In Travel

Five Reasons I Don’t Buy Souvenirs

I love you. (<–Too soon?) I really do. But don’t expect me to ever bring you anything back from my travels.

I didn’t always despise souvenirs. When I was little, I would buy a keychain and a postcard from every state I visited. But then you know what happened? Crap piled up. After I visited these states, I didn’t want to remember them by some cheap keychain or a piece of paper–I wanted the real memories and the pictures I took.

So I no longer buy souvenirs (unless you count the 50 packs of crispy M&Ms from the Philippines. I bought those because they don’t sell them in the U.S. anymore. Wisest purchase ever.)

I’ve compiled a list of reasons I won’t be bringing you back a souvenir:

1. Buying souvenirs is stressful.

I hate when people’s birthdays come around because I agonize over finding the perfect gift to get them. So can you imagine the stress of trying to buy a special souvenir for all my closest friends and family–when I’m trying to relax on a vacation?

2. I have limited space in my luggage.

When traveling by air, people are often limited to one free carry-on bag. It’s difficult to stuff souvenirs into my already-crammed luggage.

3. Do you really want a tacky knickknack anyway?

Are you really dying to get a shot glass from Vegas, a tequila lollipop from Mexico, or a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa from Italy? If so, I’d be more than happy to oblige, but my guess is you really don’t care for all that junk.

4. Money wasted on meaningless trinkets could have been spent on meaningful memories.

When I went on my trip to Italy, Greece, and Spain, I spent about $100 just on souvenirs for people back home. That’s insane. Those $100 could have been spent on a memorable experience in Europe, but instead, they were spent on overpriced souvenirs. And if I asked the recipients, I bet they couldn’t even tell me where the souvenirs I gave them are today.

5. It’s a vacation–and the last thing I want to do is frantically dig through baseball caps and snow globes in an effort to find the perfect thing to show my love for you.

You know the drill: it’s the last day of your trip and you’re at the airport and about to board your flight–but wait! You forgot to get something for your cousin Drew! What will he think of you for going to Hawaii and NOT bringing him something back?? So you rush through the airport and purchase an overpriced T-shirt from the nearest newspaper stand to assuage your guilt.

I refuse to do that anymore. If I don’t bring you something back, it does not mean I don’t love you. It just means I care about my vacation time and my money too much to be wasting it on something that cannot possibly convey how much I love you.

So there you have it: my lame excuses for why I didn’t bring you anything back from my travels.

But on a serious note, I’m offering this travel blog as my “souvenir” to you. I literally spend hours on each blog post, and why do I do it? Because I want you to have something from my travels that’s meaningful (I hope you find this blog meaningful), something that is more valuable than a mug or a T-shirt.

So what do you think? Do you actually like getting souvenirs? What’s the tackiest souvenir you’ve ever received?

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  • Natalie
    April 19, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I absolutely agree with this article.
    As a study abroad student I had a few friends who consistently “reminded” me to buy souvenirs from every country that I visited. I wasted so much money and it was stressful because I could not fully enjoy myself. Not to mention I was already broke.
    Also living in a country for a few months, you buy so many personal items that there often isn’t even any room for it in your luggage! I think a lot of souvenirs are cheesy and that if someone really wants one they can go to their country themselves.
    Traveling is my experience, not someone else’s and I wish people could understand that me not getting them a souvenir that usually was not even made in that country doesn’t mean that I do not love them.

    • Amy
      April 20, 2013 at 2:21 am

      Thanks for the comment, Natalie! I love that line you wrote, “Traveling is my experience, not someone else’s.” I think that’s something so important to remember, that traveling is an experience, not an item. It’s so stressful buying overpriced knickknacks and then accumulating all this stuff over the course of a trip! And then those items just gather dust in our friends’ homes…

      • Miguel
        November 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

        I always buy my friends (from America) stuff from my trips. But to be fair, I only go back and forth from US to Philippines, then back again. But I do not waste my time on little trinkets that they are guaranteed to either misplace or destroy. I learned that the hard way. I bought my classmates from the Philippines keychains I bought when I went to Baguio (those shiny wooden ones). The next minute after I gave it to them, one was already cracked into bits because the guy jabbed a pen in the middle of it, the other had the metal hook broken, and the other misplaced it. When I go back, I’m bringing them what I think they would use. One Vietnamese friend always borrowed my chopsticks every time we eat together in the college cafeteria, so I’m buying him those kamagong chopsticks from Greenhills. For my female teachers who liked intricate, colorful patterns on skirts, I’m bringing back batik fabrics for them to wear. Still one of my friends like wearing jewelry, so I’m bringing her bracelets. I started focusing more on what they want and how they would use it, instead of just buying little things that I find interesting but to them were just attic-worthy. But then again, these are for the closest of all my friends, and people I should thank for things they have done for me in the past; and there are only a few. And I don’t think it should be stressful if I know already where to get them.

  • Jenn
    August 20, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I think you have the wrong idea about what a souvenir should be. First, you should never buy something for someone who won’t appreciate or cherish it. “And if I asked the recipients, I bet they couldn’t even tell me where the souvenirs I gave them are today.” Second a souvenir doesn’t have to be some overpriced knick-knack. Food, alcohol, clothes, or jewelry are much better alternative. If something is practical, the recipient will think of you every time they use it and likely cherish it more. The best souvenirs I ever gave (and also the best things I bought for myself) were necklaces, scarves, sundresses, sarongs, sandals, etc. Every time my sister, mom, or roommate gets a compliment when they wear these items they light up when they say how I brought it for them from XYZ exotic location. And they aren’t some cheesy tourist items. They are just simple fashionable pieces that I know they will like, sold where people from that country actually buy clothes. So they are not overpriced. My co-workers love when I bring them candies from the grocery stores. These are cheap gifts that are actually eaten in the countries where we travel.

    I do understand the stress of trying to find meaningful things in a short trip but if you are staying somewhere for months, it isn’t hard to pick up little things that will make your love ones feel appreciated while you are off having your experiences and they are less fortunate.

    • Amy
      September 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Hey Jenn! Thanks for the comment. Really good points. Now that you mention it, I do appreciate when people give me food as souvenirs because I WILL eat it, whereas something else I may not use.

  • Jayne
    April 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I know what you mean. I’m on holiday now and have busted way way too much on souvenirs. I really mean WAY WAY too much. I was asked to buy stuff for family too and that is so stressful. What was to be an intimate anniversary getaway we saved for 5 years to go on is marred by the pressure to bring something back for everyone. And to make sure every item is equally valued etc. I think I won’t put myself, or my husband, through this anyone. Next time, it’s chocolate for everyone or something edible. Same gift for all. Thankfully this place and the scenery makes up for all this. And being with my husband. Thanks for allowing me to commiserate. :-)

    • Amy
      April 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jayne! I’m glad we can relate. Oh, and happy anniversary to you and your husband!

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