Skip the Souvenir Shops! 5 gift ideas with real meaning and function

The following two tabs change content below.
Sara Nakash, Brooklyn bred, world tread. She has braved prison ghost cats in New Zealand, was involved in a bush taxi car chase in Togo, and accidentally biked from Luxembourg to Germany. Her love of travel was matched by her frustration in finding a service to cater to her particular travel goals. From this frustration Off the Map Travel was born. Here anyone can escape those cookie cutter travel packages and truly embrace the nature of your destination.

So your vacation is coming to an end, and it’s shopping day. It’s time to spend hours looking for the perfect gift for your friends and family, or a souvenir for yourself to keep the memory alive. Skip the souvenir shops filled with key chains, t-shirts, postcards, mugs and all the other tacky gifts that will end up forgotten, left in some closet somewhere. Instead, opt for souvenirs and gifts that have real meaning and function and will constantly conjure memories of your trip!

Here are some of my favorite items to bring back from my travels:

  1. Traditional Musical Instruments

While I don’t play any musical instruments, I love collecting ethnic instruments – they combine the art, history and music of the location. Anytime I travel somewhere, I try and find a market selling traditional instruments. Whether it’s a didgeridoo from Australia, ceremonial drum from Benin, or a wooden flute from Denmark, they can add to the decor of a room and make great conversational pieces.

  1. Handmade Jewelry and Locally-designed Clothing

These go hand in hand, and like musical instruments, often times showcase the art and history of the land. Find a necklace or dress that matches your personality and that you’ll end up wearing quite a bit and it will be a constant reminder of your travels. If you are in a city for long enough, you can even have a local designer custom make an outfit or piece of jewelry for you. You can even find a jewelry-making workshop and make something yourself – like I did with a Maori design and a piece of cow bone in New Zealand.

  1. Packaged foods

Depending on where you are traveling, you may find it difficult to find your favorite food and beverages and will need to turn to the unfamiliar to quench your thirst and feed your hunger. This may sound scary, but often you’ll find that you fall in love with the local fare. Once your trip is over though, you most likely won’t be able to find these items back home. Stop by the local supermarket or newsstand before heading to the airport, and pick up some locally-branded sodas, candy, or other packaged goods. Once home, share some of your new found treats with your friends and family, and stash away the rest for a few weeks or months later when you long to travel back but can’t. Another plus is that once the soda bottle or box of cookies is empty, you can find a creative way to display the packaging.

  1. Cookbooks Featuring Local Dishes

Due to the strict government regulations on what food can be brought into a country, you may find that you can’t always bring back your favorites delicacies from your travels. In these cases, buy a cookbook that features the foods you’ve eaten on your trip, and have a dinner party to show off this aspect of the local culture. There may be ingredients that you can’t find in your hometown, but there are often substitutions that can work. On a recent trip to Trinidad, I had an opportunity to try Callaloo, a dish made primarily of taro leaves (aka Dasheen). While near impossible to find taro leaves where I am, I substituted spinach leaves for it. While not exactly the same, it came close enough.

What’s the most memorable thing you have ever brought home from a trip?

[DKB url=”” text=”” title=”” type=”” style=”” color=”” height=”” width=”” opennewwindow=”” nofollow=””]

One thought on “Skip the Souvenir Shops! 5 gift ideas with real meaning and function

  1. The local supermarket is a treasure trove for inexpensive souvenirs. I’m not sure if you know that Barbadian pepper sauce is a wonderful souvenir that can rival hot sauce from anywhere in the world. It’s easily available in the supermarket and it’s a lot cheaper there than at the souvenir store.

Leave a Reply