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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Postcards, shot glasses and magnets: The knick-knack memories of travel

Are you a traveler who needs a souvenir from every little aspect of your trip, or are you OK with just the memories and a few photographs?

I know both kinds and see nothing wrong with either type. I’m both, depending on the nature of the trip. I’ve noticed a lot of Twitter chatter lately on the topic of knick-knack souvenirs from trips, specifically shot glasses. It got me to thinking about the souvenirs we’ve brought home through the years.

I have pretty much run the gamut, starting with my first travels as a child when I felt it necessary to pick up every brochure I came in contact with. They were stored in a large box in my closet for many years. It would be interesting to look at those today, particularly the 1970s and ’80s attire that would have been worn by those happy visitors at Disney World or Chattanooga’s Rock City.

As a child, I also felt a need to buy postcards on every trip. This is actually something I continue to this day. I have a desk drawer and two shoeboxes full of postcards from trips. Unfortunately, I went through a phase of buying 50 from one trip when one would have sufficed. I mean, what’s the need to have 20 varieties of virtually the same view of the city pier in Panama City Beach? Old, previously used postcards, by the way, can make a really cool souvenir. I’ve come across a number of postcards at flea markets, car boots in England and antique shops. My designer wife tells me they can make for really great decorating ideas.

But back to the shot glass discussion. I’ve gone through that phase, too. For a while in college and briefly afterwards, I purchased shot glasses from unique and not-so-unique places. I’ve since weeded out the collection, but did keep a handful. The tall, skinny one with AC on it from Atlantic City? That one went away. But the wine glass-shaped one from Paris with the Eiffel Tower drawn on, the cowboy boot from Fort Worth, Texas, and the tiny one picturing the red-clothed Buckingham Palace guards bought at a car boot held in a random field in a tiny English hamlet during a May shower? Yes, those are all keepers and on a shelf to this day.

Key chains? Bought a few as a child. As I look in front of me on my desk, I have a magnetic monkey bought at Microsoft corporate headquarters and a $1 Statue of Liberty statue bought in a tourist shop in Times Square. I also have a framed picture of Haystack Rock in Oregon and one of my wife and I in Rome.

Magnets? Yes, we have a few of those on the fridge, but not like so many friends who seem to have a magnet from every trip they’ve been on (I can think of three right now whose fridges are literally covered in trip magnets).

I have a few pint glasses and mugs, T-shirts (but only the cool ones from places like the Elliot Bay book store in Seattle) and even ink pens (but mostly the ones taken from hotel rooms). I also keep museum and attraction tickets stuffed neatly in a box next to some of those postcards. And somehow, the striped candy dish bought at the Fort Worth Zoo 10 years ago still remains above the TV.

I still buy some of these random items. It seems now, though, our focus has shifted more toward the artsy: a watercolor bought from the artist in Venice, a pottery item bought from the potter in Indiana, Murano glass plates bought in Venice, a painting of a coastal scene bought on the Jersey Shore.

Whether it's passport stamp collections or bumper stickers and buttons, souvenirs can be part of the fun of traveling. 


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  2. Interesting question. Gathering knick-knacks can be fun, and I had planned to get a shirt or coffee cup or something (and something for Jacob) from all the schools I've visited. That has broken down in the last year, unfortunately, college & university knick-knacks usually aren't cheap and you can only have so many t-shirts and coffee cups before space becomes an issue. We've tried in the past to get a Christmas ornament from the places we've visited, but that too has kind of broken down (it's easy to forget).

  3. I can't believe I forgot to mention Christmas ornaments. That is actually something we go to great lengths to do. Our tree is now mostly ornaments from travels. Some are cheesy, some classy. I do have a cool memory of arguing with a store owner in Venice because we wanted to use our credit card to buy a glass gondola but she didn't want to allow it. She was mad that we wanted to use plastic for something that cost around 10 or 15 euros. But it was the end of our trip and I purposely had been using all our euros so I wouldn't have to deal with exchanging them.

  4. I'm honored that Josh and I are mentioned in one of your blog entries! Yep, we're magnet collectors. The only place we don't have one from is Rome! I still kick myself to this day for forgetting to get one while we were there.

    I, too, can't believe you forgot to mention Christmas ornaments. I love how your tree is a reflection of your travels. And I like the mix of cheesy and classy. It works!

    I've never thought to organize the other travel keepsakes we hang on to (I was a brochure grabber myself as a kid) by type of keepsake, i.e., brochure, entry ticket, postcard, etc. I organize ours by trip. All of our Metro maps, train tickets, museum tickets and such from Italy and France are together, Boston and New York are together, etc.