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August 7, 2013

Discuss: Do You Buy Souvenirs When You Travel?

The Shilin Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan. A great stop for dinner.

It seems that nearly every tourist attraction is overloaded with dozens of tacky souvenir shops. And, even those that are out of the way and attract few travelers seem to have an intrepid shop owner who has set up his wares close by. However, many travelers spend their entire trip without buying a single souvenir. So, for this week’s discussion, I want to know: Do you buy souvenirs when you travel?

I have to confess, I’m a bit addicted to buying souvenirs when I travel. Whether it’s a local, handmade carving or a Starbucks City Mug, I love collecting souvenirs and gifts when I travel. To me, part of the experience of walking through a night market is finding that perfect item that will help you remember the destination. Whether it’s the carved elephant I bought in Thailand, the painting in Korea, the bottle of vodka in Mongolia, or the t-shirt in Russia, seeing those items on my shelf helps me remember the city and the local artisan who made it.

Speaking of t-shirts, that’s one of the few souvenirs that can be practical as well. When you’re traveling long-term, it’s nice to have a different shirt you can wear a few times before mailing it home.

And yes, time for another confession: I bought so much stuff that I actually had to mail it home…five different times. Glad it’s cheap to mail boxes from Asia, or I would have blown my whole budget just shipping boxes.

While some may disagree with me though, I really enjoy having things to help me remember my travels. In fact, my biggest regret from my trip to Europe is that I only bought 1-2 things while I was there.

What about you? Do you prescribe more to the theory of “Leave only footprints, take only pictures,” or do you love shopping for souvenirs as much as I do? Let me know in the comments section below.


  1. I’m a shopper. But I wouldn’t use the word “souvenirs”. That brings to mind the tacky knick-knacks and tourist t-shirts, which aren’t really my style. Though a lot of people love those things and they do make great presents.

    For personal memories, I prefer a nice piece of artwork, an original handicraft, something more unique. Or sometimes even real “local” things – the kinds of things intended for purchase by locals not tourists – make for great memories. This could be tea or sweets from a local supermarket, a random curio from a local second-hand/flea market, a single handmade ceramic tile (from a building supplies vendor), a textile, a wearable or displayable piece of local clothing (versus the faux-local clothing that’s sold to tourists in some destinations), etc.

    I don’t pick something up for myself on every trip – but when I do, they have a lot of sentimental value for me.

  2. We’ve been buying hat pins for quite a few years. We have so many that we’ve just made a spreadsheet to carry with us when we travel as we occasionally visit places a second time and don’t want to buy a pin a second time for the same place! We don’t like to put them on hats though in case we lose them! We will soon stick them on a piece of black fabric and get them framed to hang on our wall. They are light and cheap so make a great souvenir (no mailing home required!) I must say I really wish we had started collecting Christmas decorations though – there are so many lovely ones available and I imagine how our tree would look when we are old and grey – With the memories of all those places we have visited!

    • Pins are another great choice for things to collect. I’m sure you’ll enjoy looking at them on the wall for many years to come. Thanks for the comment, Tracey.

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