“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

The day is bright with sun but it’s a cold morning, a 25˚ morning. Icicles hang from the edges of my roof. Snow still lies on the ground but the roads are clear. The weatherman says tomorrow will be a warm day. We might even hit 50˚,  but this winter has made a skeptic of me. I don’t trust a warm day. It’s Mother Nature toying with us. She probably giggles when a warm day makes us hopeful knowing that the cold is just biding its time, waiting for its turn. It’s inevitable.

When I was last returning from Ghana, my carry-on was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the bin. I asked the man beside me, and he was quite happy to help, but he did mention how heavy it was. The reasons were two pottery bowls and a few other breakables I didn’t trust to my checked luggage. The bowls were nothing fancy but are common ones for grinding peppers or ginger.

Souvenirs are tricky. When I was a kid, I tended toward pennants, magnets or plastic gewgaws made in China. Each had the name of the place we were visiting. I remember buying snow globes and plastic dolls dressed in regional costumes. Quality wasn’t an issue for me.

From the beach I brought home colorful shells and dead starfish. The shells stayed around a while, but the dead starfish would start to smell, and my mother would make me throw them away. The round nautilus type shells were always my favorite.

When I was in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I bought cloth and had it made into dresses which I wore every day. They weren’t really souvenirs. I sent home as gifts wooden animals, heads and giraffes. Ghana didn’t have any giraffes. I bought leather bags and woven baskets, but I used them. One basket became a lamp shade. When I was leaving Ghana, I bought a whole collection of the African Writers’ Series, a fugu (smock), some cloth and not one gewgaw. I would have bought a snow globe but it would have been weird to find one in Ghana.

No matter where I have traveled, I’ve bought souvenirs. Among them are a pottery tea set from England, platters and dishes from Portugal, wooden figures from Russia, cloth from Ghana, a tagine from Morocco, curtains from Dublin and a tablecloth from Hungary.

I didn’t think about it when I was buying everything, but in retrospect it seems as I had grown-up so had my souvenirs.

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20 Comments on ““Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    Most of the day has been sunny and rather warm but with a strong wind. Now it rains is still rather warm and the wind blows even harder. >I don’t mind though because the winter that was predicted seems to go elswhere. Well that’s just a prediction too so it might just turn up anyway 🙂

    I bought the second film in the Hunger Games series today so I’ll most likely watch that later today.

    I’ve never been much of a souvenir guy, mostly it has been shells and stones from differnt beaches. Or perhaps a post card that I liked. I think I see my photos as souvenires because I have always brought a camera and I guess I thougfht the cost of the film for the camera was enough 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • katry Says:

      We get teased with a nice day then a freezing day. I am so tired of it. Let the weather be one or the other-I’ll take the wrath if given a choice.

      I liked that film-it’s quite good.

      When I was a kid, I didn’t have a camera. In Africa the first time for all two years, I didn’t take all that many photos. The film had to be mailed to me and then mailed home to be processed. It was a pain.

      Enjoy the movie!

      • olof1 Says:

        That was a very good film! How many books were written about this?

        I got a Kodak instamatic as very young so I always brought it with me.

      • katry Says:

        I agree about that movie.

        Mine in Africa was also an Instamatic.

  2. Hedley Says:

    Playing Cards – I got in to the habit of picking up a deck of playing cards at my various stops during wanderings. Small, easily stored, usually cheap and to be used. Every now and again I will pull out a pack of Cultural Revolution cards or similar and be amused to find just 51 cards, at which point they become the property of waste management.

    • katry Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      I bought a set of really great looking cards in Russia and still have them.

      In Ghana the last time, I had cloth made into napkins as gifts, bought pottery and jewelry as gifts. I didn’t buy all that such for myself that time. I was thinking ahead to Christmas.

      • Hedley Says:

        We do buy Christmas ornaments. We are always interested in local art but that doesn’t really fit in to the category of souvenir.

        The Prince will be heading to Disney early next month and he has requested Fantasia Mickey as his souvenir – he and I remain in heated debate as to whether or not Magic Mick will be resting on his bed or visiting the park with him. We have also been “tasking” him and rewarding with money which is accumulating so he can choose something himself without question.

      • katry Says:

        I definitely put Christmas ornaments in the souvenir category. Anything from where you were is a souvenir, and there are no limits to the possibilities.

        The Prince must be so very excited, and what a great idea to task him so he can pick what he wants without needing approval.

        I think Magic Mick needs to be home so he won’t be one among many.

      • Hedley Says:

        The Prince wants to carry Mick and I see myself doing so – he has argued that I can get a backpack to hold Magic Mick if he gets tired.
        The Prince has $25 in souvenir funds and will be “tasked” to around $35.00 which will give him some options, even at Disney. Mrs. MDH and I really like the idea that he has complete freedom to choose what he wants. We will see if he gets buyers remorse.

      • katry Says:

        You can’t fault the Prince’s logic. It would be far easier for you to array Mickey with a backpack.

        I love that he can shop with his own money. I do get that he will be torn betwixt and between so many choices.

  3. splendidone Says:

    Dearest Kat and Coffee lovers,
    I apologize for my absence this cold winter, I have missed you all and your stories and humorous comments. Lucky for me, I can look back and catch up. Hopefully. We are enjoying 64 degrees today–very windy,almost Mary Poppins kind and by Sunday we shall be back to the teens and snow. 6 days till Spring, has anyone started any veggies or plants indoors? I keep telling myself in 6 months we will all be complaining about the heat. I long for some color most of all, never before have I realized how the grey of sky and earth depresses one so.
    Thank you all for making the days pass faster with your humor. xoxo

    • katry Says:

      Dear Splendid,
      This has also seemed to me to be the longest of winters. There were few warm days to satisfy our need for spring, and even now, the wind is blustery and cold, and we have snow on the ground.

      I swear I will not complain about the heat this summer!

      Glad to have you back!

  4. Birgit Says:

    Buying souvenirs and gifts was easy in British Columbia, because I love the art of the native Haida people. For myself I brought at least one small nice stone from every destination which I’ve had in my purse or jacket afterwards. When I was older my best personal souvenirs were music related. Records, music sheets, a cheap bouzouki from Greece, a tin whistle from Scotland, a Swiss mouth harp, a Chinese flute from Vancouver’s China town and more. Once my luggage from Canada was way to heavy. The airport clerk laughed when he heard that my suitcase was full of 2nd hand records and I didn’t have to pay for the extra weight.
    You mentioned Hungary. Now I’m curious. Which year?

    • katry Says:

      I’m with you there-I love buying the handmade goods particular to a culture. Cool souvenirs-the musical ones. I did bring back CD’s from Morocco for my friend the musician. He loved the sound of the different rhythm.

      It was sometime in the 80’s when I was in Hungary. I flew from Vienna to Budapest and went from there. It was a great trip, and I would go back there.

  5. sprite Says:

    I often find myself traveling places in the fall, so Christmas ornaments are frequently the souvenirs I come home with.

    • katry Says:

      I brought back some from Ghana and some tassels from Morocco to use as ornaments. I also have some from my European travels. I love the memories on the tree.

  6. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    I used to buy souvenirs but now I usually find a nice-looking rock and take that home. I label them with a Sharpee so I’ll know where I picked them up.
    Another of my friends decided, in his middle age, to go to law school. He started right before my first trip to Washington DC for work. While I was down there, I found a rock on the grounds of the Supreme Court building. (It’s damn difficult to find a loose rock in DC by the way. Probably because there are too many lawyers there.) Anyway, I labeled it and gave it to my friend as a gift. He was touched and probably just a bit confused. 🙂

    It’s sunny and cold here. My front porch was very warm so I sat out there and read for awhile. It almost felt like spring unless I looked up and saw all the snow.

    Enjoy the evening.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I have a pine cone I found at the Forum in Rome. It is huge and beautiful and a favorite souvenir. Another uncommon one is a chunk of unprocessed salt from the salt mine in Colombia where there is a church inside. I think those are my only unconventional souvenirs though I guess what I usually bring back isn’t the average souvenir anyway. Mostly I buy things that are common in the country I’m visiting.

      Same weather here and the wind made it feel really cold. I went nowhere today, and I’m glad!

      Have a great evening!!

  7. Bob Says:

    When I was a kid my parents would only let us buy one small souvenir when we went on vacation. My parents were children of the depression and considered buying souvenirs money wasted. When I travel these days I don’t buy anything for myself but I take lots of photos. I used to bring back souvenirs for my kids. They were excited about the souvenir for about five minutes and then whatever I bought them just gathered dust. After I’m gone everything left in my house will become the souvenir of my life.

    Winter may finally be over because the temperature has been above freezing all week with highs in the 70s or 80s. Unfortunately, there was not a cloud in the sky all week until today. Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow and we need all the rain we can get.

    • katry Says:

      I saved all my souvenirs from when I was a kid, but over the years and a few moves they got lost or were tossed by my parents. I still have a couple of old pennants. One is for Benson’s Wild Animal Farm which no longer exists.

      My father would bring back stuff like earrings which I still have, and they were great souvenirs, much better than the cheap ones from China.

      We will have weather in the 20’s next week so we’re still into winter. I know I want warm weather but not too warm this early in the year. We should be in the 50’s most years in March, but haven’t hit it but once. The Cape doesn’t get really warm until May.

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