Why I Buy Practical Souvenirs

This past Monday, I returned from a two week vacation. I spent time prowling all over London and Amsterdam and various suburbs of both with my dear friend M. We laughed, talked, and ate our way across these cities. We took an adequate amount of pictures, capturing these great moments.

But now, I’m back in Thailand. My flight from Heathrow was delayed two hours, and during that delay, I despaired, confident that I would miss my next flight to my city where I live. It would be a 10-11 hour flight to the capital, then a 1 hour flight to where I live. I had a scheduled layover of 1:34. Do the math; it doesn’t work.

We landed on the tarmac with 24 minutes until my connecting flight. Through the grace of God, and the speed of an Eva air agent, I made my next flight. Unfortunately, my bag did not choose to run the length of the airport, remaining in Bangkok as I traveled onward. When I arrived at my final destination, I was told that it would be brought in as soon as possible, and they’d call when it came in.

Now here’s the thing. I buy souvenirs when I travel. It may seem relatively cliche, but I get the Starbucks mugs. I typically get the country mugs for each country I’ve been to. It’s silly, but each time I use it, I am flooded with memories created at that place.

I had two of these mugs carefully packed in my suitcase – one from London, a Christmas gift from M, and another from the Netherlands. I wasn’t able to fit them in my backpack, and had carefully wrapped them in my winter clothes and packed them in the checked baggage. Most of the things in the suitcase, I could say goodbye to, no problem – it’s just stuff; I try to hold onto things with a loose hand. It’s just better.

But I was pretty sad about potentially losing the mugs.

Choosing a practical item – something I use EVERY day – is one of the best kinds of souvenir I could purchase. When the magic of the vacation begins to slowly fade away into the normalcy of routine, I have a tangible item I can hold, reminding me of where I’ve been. I drink tea from a cup Ben gave me in Korea. My Australia mug holds my morning coffee, evoking memories of the opera house, Koalas, and amazing accents.


Even the juxtaposition of Dingdong’s legs, the view of rice fields on my back porch, and the Netherlands cup is so strange. Holland feels so close, yet so distant all at the same time, and every time my fingers curl around that cup, I hear the sound of “Oh Holy Night” in Dutch, see the canals, and taste the chocolate sprinkles on toast that were part of a good Dutch breakfast.

It keeps the magical memories close when life’s busy reality comes to reclaim my mind.

There’s a happy ending to this story (I bet you figured so, since there’s a picture of a Netherlands mug above). My suitcase came in the next day, no problem, and I picked it up and everything was fine.

Do forgive the gratuitous selfie here at the end, but I accidentally took it when taking the picture of the cup, and kinda liked it. Thanks to a little bit of jet lag, I’ve been getting up earlier and have had time to straighten my hair all week.


So that leads me to a question: do you buy souvenirs when you travel? Do they mean anything special to you? What do you like to get?