As you wander through the countless shops and kiosks of a foreign city or national landmark have you ever wondered who actually buys those tasteless, useless knick-knacks and bric-a-brac? And more importantly, why? Souvenir shopping is an important part of many a traveler’s vacation. The word “souvenir” comes from the French, meaning memory, and bringing back something special from a vacations means bringing home the wonderful memories associated with it…regardless of how tacky it may be!
As I sit at my desk typing this I glance down at my Grand Teton Moose Pad and can almost smell the fragrant pine forests we hiked through, and see the rocky peaks of the Tetons towering above a tranquil Jenny Lake. Nearby sits the Golden Gate Bridge pencil sharpener that I picked up on a trip to California. It’s a memento of a morning spent biking across its 1.7 mile span in a spooky fog, then warming up with a bowl of clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf. My replica light house collection, though in its infancy stage, is a remembrance of the relaxing coastal vacations I have enjoyed. Leisurely hours spent laying on the beach with a good book and long barefoot walks searching for seashells. What can I say? One person’s tacky is another person’s treasure!
Do I really need a tawdry looking red, white and blue sequin T-shirt to remind me of the pride I felt as an American while visiting the monuments along the National Mall? Nah! Would I still recall my awe of the sunrise as I sat in the clouds, wrapped in a blanket 12,000 feet above the ocean near the summit of Haleakala, if I didn’t purchase the bobble-head hula girl? Of course I would! Could my mind conjure up the amazing architecture of Antoni Gaudi that I admired when I strolled the streets of Barcelona if I didn’t purchase the Sagrada Familia napkin holder? Without a doubt! But I buy them anyway! I have purchased monkey head cup holders from vendors in lush, hot Caribbean islands and snow globes from exotic countries that haven’t seen frozen precipitation since the Ice Age. All of these keepsakes, regardless of how corny, are reminders of special times spent in extraordinary places with my family.
Whether it be the obligatory T-shirt to the ubiquitous fridge magnets, key rings, miniature sized monuments, or shot glasses, we've all succumbed to buying a tacky souvenir or two. Don’t deny it! The vast amount of vendors out there pedaling such wares tells me I’m not the only one purchasing them! But whether you admit to sharing my passion for kitschy souvenirs or not, I wish you a future of happy travels, and warm memories of vacations past.