If you’re working toward a minimalist lifestyle, souvenir tchotchkes and trinkets probably don’t resonate with you anymore. I know that’s the case for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want souvenirs to relive my trip in some way or share it with friends and family. Quite the opposite.
Photos are my go-to travel memento and the primary way of remembering and sharing my adventures. Sometimes an especially nice snap ends up framed on my wall or given as a gift. But when I really want to bring home something tangible, I don’t want it to sit on a shelf creating clutter and collecting dust.
So what’s a minimalist traveler to do?
First, I like to think about experiences over things. How can I bring back something sensory…the smell, taste or feel of the place I visited? Next, I think about if it falls into one of these categories:
- Is it consumable?
- Is it useable or can replace something that’s currently being used?
- Is it so special and beautiful I can’t leave it behind?
Here are a few of my favorite unique and meaningful souvenir ideas for your next trip. What’s your favorite souvenir? I’d love to know!
A recipe and spices
Take a cooking class, keep your favorite recipes, and buy the spices as souvenirs. You get a great experience while traveling, and you’ll relive your trip all over again when you make it at home. If you can’t take a class, you can always ask a local for their favorite recipe, or if nothing else, look one up online, buy the spices locally, and then cook the dish for your family and friends when you return.
The local spirit, wine, or beer
Alcohol-making tends to have strong connections with the culture and history of a region. Learn about the regional beverage of choice and pick some up for your imbibing friends and family back home. Include a note about how it’s made, why it’s special to the area, any traditions that come with drinking it, and how to say “cheers” in the local language.
A skincare or beauty item
A beautiful handmade soap from the market, a facial mask, or a new scent make lovely souvenirs for yourself and others. I’m a huge proponent of natural, clean skincare and beauty products and love to look for unique items I can’t get back in the States. While there are a number of amazing clean skincare companies cropping up in the US, most countries have stricter safety protocols when it comes to cosmetics, so even shopping at regular pharmacies abroad can be a safer bet.
Edible items (no, not that kind of edible)
On the same note as alcohol, it’s always fun to scout out the local delicacies and bring home your favorites for yourself or to give away. I rarely eat candy or sweets at home, but for some reason, I get such a kick out of seeing what the treats are like in other areas of the world. Whether it’s chocolate, candy, or a wedge of cheese (grab it from duty free to make sure you can bring it home), food is a great way to bring home a slice of the culture with you.
A memorable scent
Have you ever smelled something that immediately reminded you of a moment in your past? That’s because our sense of smell has a powerful connection to memory and emotions in our brains. And aren’t memory and emotions what you want to remember most about a trip anyway? Try using a new scent on your next trip, whether it be a perfume or lotion or a travel candle. Or better yet, pick one up while you’re there. Back home, give it a sniff when you want to remember your travels.
Functional home furnishings
A Moroccan rug, Turkish linens, Japanese ceramics, you get the idea. If it’s adding value, not clutter, to your home, furnishings can be wonderful mementos of your travels, not to mention great conversation starters when you have guests over.
Clothing that sparks memories
Ok, ok. So it might not be the most “minimalist” move you could make. But we’re not talking about a tourist-shop t-shirt here. If you find something you absolutely love, will wear regularly, and will remind you of your trip every time you wear it, that’s a great souvenir. Some of my favorite purchases over the years have been lingerie in France and boots in Spain.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to seek out souvenirs that help you remember your trip and relive your experience back home (without the clutter). Do you have any more ideas to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
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