Souvenirs

 



 

David Whitley looks at the smart purchases for reminding you of your round the world adventure.

 

 

 

It’s only natural. You go away for the trip of a lifetime, and you want to bring something back to remind you of it. Even the most shopophobic traveller tends to want at least a semblance of a memento. But what should you buy and what should you leave on the shelves? The general rule of thumb is to go with what the hell you like rather than take advice from others who don’t share the same taste. However, there are some things that are really best avoided. 

 

 

 

BAD SOUVENIRS

 

 

 

Anything made from endangered animals

 

This one should be rather self-explanatory really. If laws are in place to prevent the animals being poached, then it’s downright irresponsible to bring back anything made of turtle shell, ivory, rhino horn and the likes. In fact, you’re probably best steering clear of anything made of animals, full stop.

 

 

 


Bongos

 

First things first – bongos are a nightmare to carry around with you. They’re an awkward shape, not really fitting in any bags or suitcases – and thus you’ll probably have to pay two or three times what you paid for them in the first place to get them shipped back home. More importantly, when you finally get back home yourself, what on earth are you going to do with them? Show me a person who goes into a home, sees a pair of bongos and doesn’t automatically think: “Whoever lives here must be a nuclear grade tit,” and I’ll show you a liar.

 

 

 


Didgeridoos

 

Yes, I know you may have hand-painted it yourself or bought it in an Aboriginal-owned store, but you really are going to regret trying to carry the bloody thing around for the rest of your trip. And when you finally manage to wrestle the thing home, there will never be a logical place to put it. You’ll never play it either. So you’re probably better off not buying one in the first place – even if you do manage to convince yourself that doing so represents some sort of immersion into Aboriginal culture. Which it most definitely doesn’t.

 

 

 

A sarong

 

It’s so useful in South East Asia. But less so in South East London. That sarong will sit, gathering dust, in the drawer that you shove random things that don’t fit elsewhere into.

 

 

 

Any destination-specific item of clothing. You see the bit about sarongs? Well it applies to ponchos, sombreros, Basotho blankets, cowboy hats and Polynesian skirts too.

 

 

 

GOOD SOUVENIRS

 

 

 

Photos

 

If it’s memories you’re after, then it’s likely that photographs will be your most treasured souvenirs. They’ll be unique to you, and they’re not exactly heavy to carry around. No-one’s ever been sent over the baggage limit by an 8GB memory card. The trick is what you do with the photos when you get back home. So many people just leave them on a computer or hard drive somewhere, to be clicked through once you get home, then forgotten about. The trick is to print a few of the best ones out and frame them or, even better, put together a book of your favourite shots which tell the story of the trip. You’re far more likely to return to that a few years down the line than an unsorted mass of digital images.

 

 

 

Music

 

Most of us have songs that remind us of a place, whether it’s about where the band hails from, what was constantly on the radio while you were there or just that certain sound. There are those that we hear over and over again when the song is a radio hit and becomes a classic, but there are just as many that fade into the ether and are forgotten about. And they’re the ones you should buy – either on CD or by downloading – then put into a playlist that can forever remain as that trip’s soundtrack. Those songs will only mean more over time – when my wife and I got married, our first dance was to a song that was on pretty much constantly as we were driving through the outback.

 

 

 

A soft toy

 

Best bought nearer the start of the trip than the end, a soft toy often ends up becoming the mascot for the journey. The stuffed bear/ monkey/ lion will end up in far too many photos, it will acquire a name and character. And it will get wheeled out for cheap laughs and companionship depending on the situation. When you get home, it may end up sat on a shelf, but the bedraggled little thing should set off a cascade of memories. Just don’t buy one that’s ridiculously big – it’ll become a right nuisance...

 

 

 

Something truly tacky

 

Just as there is an art to seeking out a truly good souvenir, there is also great skill in hunting down the absolute worst, tackiest thing you can find. And if you can find something so truly, astoundingly bad, people can only ever be very impressed. I have a Pope Benedict cigarette lighter, which was sold to me by a nun in the Vatican. It’s amazing, and far better than any tasteful souvenir I could muster. Get a collection of this awful tat, and it’s the equivalent of an old fashion cabinet of curiosities.

 

 

 

Something that adds to a collection

 

For some travellers, it’s not about getting something that’s specific to a particular trip – it’s about getting something that offers a local twist on what they always get. I’ve got a friend who tries to get shot glasses from everywhere, and another who goes for snowglobes. 

My personal mission is always to find a national football or rugby shirt (preferably a clearly fake one on a market that’s really cheap). Going out in a Samoan rugby shirt or Guatemalan footy top confuses the hell out of people...
The collection eventually becomes a personal map of your world, even if it’s mystifying to anyone else.

 

 

Do you have any other souvenirs you can or definately not recommend for collection your RTW? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.