The thread about shipping souvenirs led me to wonder what other well-travelled LL people look for when they go shopping abroad. Are there certain things you always look for when you travel, either because you collect them or you find that they're a particularly good way of capturing the flavour of a place?
My personal souvenir vices are books, textiles, pottery, picture frames and antique maps and prints.
Books are my big one, which is unfortunate as they're extremely heavy and a lot of the places I go have strict luggage weight limits (20kg TOTAL on safari in Botswana). I'm particularly fond of books written by authors who haven't made it onto the international market yet, as well as oversized portfolios from first-rate photographers which always seem to be out of print in the UK. I've made it a policy to avoid bookstores at the beginning of my trips after being hit with several overweight luggage fines on one trip to South Africa.
I love woven textiles (especially wall hangings) made by local people in Africa. I haven't been to Asia yet but I suspect I'll come back with loads of textiles from there as well, gauging by what my sister brought back from her trips. There's something about the fact that they are literally hand-made which makes them a particularly powerful momento of some of the remote communities I've been privileged to visit on my travels.
The textiles are handy for wrapping and padding my third vice, pottery. Usually cups and bowls so I can justify them as vaguely utilitarian. I love unusual glazes and when I go to Japan I know I'm going to need a crate for the pottery I'm going to buy.
I'm always looking for interesting picture frames to display my maps, prints, and textiles. For some reason the ones I find overseas tend to be much more interesting than the ones I see around here. I don't tend to buy too many frames because the glass makes me nervous, though the textiles are good for wrapping these as well.
I've decorated my house and office with antique maps and prints of places I've visited. The maps are generally created by Europeans but the selection tends to be best in whatever country they portray. I've found some very nice ones in little back-alley holes in the wall in Egypt, and in huge cardboard boxes at rummage sales in England. The great thing about them is that they weigh almost nothing but are beautiful and often capture the history of a place very well.
So what's your vice?
Message Edited by jashermd on 01-30-200702:05 PM
Goodness, your luggage allowance must go way through the roof when you return from holiday! Unfortunately, althoughI am fairly well travelled, up until about two years agoI never used to bring anything back for myself. It was always a case of putting my friends and family first. I used to spend hours looking for nice things to bring home as gifts for them all until one dayI thought to myself that I have nothing, apart from photographs, to show for all those wonderfu places we have been to. So now, I always make sure i bring home something for me! I never really have anything in particular which i look out for. normally, if something takes my fancy thenI will just buy it. I like going around the little craft shops or buy from the street vendors asI feel they need our money more. The biggest buy I have brought home is a rug from Morrocco, which cost me next to nothing and ofcourse nowI wish I had bought a couple asit is really beautiful. My next buy hopefully is a Persian rug from Dubai. I have never ever shipped anything home before to the UK as I always imagined it would be really expensive. Often that has stopped me buying something which I really liked. I should really have queried the cost as i may have been pleasantly surprised!!
I love this topic, as souvenirs in themselves are an addiction. I love anything special for the house to display and remind me of my trip - carpets, fabrics, paintings, ceramics and glassware. My husband and I cannot walk into a carpet store abroad without purchasing something - we currently have several more carpets than we can fit from Turkey, Egypt, India, Tibet not to mention a few persians we bought in the US. In Turkey we told our guide from the beginning "we don't want anymore rugs" and ended up falling in love with and purchasing 4! Jewelry is another big one, as are scarves/shawls. I have to say India had the most fabulous shopping of any country I've been to, it was heaven for a shopper like myself.
Good topic, jasher! Right up my alley.... and I love hearing about your shopping "vices". You are right, you will absolutely fall in love with the ceramics in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
As you said, the tough part of souvenirs is getting them home, but aside from always leaving plenty of extra room in our bags for the smaller items (and sometimes bringing or buying an extra bag) I've found that the reputable vendors are accustomed to shipping pretty much anywhere in the world. That's been very nice, especially for the large rugs and paintings. Nevertheless, our baggage is almost always oversized and too heavy on the way home, and sometimes customs is a little nerve racking but we've yet to have a problem (knock on wood.)
One question, jasher, what is your method for carrying the items like maps and unframed prints? Do you roll them up and put them in a tube? What if they don't fit in your bag, do you carry them with you onto the plane? I've had a couple problems with oversized paintings not making it home so well...
MaryJ, I just missed your post as I was busy typing mine....but regarding shipping rugs, I have found with the bigger vendors you can haggle in the cost of shipping/customs and I've never had any problems receiving them from Turkey, India or Tibet. In Egypt we bought a large (9' x 12') rug but it was a lightweight silk and somehow they managed to fold it up small enough to fit into a rolling bag which they gave us. If you are buying a quality piece such as a Persian in Dubai I would imagine they would take care of shipping for you, you will definitely spend some money on the rug and it costs them a fraction of the price to ship. Or, you can use it in your new apartment!
Message Edited by claassenam on 01-30-200701:31 PM
Yes Claassenam, I will definately buy a Persian rug for my apartment in Dubai as I intend to furnish it in typical Arabian style, but I would like one for home as well. I have saw some beautiful rugs on my previous visits there so hopefuly next visitI will get one.
I tend to pack very lightly on the way out (I'm often going on safari, where laundry is done daily) which leaves plenty of room (some would say too much room!) for souvenirs. Weight can sometimes be an issue, though, particularly if I hit a really good bookstore! On the other hand the books are great for protecting the more fragile items from being crushed.
I buy at least as much stuff for my friends and family as I do for myself, which helps me justify the expense. I tend to do all my Christmas shopping on my travels -- it's much more fun than joining the scrum on Oxford Street, and puts money in the hands of craftspeople who need it much more than Selfridges or Harrods.
Getting the antique maps and prints home is always a bit nervewracking. I've found that the best way to do it is either rolled (gently!) in a tube, or if they are small packed flat between two pieces of cardboard and sandwiched between some of the photography books. So far I haven't had any mishaps (touch wood!).
I forgot to mention my last vice: food. I've become seriously addicted to these soft mints available only in South Africa (Endearmints) and whenever I'm there I'll buy a couple of 1-kg bags of these little individually wrapped mints to bring home. My supply is running low, so I've been looking for a way to get some shipped.
My office also has a tradition where anyone who travels needs to bring back some chocolate or other sweets for the people left behind, so I've brought back sweets from a large number of places. The one exception was Tanzania, where all the chocolate was imported from the UK and was well past its sell-by date. I've managed to hook several people in my office on the Endearmints.
Goodness. Everyone has some neat souvenirs. We tend to look for neat shells and rocks. We have collections of beautiful shells from around the world. They always seem appreciated bypeople I work with. I found a beautiful shelling area in Anguilla near Covecastles resort (maybe I shouldn't be giving away my secrets!) There are beautiful conch shells that have been weathered by the sand and winds. These are definitely my favorite. Also, scallop shells make nice candles. (melt wax,put in awick, and light.)My husband is the rock collector. They really are lovely but goodness, they are tough to transport! When we purchase things, we love the Central America art. We found Nicaragua to have interesting paintings and pottery. It is basic but it means alot to us. We use our home as a "showplace" for our travels.
Bonniejoy, the seashells and rocks sound so lovely. I think my husband would prefer my souvenir addiction to be more of the "natural" (meaning: free) variety, but lately our travels haven't taken us to places where that is possible. One day, hopefully!
I think the idea of your home being a showplace for your travels applies to me as well. I've been looking around here and I'm amazed by how much of what I have is from my travels.
It's often said that the sense of smell has the strongest links to memory, and I have some candles in a scent called African Grass which is made by CC Africa (they list some properties on LL such as Phinda, Ngala, etc). One of my first safaris was at one of their camps and they had candles, lotion and shower gel in this scent -- very fresh and clean but also a bit citrusy. Every time I smell it it brings me back to Africa. It's a great way of alleviating those cravings to travel when my next trip is far away (not until May, unless I manage to swing that winter sun break).
I bought bath salts and toiletries in the African Grass scent for my mum and sister on my last trip and now they're hooked on it as well!
I too like to get a print from most places i travel. I used to buy the print unframed but as of late i try to get a framed one, since most prints in other countries are sized by the metric system and won't fit in run of the mill frames here., so i have to spend more to get a custom frame. I usually try to get one small enough to fit in bottom of suitcase. Also i try to get some small item to put on my christmas tree. not something you would think of as an ornament but something to remind me of the trip as i hang on it, such as small animal made from a local product.