Thursday, March 1, 2012

Skip gift shops and snow globes

Columnist advises attaining unique souvenirs

By Jen Jepsen, Guest Travel Columnist

Imagine a shop stuffed to bursting with the cliché,useless and generally mundane: snow globes, postcards, collectors spoons, keychains, T-shirts and other knickknacks. Sounds like something you’d travelthousands of miles to go see, right? Right. That’s totally why I travelled to China,to check out the gift shops.

Travel is for the experience: for stepping out ofour comfort zones, feeling alive in the moment and taking part in anotherculture.

So why do we feel the need to buy knickknacks toremember our travel experiences? If a tacky plastic snow globe with a kangaroorepresents your time in Australia, you probably should have gone out a bitmore.

As budget travelers, our time and money are vital.Yet we waste them at gift shops that are identical across the globe.

Next time you’re on the road, consider forgoing thesouvenir shops and letting the trip tell its own story through the mementos youcome across along the way.

Alternative souvenirs are surprisingly easy to findand will mean much more as time goes by. They’re generally also more fun toshare once you come home.

A good first step in souvenir hunting is toresearch what the area you’re going to is famous for.

Not only will this give you insight to the placeyou’re visiting, it’ll also let you use your time more effectively because youcan get a taste of local culture and buy more representative keepsakessimultaneously.

Heading to Venice? Check out the carnival masks.Visiting Maine? Bring home fresh blueberry jam.

Let your souvenirs represent what you’ve done as wellas where you’ve been.

The little things you pick up along the way canhave just as much or more meaning than things you go out of the way for.

City and hiking maps with notes you’ve written,sand from beaches, ticket stubs, quirky freebies, funny advertisements and thatT-shirt you ruined while attempting to climb a mountain are all good souvenirs.

My personal favorite is a pockmarked glass Cokebottle with Arabic script that I picked up at a street bazaar in Morocco. Cost:roughly 50 cents.

Your souvenirs should tell a story. Otherwise, itisn’t worth the suitcase or shelf space. Enjoy your travelling time doing thethings you came for. Don’t waste it in gift shops.

You’ll thank yourself years later when you lookback and have more to remember your trip by than just key chains and snowglobes.

Jen Jepsen is a senior English major at Pacific LutheranUniversity officially diagnosed with a bad case of wanderlust. Aside fromtravel and photography, her pastimes include dancing, hiking, Bananagrams andbeing vegetarian.