry-on bag. It's large enough to fit my actual handbag, my book, a neck pillow, and it has a zippered section in the middle where I can put my passport, ticket, and anything else I need to just be able to grab and put away quickly and easily. So I have a great reminder of a past trip every time I travel with it, as well as something useful. It can also be used for it's intended purpose, as a shopping bag, when out and about during my travels.
If you are a bit of a history buff (like me) you could use that to help with your souvenir shopping. For example, Venice, Italy, has been famous for its glasswork since the 10th century so going there and not purchasing a glass piece was just not going to happen for me. When I visited the UK I decided beforehand that I really wanted to find an old pewter tankard to bring home. I am now the proud owner of a seriously beat-up antique mug that I purchased very cheaply at a small antique shop in a village where my ancestors once lived. I use it to hold pens on my desk and it reminds me of history and family and my awesome trip everyday.
One last souvenir, perhaps my favourite of all, is photos! I have taken some really great shots even with my little point-and-shoot digital camera. They're so reasonably priced there is no reason not to have one and they're extremely easy to operate. Many also act as a little computer and allow you to zoom and crop and manipulate your photos in various ways right in the camera. I like to play with my photos while waiting in airports or on a plane. Make sure you zoom in on your photos and examine them carefully: you'll probably find some really cool close-ups you can crop out of larger images to make completely new photos you didn't realize you'd taken! I highly recommend picking up one of those digital photo frames that automatically scroll through your photos. I programmed mine to come on around the time I get home and turn off when I usually go to bed. I am absolutely certain I remember a lot more about my trips when I am able to see the photos everyday, and isn't remembering your travels the whole point of souvenirs?
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