It is definitely a process but I am slowly embracing a more minimalist life style. I want to travel lighter, be freer and not put extra worry or stress into possessions. Marie Kondo’s advice in the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up really hit home with me – only keep items that bring you joy. So simple. Very profound.
As I have slowly progressed through this journey for the last several years to rid myself of unneeded items, find more joy in simplicity and really only keep and spend time on what gives me joy; I’ve had to reconcile those ideas with my travels, and more specifically, souvenirs.
As I’ve done that, I have really attempted to be deliberate and purposeful about what I buy and bring home with me.
Postcards: Post cards are by far my most favorite souvenir. They are cheap, they are easy to transport and store. They remind me of my favorite parts of a trip. And they are useful. My two most common uses for the post cards I bring back is to use them as bookmarks or to frame them. When using them as bookmarks, I have a daily reminder of someplace I’ve been every time I pick up a book. If I find one I particularly love, I sometimes also frame them and it doubles as art and something I can look at daily and brings me a sense of joy. Caution – try to only save one post card per trip or location, definitely no more than three. Otherwise it quickly becomes overwhelming and the joy starts to drain quickly. As an idea, I have a friend who mails herself a postcard. She writes some notes on the back. When the post card arrives in the mail (which can take a while for international mail), she is reminded of her recent trip and the post cards serve as a travel journal for future reflection.
Art: Art would be my second favorite and commonly purchased souvenirs. I am not talking about art from a studio or anything particularly expensive. But every city and location has its own style. And as you are walking around downtown on a weekend or through a flea market, you may run into something you love. No matter how much “stuff” I get rid of, as long as I have a permanent address, my walls lined with paintings and prints from around the world gives me much joy.
T-shirts: I definitely don’t buy a t-shirt from every location but when I run into one that I like, this is a great way to remember a trip. It provides me a means to remember a trip throughout the day and throughout the year. I work out in a t-shirt from Albania, I sleep in a t-shirt from Chicago, and t-shirts from Macedonia, Berlin, Istanbul, and Hershey Park are some of my favorite things to wear with jeans.
Clothes: I am not a shopper and I am not advocating a shopping trip. But I find great pleasure just running into something, and these special finds often become some of my favorite clothes. A sweater from Norway. A skirt from a flea market in Greenwich London. A wrap skirt from the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. A blazer from a thrift store in Krakow and a flea market in Venice. A cute hat from Philadelphia. A scarf from Sarajevo. You can’t plan these purchases. And you can’t over think them. But when you find them…take advantage of them and treasure them. Wear them, feel beautiful and remember where and when you found them. Each of those items comes with a story. I could tell you about the weather, who I was with, and what else I did that day. To me those pieces of clothing represent a place and a sense of adventure.
Mugs: Mugs are similar to t-shirts. I probably have a few more than I need or would be considered minimalist. But all those I have, are from a trip, from a destination. And it may appear cliché, but I like the Starbucks mugs. In addition to being a good size and the right consistency to keep my tea warm, they give me joy. While I don’t have one from everywhere I have been, I have a collection of about 20 mugs from around the world. And every morning: I wake up, I pick up a mug, look at where it is from, and I am transported there for just a few seconds. Every Saturday morning, when I get up early to work on Life Kinetic, I take extra time picking my mug for the day. During the winter, drinking tea from my Cyprus or Athens mug gives me an extra degree of warmth as I think about the beach and sun. And when I curl up on the couch to read a good book, I love holding a mug from Germany, Istanbul or Rio in my hands.
Knickknacks: These are my least purchased souvenirs and I rarely buy them. However, there are no hard and fast rules in life and you have to be who you are. And occasionally, something will catch my eye and bring a smile. In Argentina, a small tin Alpaca caught my eye. It probably only weighs an ounce, cost a couple of dollars and is less than 2 inches tall. It made me smile when I saw it and today it sits on a shelf in my living room. I still smile every time I see it (he is so cute)! But on trips to my last seven countries, it is the only item I bought that does not fall into one of the other categories.
And frankly, on trips from the last several years: I got a mug in Rio, Argentina and Panama. I came home with some small art work from Rio and Cuba. My beloved Alpaca from Salta Argentina. No clothes or t-shirts from anywhere. A post card from Costa Rica, Argentina and Havana. Nothing but memories from Iceland, Nicaragua, and Uruguay – and that is ok!
The key is joy and to not go overboard. I would never need all of these from one location and it is ok to not get anything! The point is to get off your couch and go out and see the world, there is no need to bring the world to your living room and let it gather dust!