My Choice of Travel Souvenirs Changes With Each Decade

Last updated on May 17th, 2021

It makes sense that as our needs and experiences change the objects that beckon to us as we travel change as well. In my forties, as a newbie solo traveller, I spent endless time browsing souvenir shops in tourist areas of towns and cities. It never dawned on me that if I shopped further afield where merchants weren’t paying big rents I could amass much more for each travel dollar I spent. Nor did I give much thought to the size of the object I was purchasing and the fact that I would have to shlep it around for the duration of my holidays. Over time I learned and adjusted. As my tastes matured, my bags got smaller, my interests changed and so did the time I spent buying tchotchkes.

In my Fifties…

I turned my attention to boxes, not just ordinary boxes but ones crafted lovingly by artists in the places I visited. These were small and fit easily into the nooks and crannies of my backpack. The variety was delightful – silver encrusted from South Korea, painted camel bone from Egypt, brightly coloured paper mache from Mexico, mosaic-topped from Greece and dozens more were amassed and displayed in my visitor’s washroom. Then a funny thing happened. My interest in the collection waned while my grandchildren’s interest in it grew and so began a wonderful, new ritual. Each time a child came to visit they were allowed to pick a box, one that they could own forever. Magically, my popularity increased as did their visits and pretty soon my complete collection had been divided amongst the little people in our family. Each gift was accompanied by a mini travel story explaining where the box was found, who had made it, and what that country was like.

In my Sixties …

Next came my appetite for primitive art and black and white photography. I had a cardboard tube cut to the exact size of my carry-on so my treasures would not be harmed as I travelled the seven continents. I looked for work created by locals and came home with budget treasures from Israel, India, China, Russia and Africa to name just a few. All hang in my home to this day. I remember every experience I had chatting with the artists and listening to their fascinating stories. These are souvenirs in the true sense of the word. Each has expanded my knowledge of the world and continues to give me the greatest of pleasures.

Now I am in my Seventies…

I> pack less and carry less. My time in shops has diminished to practically nothing. My grandchildren are teenagers and their tastes bewilder me. I don’t even try to shop for them. However, I do have a personal passion for scarves and pashminas which I fastidiously hunt down in markets around the world. Scarves pack flat in my suitcase, weigh little and are usually quite reasonable in price. I rummage through bins, check packed shelves and go through hanging samples while visions of the perfect design dance in my head. I think very carefully before each purchase; I feign disinterest when approached by merchants. It’s common knowledge that this tactic might help when it’s time for me to bargain. However, I admit to splurging when I can’t imagine walking away from the latest object of my desire. My goal is to acquire the ultimate accessory for each colour in my wardrobe.

Will I be travelling in my Eighties? …

If the fates allow, I’m hoping for fun adventures in this decade as well. Will I be collecting something completely different then? That, too, is up to the Travel Goddesses of the time.

What I do know is that my multi-colored pashmina collection has become my wearable travel journal of today. When I’m at a meeting and someone compliments my red scarf, I reply…

Ahhh, yes. I found this fabulous piece hanging in a dusty market in Shanghai. Thank goodness I looked up because there it was right above my head just waiting to be discovered. I haven’t seen another one like it. Have you?”

And, when I’m lunching with a friend who tells me how much she loves the way my turquoise and purple scarf matches my new outfit, I’ve been known to answer…

“It was a rainy morning in the spa municipality of Montecatini, Italy. Not wanting to waste time indoors I decided to stroll through town. I turned left down a cobblestone laneway. There, on the corner in a posh clothing shop was this fabulous scarf. I just had to have it, elevated price or not. I haven’t seen another one like it. Have you?”

And my friend will probably be smiling to herself because she’s heard this exact telling many times before.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Montecatini, Italy

Montecatini, Italy

St Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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1 Comment

  1. Paula Lozar

    I have a scarf story. In 2017 I was flying from London to Baku, Azerbaijan to join a tour, and had a brief stopover in Kiev, Ukraine. I asked myself “When am I ever going to be in Kiev again?” and changed my flights to give me 2 days there. I had packed a couple of scarves, but on the first morning there, I forgot to bring one with me. But when I visited one of the city’s ancient churches without covering my head, I quickly realized that this was Not Acceptable. I soon came upon a scarf shop and bought one that caught my eye: black rayon with maroon, teal, and violet stripes. It’s actually from India, but it’s traveled with me ever since, and it’s a reminder of my fascinating two days in Kiev.

    Reply

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