February 6, 2013

5 Ways to Find Souvenirs That Matter

First of all: stop buying crap.

If we can dismiss tourism culture's over-saturated notion that souvenirs are only BOUGHT, we can earn our freedom.

As I've said in previous blogs, I want to taste my vacation and capture the most complete scenes. While eating does normally require spending money, food exists in the moment and disappears with my metabolism. I've eaten ice cream in every city I've ever gone to, and I have amassed more than a few silly homemade videos that I love to watch and re-watch. It's like going on vacation all over again - without taking up any physical space. Thank you, computers.

However, I am a self-confessing trinket buyer. I go into tacky souvenir shops and think every magnet and pen was Made In China for me. I fall into several of these purchases, and after the trinkets are mine for a week or so, I send them on their merry way to someone who will enjoy a single item more than I can take care of ten. Gift-giving is how I "take care of" my bad habit. Sorry to everyone else.

The souvenir shops are what the tourism industry wants us to think about the location on the surface. But we cannot truly experience our destination by sniffing around the edges. We have to dig our hands deeper into the region and reach for the more intangible moments, even if it means getting lost with the local dirt underneath our fingernails. What can't we stop looking at? Who could we talk to for another hour? Where do we feel a total and complete peace - or - exhilaration - joy - passion - any intense emotion that brings laughter to our face or tears to our eyes? These are our true souvenirs; now we must catch them!

1) Seek the present.
Pause and look around you. Look up, down, right, left, do a spin. Take a deep, slow breath and listen. These real moments of chattering townspeople, the scent of the flower stand, and a child chasing bubbles are usually found on your way to a landmark, not at the landmark itself.

2) Know your senses.
Which sense activates your most dynamic memory? This may take some trial and error in practice, but eventually you can nail your 1-2 most memorable senses. Mine are definitely taste and sight.

3) Pick your medium.
If you love reading, journal your moments to relive them later. If a picture really brings a thousand words to your mind, go for it. I enjoy putting pictures to music in ridiculous movies. This idea can go along with the theory of Multiple Intelligences, where you can better understand which domain has the strongest retention rate for you.

4) Define your purpose.
Why have you gone on this trip? I went to Rome to eat; I brought home an apron. We went on a cruise to relax; we brought home a blanket. Go wherever, but bring back something that fits in your life already while also representing the pleasant memory of the vacation.

5) Give your brain some credit.
You have a memory, and it works better than you think it can! You are going to remember the significant events, and you'll actually remember a lot of the insignificant ones, too. Don't just cop out and buy a key chain from every site. You don't have that many keys.

If you must buy postcards, they can be an excellent way of involving your loved ones while also giving your trip staying power whenever you visit the receivers and see it on their mantle. (Try out Postagram if you haven't already!) I've already decided that my Spain trip will be blogged through pictures of my postcards to other people. This will invest my time properly into my family and friends without taking away time from my present to write elaborate blogs.

So the next time you find yourself drawn to the tacky and wacky corner shop, ask yourself: is this really how I want to remember my vacation?

Let's challenge ourselves to be more creative, more interesting, and more engaged as we discover our perfect souvenirs.

My favorites are on the Adventure Reel!