When I was growing up, my grandparents traveled a lot. They were retired by the time I was about 8 and had a goal of visiting every state. They also visited several foreign countries and went on many cruises. My grandmother thought my sister and I needed souvenirs from each place they went. Somehow this translated into bells for me and spoons for my sister. As we got older, my sister and I started to travel with them in the summers and the tradition continued. I remember buying myself a bell and my sister a spoon in Washington DC when I was about 13 and on a school field trip without my grandmother. I continued doing this as I traveled even though my grandparents got to old to travel and I had no real affection for bells. I did it because they reminded me of them and I liked the tradition. Eventually, I stopped as the bells were living at my parents house and took up a lot of space. I moved to New York City and there was no way a bell collection was going into a small New York City apartment. But now when I see bells in souvenir shops I will always think of my grandmother and the traveling we did together.
In a way this has shaped what I bring back as souvenirs now. I have moved tons over the years and have learned if you keep it you have to pack it! Souvenirs must mean something or represent something tangible and not just be something from the place. Now I mostly bring back postcards or shells. The best souvenirs are the intangible ones such as the friends I have made and the memories created. A woman I met while lost in Rome emailed me recently and we will meet for coffee when I got to Italy in July, I will visit friends in Italy that I made while living in the Turks and Caicos, the friend I made hiking to the monastery in Petra still keep in touch and other international friends that I know if I said I was coming to their country they would say, “come on over and stay awhile.” Hearing a song that we would listen to on long road trips to visit relatives or national parks are the souvenirs that take me back to those trips. These are the best souvenirs of all because they will never break or fade.