Okay, we were well overdue for a travel-related rant, am I right?
Guys… what is up with souvenirs? I don’t mean as in why do they exist, I mean why do we feel the need to buy souvenirs for each other when we travel, period? I can understand if someone is babysitting your kid, your cat or housesitting. They deserve a little something special for doing you a favour. Maybe even your coworkers who have covered for you in your absence. But, everyone else?
It was totally different as a kid when you would go on vacation with your family and bring back koalas from Australia or bottles of sand from Mexico. That, I get. Fine. Kids love that stuff, and I know I lined my desk with little trinkets from around the globe.
I get bringing back food and drink. If you taste some cool Swedish candied rose petals, or Scottish tablet or Big Sheets (flavoured seaweed) from Asia, because it can become a shared experience amongst friends. Anything else… it is lost on me?
Souvenir is a French verb that translates as to remember, or a memory. Aren’t memories personal? I can’t see through a small purchase what you’ve experienced on your travels. Perhaps I can share the tastes you’ve tasted through food or drink, but I can’t see the sunset you saw, not even in sharing your photos.
It seriously stresses me out when a trip begins to wind down and you start to go through your mental check list of who you need to buy souvenirs for. Who has recently bought me souvenirs? Guess I’d better get them one? If I get them one, I’d better get so and so one. Now that my list is nearing 20 people, what do I buy that is cheap enough to afford en masse, doesn’t take up too much space in my luggage and is somewhat meaningful?
Hint: those things don’t exist!
Am I seriously out of touch here? I know that it’s better to give than to receive, but do we really need to provide trinkets from our own travels for everyone in our lives? I’m sounding like the vacation-Grinch, aren’t I?
Let me rephrase. I am not against buying people gifts on holiday. My preference, however, would for it not to be an unwritten societal obligation, and instead for me to see something that is so “that person” that it is a perfect fit, rather than to force something.
For example, on my trip to the U.K. in May, I stopped dead in my tracks having seen the perfect gift through a storefront window. Poor David and his parents had no idea why I ran into the store, but when I emerged with the sofa cushion complete with a hand painted robin, I knew I’d struck gold. You see, for my Mum, robins remind her of her mother who passed away over ten years ago. While it’s not a souvenir of the U.K., it was a gift that she loved and I know she’ll continue to treasure.
This is how I’d prefer to shop for family and friends on holiday. When the inspiration strikes and for it to be out of the blue. I’d frankly like to avoid all kitschy tourist stores and airport stalls like the plague, wouldn’t you?
Does anyone else struggle with this dilemma? Do you buy souvenirs? And if so, for who and what do you tend to buy?