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“G” is for Gifts and Souvenirs

I’m blogging A to Z in April! No, really. Check back daily, because you’re an optimist! And I am NOT so far behind that I won’t catch up.

“What did you bring me?” It follows on the heels of “Welcome Home!” more often than you’d think. But it’s not a sign of your loved ones’ greed; it’s simply their way of travelling the world vicariously through you. They want to know that the postcard message “wish you were here” was sincere – that you thought of your mother, kids, neighbours, etc, while you were away. And really, you did, right? At least once, for half a second?

Gifts from your travels are a way to share your discoveries and adventures with those around you. No matter where I’ve gotten to, it’s second nature to want to bring something home for the kids -and sometimes my mom, etc. I don’t spend a lot, but I do enjoy searching for things that they’ll like/use/appreciate. Even if it’s just a “My mom went to the Andes, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” kind of thing. It doesn’t even have to be something place specific – I’ll often see something cute or different that you could probably get just about anywhere but I haven’t seen before. My last travel gift was actually an IKEA purchase (we don’t have an IKEA at home) I hauled home a tabletop greenhouse from Ottawa for my urban farmer husband so that he could start his herbs inside in February.

I think of gifts as the things I bring other people, and souvenirs as the things I buy for myself to commemorate my trip. Again, sometimes it’s just a keychain, but I do keep my eyes open for something different. The ceramic pig in my living room came from a darling little store called The Back Door in Kimberley B.C.  I loved that store, visiting several times during my visit out west, and the memory it provides always brings a smile to my face. And you should have seen the look on airport security’s face when they realized I had a “pig” in my carry-on.

The best, most different souvenir I have is technically contraband from the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The year was 1985, and I was standing in line for It’s a Small World. The decorative ball atop the queue stanchion came off in my hand – so I put it in my camera bag. Yep, I’ve got a ball of lead from WDW. Can you imagine bringing that through security these days?

I encourage my kids to souvenir shop too, and offer them tips -don’t buy what you can buy at home, try for something a little different. They’ve gotten into the habit of bringing things home as gifts- I have a lovely scarf from Paris, and some funky jewellery from Cuba. Of course, as airline regulations change, and baggage charges climb, the gifts change a little. It’s always a good idea to think first – ok, you want to buy it, but do you want to carry it?

What are your favourite gifts and souvenirs from the places you’ve been?