I messed up my posting this week. Sorry! So I’m trying again on Saturday / Sunday as a surprise.
As you know, I just got back from a 2 week family vacation in Colorado, and I’ve been thinking about souvenirs, possibly the most unnecessary yet expensive part of many people’s vacations, both in terms of money and the time spent seeking the objects. What motivates us to spend hours combing often tacky, crowded gift stores looking at mass produced and likely Made in China shot glasses, key chains, and t-shirts for something to take home, either for ourselves or as a gift for someone who did not make the trip with us?
According to Wikipedia, “A souvenir (from French, for a remembrance or memory), memento, keepsake, or token of remembrance is an object a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it. The term souvenir brings to mind the mass-produced kitsch that is the main commodity of souvenir and gift shops in many tourist attractions around the world. But a souvenir can be any object that can be collected or purchased and transported home by the traveler. The object itself has no real significance other than the psychological connection the possessor has with the object as a symbol of past experience. Without the owner’s input, the object’s meaning is invisible and cannot be articulated.”
I love the elegance of this definition about objects that I consider to typically be the opposite of elegant. I think the last sentence especially explains why I at least so undervalue, even resent, when someone gives me a souvenir from a trip (which hasn’t happened for years, by the way). The object has no meaning to me, and therefore I see it exactly at face value – it’s a cheap t-shirt or a unwanted bit of kitsch.
Photographs are the most common souvenir, and I do enjoy taking photos, but I try not to go overboard. One at the top of Pike’s Peak is plenty. I don’t need 45 shots, like the lady standing next to me. I also like postcards, but I buy them and send them. I don’t hang onto them as a memento.
So in honesty, what did we return from our trip toting that we did not leave with?
3 t-shirts (me, Clara, and Audra). My t-shirt was an intentional replacement for a college t-shirt that I’ve had for years and need to make into a rag. I picked it carefully, and I like it. In fact, I’m wearing it right now. Both girls have also worn their shirts again. Clara’s references Colorado, but Audra’s is a graphic of horses.
copper ring – Audra
small matted photograph – Clara
3 bars of chocolate purchased at the Celestial Seasonings gift shop (a really fun tour if you happen to pass through Boulder, Colorado) – These were given to Clara’s boyfriend, and I’m sure they are not collecting dust on his shelf!
4 boxes of tea, also purchased at Celestial Seasonings. These are being consumed.
postcards – I believe that all we purchased were mailed while we were gone. (A travel tip – buy postcard stamps before you leave and take them with you. While it’s easy to buy postcards; it’s a lot harder to find a post office while you’re traveling.)
Are you a sucker for souvenirs? A person whose heart beats faster when you learn that the tour ends with a mandatory trip through the gift shop? Do you spontaneously buy things while traveling because they’re “cute” or “fun” or “a must have”? Do you have mouse ears from Disney, a t-shirt from the Grand Canyon, drilled playing cards from Vegas, and a snow globe with the Eiffel Tower inside. Do you need these things? Do you want them? Do you feel obligated to keep them now that they’re in your house? (“But it came all the way from (far away location) Cindy!”)
Prevention is the best cure, so I challenge you to not only move along a souvenir in your home, but also to resist next time you’re vacationing, and especially to teach your children that purchasing is not an obligatory part of every vacation, trip to the zoo, or visit to Grandma’s house.
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow