Forget t-shirts, forget hats or shot glasses, mugs or tacky magnets. Don’t buy those little pens with the city name on them, or that plaque with a picture of the skyline. And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT purchase that egg that cracks open to show you a dangling Eiffel Tower. Don’t buy them because you’ll use or look at them once and that’ll be that. They cost too much and they weigh your rucksack down like a bag of bricks. They’re the kind of things that won’t even sell at your next garage sale. Now, I’m not saying don’t buy those things as gifts. Sure, give Aunty Sue a bookmark and Uncle George a calendar, but spare yourself if you can. So what kinds of things should you collect to help you remember your travels? Here are a few ideas:
Starting with the most obvious idea, collect photographs. But maybe be a bit more creative than just a photo of a building you’ll forget the name of by the time you get home. Instead take photos of the sewer covers from different cities (you’ll be amazed by how ornate and cool some of them can be) or photos of you touching famous monuments-it proves you were there without the cheesy forced smile you have in all your other photos. Noel and I have been collecting photos of things like men in dungarees, animals pooping and punch buggies, for example.
Tickets, receipts and brochures
Another obvious idea, keep scraps of your travels. Flight tickets are great because they’ll help you remember important dates that you may need later when you’re trying to file your taxes… yes, I did search through my scrap book so I could tell the government exactly when I was out of the country.
They’re everywhere and they’re relatively cheap but the best way to put them to use – other than mailing them to friends to visually brag about all the adventures they couldn’t join in – is to send them to yourself. I know at first it sounds lame, but I think it’s awesome. I started this tradition in Fiji and have done it in every country since then. When you’ve finally arrived at home and you’re facing adventure withdraw, you’ll arrive to find postcards reminding you of your trip. You’ll have the countries’ stamps and post mark and a letter written from your past self. Also if you meet people along with way you can have them write on it, too. A good example, “Dear future self, I’m sorry that you are home now and bored to tears, but remember that one time when Noel tripped up the stairs in Istanbul!?! Yeah, that happened today. You should call her and laugh at her.” or “Dear Stephanie, Hello. How are you? Today you almost had diarrhea on a hot air balloon, but you toughed it out. Then you were thrown into the deflating balloon while all the other tourists took photos and wished they were you. That was fun.” or “Dear future Stephanie, I’m terrible sorry that I spent all your money traveling and you are now poor and homeless….” The options are endless!
They don’t cost anything, and they only weigh as much as the paper you write them on, but that dish of pierogi that captures the essence of your time in Poland, or the snezanka that summarizes Bulgaria can be on your own kitchen table. Brilliant, yeah? …. However, this is with the understanding that you’re a brilliant cook, of course.
Instead of impressing everyone with all the keychains you bought, try impressing them with all the languages you can say, “cheers!” in: Prost! Proost! Na zdravi! Na zdorov’ya! Na zdrowie! Santé! Serefe! Yamas! Noroc! OR all the languages you can say “thank you” in: Tesekkür, Merci, Danke schön, Efcharisto, Dêkuji, Terima kasih, Mulţumesc… (those last three I’m still working on remembering).
I’ve done all of these things and I’m pretty sure they’ll help me remember my legepic trip around the world more than a figurine or a bottle opener. But if you REALLY want to know where I’ve been, look no further than my toiletries bag. There’s something to represent nearly every country I went to on this trip. Face wash left over from my trip to Japan. A toothbrush from Korea. Body lotion, body wash and a shower cap from the posh hotel in South Africa. Mascara from Germany. Chapstick and shampoo from Belgium. Toothpaste from the Czech Republic. Hair ties from the Netherlands. And conditioner from Turkey. You say toiletries, I say souvenirs!