If I had to choose between spending money on memories or spending money on objects, I’d pick memories every time. BUT, what if there were objects that would hold memories for you; something you could unpack from your suitcase and every time you glanced at it you stepped back into your travel adventure? That is the power of a well-selected souvenir.  I say selected, but sometimes, as you know, souvenirs select you.


Every room in our house holds a memory in the form of something we brought home from our travels. Three copper pendant lights from Mexico tell me a story every time I flip the switch and the glow warms the shiny dome. I remember the precision of their swinging hammers and hear the echo of the heavy thump as it beats against the hot metal. The hand-tied rug from India also tells a story when I step through my front door. I can remember the merchant rolling out hundreds of the rug’s colorful competitors at our feet just after our tour of the Taj Mahal in the muggy winter of 2009. The little babushka nesting dolls in my glass china cabinet were a presentation gift to my husband from the Ukrainian wrestling team – delicately painted dolls seemed a strange gift choice considering the mafia-like escapades they subjected him to that night. These are the kinds of objects that hold the story of our lives.

So, how do you know what to save space for in your luggage?


Before you leave home, research the region you’re a visiting. What is this area known for? What do they produce that is indigenous to the region? What craft have they passed down from generation to generation?


A highly skilled embroiderer works on her craft in a silk shop we visited in Vietnam.


Choose something that is personally meaningful or that represents an experience you had on your trip – did you meet someone or experience something that you want to hold on to? Look around you. What could you take home that would remind you of that event or person? Our family had the special opportunity to eat at an organic farm in Vietnam. A locally famous chef (who also happened to be the son of the restaurant owners) was there for the day incidentally helping in the kitchen. He came to our table and performed food art for us and told us his story. It was a very special experience. When I asked him if he had a cookbook for sale, he actually did. I took home a signed copy!


A signed copy of a very good cookbook!


Invest in a local artisan or crafter. We spent over an hour with an artist in his studio on an island in Guatemala. We learned fascinating things about the technique, the history, and the local tradition behind his craft. At the end, we bought a small painting for $20. It wasn’t a financial investment for the future, but it reminds us of all we learned and is symbolic of the relationship we made on that island.




A very small painting for $20 captures more than just the image and colors you see.


Support a local need – NIteo works hard to introduce travelers to vendors who are doing good in their home countries. Consider buying something that would contribute to a cause or bring relief to a group of people you really care about. When you see that object, you can feel good about making a difference and you can also pray for the need.


This bead work supports local women in need


Add to a worldwide collection. Think of one thing – spoons, tea cups, scarves, Christmas ornaments… and add to that collection from every place you visit. It makes for a fun treasure hunt! When our boys were small, we started a collection of patches from every country and national park we visited. We added them to stadium blankets so they could take the memories with them when they leave our house.


Other things to consider when selecting a souvenir:


  • When you start a collection, you might consider choosing something that is easy to transport (think: indestructible and small)


  • Memories like these should last forever. Select something that won’t wear out, you don’t consume, and that will be enjoyable to you for years to come.


  • Remember that your souvenir doesn’t need to cost you anything! Interesting rocks, sand from the beaches you visit, and even ticket stubs can hold tremendous sentimental value.


  • Select something that can be seen regularly – either on special occasions (like Christmas ornaments hung on a tree) or daily (like a mug you drink from).


What souvenirs have been your favorite?