I’ve been traveling long term for over six years now. These are six years of experiences, souvenirs opportunities, and great (and not so great) memories. Since I’m on the road for long periods before going back home, I need to be smart with what I buy at each destination, because most probably, I’ll be carrying it for weeks or months before I unload it back home.
I don’t tend to buy much, but throughout the years I’ve found out these are my favorite things to buy, collect, or send myself when abroad.
I don’t buy postcards often. In fact, I only buy them when they are unique and go beyond the typical “wish you were here” or the iconic shot of the place. But, when I find those unique postcards, I’m all in to send them to friends, family, or to myself. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, I sent friends and family some wooden postcards (yes, made out of wood). In Dali, China, I sent my mom and myself a postcard to be delivered THREE YEARS in the future. I sent it back in 2014 and got them this year. It was weird reading it. And of course, I sent myself a postcard from North Korea, which I still haven’t received.
Also pretty cool are the postcards from the MyPostcard app, which I’ve been playing with recently. I’ve had friends ask me for prints of my pictures, so with this app, I can send them a postcard from wherever in the world, using some of my favorite photos (or any image, collage, etc.), and writing any message (digitally) on the back. I’ve found the printing quality is superb!
What’s cool is that the app is easy to use, has flexible designs and templates, it’s easy to customize, and the postcards can cost less than $2, including shipping, which is less than many postcards + shipping you can find abroad. Plus, your friends will know it’s a postcard no one else in the world will have! You can download the app here. (You can use code globotreks to get your first postcard for free!)
This is by far my favorite thing to collect all around the world. At every country I visit, I make sure to at least keep the crispest possible lower denomination bills and one of every coin denomination.
I love seeing the art behind the bills, the colors, and the history that is ingrained in them. I’ve even taken the risk of keeping North Korean Won. In theory, foreigners are not allowed to use/touch their currency, but during my trip to North Korea, we were allowed to visit one department store that does not accept USD, EUR, or CNY. So, we were allowed to exchange a small amount of North Korean Won to buy whatever we wanted, to then return the change to be exchanged back into the original currency. I didn’t care about buying anything, I just wanted the Won, so I exchanged money, bought myself a juice, hid some of the currency in my pocket, and exchanged the rest.
Once at the hotel I made sure to hide the bills pretty well in case my bag was searched while leaving the country. We were told several times they check your wallet to make sure you’re not taking their currency. Luckily I wasn’t checked, at all – but I didn’t hide it in my wallet either… duh!
Not sure how many currencies I have (or what’s the total value), but I think I have money from over 90 different countries and the worth is probably around a couple of thousands.
I like art, but again, that art needs to be unique to the place and can’t be cheesy. Abstract art is some of my favorites, so when something traditional of the place is reinterpreted in abstract form, I’m immediately a sucker for it.
And of course, I also have some very traditional art from tribes in Africa and Asia, which I find very appealing and full of meaning. I even got some propaganda art from places like North Korea (again), which speaks so much of their current status as a nation and their relationship with the world and the US.
I usually focus on small art pieces that I can fit in my bag or prints I can roll and carry easily, as I don’t want to break and damage them while I carry them for weeks or months before going home.
This is a rare one for me, but whenever I see a weird puppet or childish looking toy (probably not intended for a child), I sort of want it. It reflects on my weird character. Not much more to add here.
Items from Memorable Experiences
These are the tickets, receipts, notes, and whatever worthless crap we see or get on the road that is somehow tied to a specific moment on our trip. Just because that worthless piece was present in that significant moment in our life, we immediately add sentimental value to it.
I have a lot of these, and usually they are in the form of entrance tickets and random items like sand from the pink beach in the Komodo Islands, a pebble with the shape of Puerto Rico I found on a beach in Italy and a visitor ticket to the Space Center in French Guyana where I got to the rocket launch of a telecommunications satellite (an unexpected opportunity I got thanks to my Couchsurfing host there). You can see my YouTube video of the launch here.
And my most prized “worthless” souvenirs are, of course, my passport stamps!
Of course, each person has a different memento and souvenir taste, so I’d like to hear from you; what do you buy, collect or send yourself when traveling abroad?