Travel Take-Aways: Souvenirs that Tell Stories

A while ago, I stopped purchasing useless and meaningless trinkets as souvenirs when I traveled to a new place.


I began to look into things that I could incorporate into my daily life back home – whether it be something I could wear, use on a regular basis, use for decoration, or actually enjoy. No more cheesy tourist t-shirts that will collect dust in my drawers or cheap keychains that will break after few uses!

Ever since then, I’ve picked up some really cool items along my travels. I try to put a good amount of thought into the ‘souvenirs’ I buy and each possess a strong  memory of the places that I’ve been to.

I wanted to share some of my favorite items & the stories/memories that are directly correlated with them.


Purchased during my study abroad trip in South Africa, a trip that was life-changing in many ways. On this particular day, I remember that we saw the most beautiful waterfalls, hiked up God’s Window, bungee jumped for a ridiculously cheap amount of money, and got the chance to ride elephants!! Such a cool day.


Handwoven plate

After leaving South Africa, we headed to Swaziland which was so culturally different. We went to a few markets before going to Bulembu, where we stayed at an orphanage for a week and learned about the strained economy of such a beautiful country.

Southwestern Blanket

Picked up in a very recent trip to Arizona – specifically a store in Scottsdale. I was actually considering ordering one offline but I was so happy I waited. After wandering in a couple of stores with southwestern  & native art, I saw this blanket and knew I had to have it. Only 5$? Please and thank you.


Van Gogh Book, Shot Glasses, and Lighter


I will never forget my experience at the Van Gogh Museum. To this day, its my absolute favorite museum – even better than Anne Frank and the Lourve. I knew about Van Gogh & his work on a small scale like many other people, but this museum showcased his life and work so beautifully. It really made an impact on me. So of course, I had to bring a bit of that inspiration back home with me. This also reminds me of my dear friend, Julie, who I shared this beautiful day in Amsterdam with.

Long champ Bag

I’d seen tons of girls wearing these in America and I didn’t see the appeal. I thought that these bags were boring. Somehow, that changed when I got to Paris. Most of the girls in my Europe trip were headed to the store & I decided to tag along. Something about the store & the service I received really changed my mind. Now, Im into it. Despite it being a plain black bag – It’s of really good quality and its become one of my favorite Carry-On/weekend bags.

Paris Mug

The first time I visited Paris, I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t get the hype. The second time around, though? I really loved it – even the not so glamorous parts. This mug really make me think of the good times I had with my tour group in Paris, especially since it was at the tail end of our trip. I was overwhelmed with joy for the forever-friends I met during the trip and gratitude for the opportunity to see a different part of  our world.



After visiting Park Guell & La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and learning how nature heavily influenced Gaudi’s architecture, I became a fan. Just like Gaudi, nature makes me feel closer to God.  “Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the Creator.” – Gaudi

String of Elephants

This hangs on a wall in my room and it holds a special place in my heart because it was purchased on my second study abroad trip to India. I have a ‘thing’ for elephants so I was determined to find some souvenirs The ironic thing is my whole group went to ride elephants on our final day and I had to stay back in the hotel from food poisoning. Thats another story for another day though…



Probably my ugliest, yet most worn & favorite shoes. I think everyone on our trip bought a pair(or two) – I know…basic, right? But…’When in Germany‘! I’d actually just purchased a pair of Birkenstocks about a month before my trip. When I got to Germany and realized that they were literally a third of the price that they’re sold at in America because they are manufactured there, I was pretty annoyed. But still, I had to grab another pair. I even got my sister a pair for her birthday. Germany(specifically Munich) was one of my favorite places in Europe so I often think back to those times when I wear these.


These were purchased in Athens, the first stop on my 35-day Eurotrip. I love a good pair of sandals and when Rhianne(Our tour guide) introduced her favorite leather shop to us, I was too excited to make an order. We watched as the store owners(the cutest Old Greek Couple)hand make our sandals in a tiny, leather scented shop. We even had to return to pick them up in the morning after making custom orders. This stop in Athens was just the beginning of an unforgettable trip.

Silk Scarf/Saree

This was purchased during one of our many trips to the silk shops in India. We chose from shelves & shelves of vibrant-colored scarves as the saleswomen practically drowned us in them.  They were really great Christmas gifts for my mom & sister too!



Above all, photos are my absolute favorite way to remember a place. Nothing compares to the nostalgia that arises when you look back at old photos. It can feel like you’ve literally been transported back to that exact moment. I like to print my travel photos out so that I have tangible memories to hold on to.

“A Great Souvenir is a singular, tangible memory keeper, an almost metaphysical object”

— Unknown

This doesn’t include all of my favorites – like the 1liter Hofbrauhaus Munchen we kept from the English Garden in Munich, Germany or the stuffed elephant from an unforgettable week long stay at an orphanage town in Bulembu, Africa or the gold necklace I bought after being bitten by a lion cub in Johannesburg(Lion park), South Africa. Each possess a very different memory.  I’ve misplaced and even broken a few souvenirs and looking back, there are also souvenirs that I wish I had purchased. Either way, I’m really excited to continue searching for items that truly capture my travel experiences in the future.

And at the end of the day, its not even about all of the ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. Its much more about the memories attached. Im grateful to be bring these keepsakes from some of my favorite experiences & places back home and incorporate them into my every-day life.

If this is something you enjoyed, please let me know in the comments! I’d love to share more as I accumulate!

What are some of your favorite souvenirs that you’ve acquired? Share in the comments below!

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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