The Live Simply Rules Of Buying Travel Souvenirs
Shopping when you’re traveling is inherently more risky than shopping at home by Live Simply standards.
Since you’re less connected to your home and your belongings, you’re less connected to what you already own, to the realities of your daily habits and preferences, and to the spacial constraints of your house.
Plus, where travel and shopping naturally intersect is at the mid-point of stuff and scarcity-mindset–a truly treacherous combination.
The feeling that permeates travel is one of un-replicability; when it comes to shopping, this means that you’ll tend to believe you won’t be able to get things that are for sale again easily in the future (and this may very well be the case!).
The fear of possibly regretting not having bought various things when you could have leads most people to err on the side of caution, hand over their plastic, and prepare to press a little harder on their bag when it comes time to zip it up for home.
These facts shouldn’t stop you from shopping when traveling, they just mean you need to practice extra intention with the purchases you make. Here are 3 tips to help ensure your souvenirs don’t end up as clutter.
Does it translate?
My best bud Babayruth taught me this phrase, and I’ve been stealing it ever since. As she explained, “Sure, that skin tight, sequin dress looks like the only sensible thing to wear in Miami, but will it translate once you’re back in a dorm room in Michigan?”
Before you purchase that souvenir, take a moment to really think about how it will or will not translate into your life at home or the life of whomever you’re buying the gift for.
It doesn’t matter if beaded coffee mugs are all the rage in Kenya if you wouldn’t dream of drinking from said vessel back home in Pensacola, Florida. Same thing with Tenugui from Japan; if you’re really particular about all your linens matching in your abode in London, don’t go there.
I’m not bringing it home to use, I’m bringing it home to look at!
The retort to the tip above is most probably about the ultimate intention of the item–display over utility.
I’m not going to wear this ethnic mask to work, Annie, don’t be dumb! I’m going to nail it to my bedroom wall!
Travel souvenirs can make excellent decor pieces, and are really special as such, since they both serve to remind you of your travels (and hopefully pleasant memories), and inject a bit of worldliness into your space.
All I’m saying is: Are you going to display it, really? Can you picture the spot(s) in your mind where it will live? Are you prepared to get it framed, have it encased, yadah yadah?
If you are, hurrah! Purchase that bad boy and pack it for home. If you’re more like, “This would be cool somewhere in my house maybe…one day…when I’m home…to remind me of this trip!…” Then maybe skip it.
As has already been discussed around these parts, the best way to avoid impulse purchasing is to clarify what you intend to buy before you get to the place where things are for sale.
While at home, before your trip, in the presence of all the wondrous things you own, take a moment to think about what souvenirs would be most special for you to bring home.
Do a bit of research about what the local markets at your destination have to offer, about what items the country or place specializes in the manufacturing of, and so on.
When you already have specific items you’re seeking, shopping for souvenirs will be less an assault on your credit card and suitcase, and more a fulfillment of an identified desire.
Are we on the same page?
There’s a misconception that “souvenirs” are necessarily “spontaneously purchased tchotchkes.”
This just isn’t the case, or it certainly doesn’t have to be. In actuality, a souvenir is a thing taken or obtained from a place or time that later on reminds of you that place or time.
Thinking about the item ahead of time and pausing to consider how it will integrate into your life back at home does not in any way affect that item’s qualification as a souvenir, because you will still have the experience of buying that thing on that trip, with those people, at that time, and that thing will always have come from where it did. So there.
Buying souvenirs for friends and family
We’re no longer living in the age where buying souvenirs for everyone you know is required or expected. That rule was instituted pre-internet, pre travel-as-a-thing-the-masses-do.
That rule was made when the assumption was that no one else would ever have access to the items you did while traveling, and this just isn’t true anymore.
Sure, they may not have access to the exact things, but they have access to pretty much every kind of thing, and they have a bevy of stuff already.
So if you see something while traveling that inexplicably makes you think of your friends and family, buy it and bring it back for them. Either they’ll love it and keep it forever or for a long time, or they won’t and they’ll pass it on because that’s what we do with gifts we don’t love and need. (You see what I did there?)
But don’t feel like you have to bring something back because you’re expected to, because news flash: no one’s expecting this anymore, unless otherwise stated.
p.s. What’s proven to be your most treasured souvenir, hmm?
Image credits: “Postcard from Portofino” with model Christy Turlington. American Vogue. December 1992, An Art School Dropouts Life, Boxy Colonial, Home of Bob Williams via Traditional Home Kevin & Amanda, Hannah Lemholt Photography, Home of Trish Bygott via The Design Files
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