It may all seem a bit counterintuitive, burdening yourself with trinkets while attempting to travel light, but collecting keepsakes from your travels is one of the best ways to ensure that all of your globetrotting experiences and outdoor escapades will turn into lasting memories for years to come.
When I bought my first pack, I stared at it like a blank canvas. The open strips of bright red fabric in between the seams, straps, zippers, and clasps seemed both empty and inviting. Had I not stolen the idea of sewing patches from the various countries I had visited onto it from my brother, it likely would have remained so. Instead, I went out and bought patches for each of the countries that I had already visited, learned how to sew, and made a promise that no matter how short of a stay I had in a new country or how out of the way it might be to find a store selling them, I would collect a new patch and sew it onto what little shred of empty space I could find on my bag.
It’s now been roughly seven years since I started collecting these little mementos of my travels, and while my sewing hasn’t much improved, I now have a colourful patchwork pack that is both functional and serves as a constant reminder of all of the wonderful people I have met and unique places I have visited over the years.
Many travellers and outdoor enthusiasts share a similar passion for collecting trinkets, as it can be a fun pastime while exploring and a great way to immortalize your experiences so that you can cherish them long after your days of adventuring are behind you. While patches containing national flags, iconic symbols, or recognizable scenery are my preferred way to create a bit of nostalgia from trips past, there are countless other ways in which people often choose to remember where they have been or the things that they have done. Whether you are planning your first big adventure or have been exploring the globe for years, here are a few common (and maybe not so common) items that will hopefully inspire you to start a collection of nostalgic trinkets to remember your travels by.
While some people might view tourist souvenirs as being tacky or inauthentic, they are actually a great option if you are looking to start a collection of mementos from around the world, as there are a countless items that are readily available, fairly inexpensive, and can be found in major tourist hubs like train stations, airports, or corner shops.
My infatuation with patches definitely falls into this category, as do many other items like bumper stickers, keychains, bottle openers, flags, and t-shirts; however, just because an item is easily accessible and obviously geared towards tourists doesn’t mean that it can’t be unique. For instance, I had an uncle who liked to collect pins from every place that he visited. At first glance it doesn’t seem all that fascinating, but once he got home from his travels he pressed the pins into a wooden cane to create a colourful mosaic column that showcased each destination. This just goes to show that with just a bit of thought, something that is inexpensive and touristy can easily be turned into the perfect keepsake to remember your travels by.
Travellers are, more often than not, spontaneous people that go with the flow and are able to traverse any obstacles that come their way. So it makes sense that for some people, collecting items while travelling will reflect that same spontaneity. If you decide to take this approach while on your own adventures, you will likely find pleasure in gathering things that may not hold any real value other than the memory of a great conversation or a rainy afternoon spent in a cafe.
In this regard, commonly collected keepsakes could be literally anything. I’ve known a few people that like to take home beer coasters from their favourite pub in each city, or keep that one coin in the local currency that always seems to be floating around in their pocket. Other items could include napkins, city walking maps, train tickets, hotel pens, business cards, or even tattoos for those who want a more permanent memento of their experience.
For those who enjoy exploring the outdoors, collecting little snippets of nature is a great way to remember the unique places that you have been. Rocks, leaves, shells, and flowers are all things that are commonly collected as a means to immortalize a breathtaking hike, walk along the beach, or a fun camping trip, creating a catalogue of interesting memories that can easily be scrapbooked or put into a box.
However, this type of collecting can also create certain issues when it comes to travel or conservation efforts. When crossing international borders for example, many countries will not allow you to transport any organic matter, as the organisms within are likely not native to the area you are traveling to and could have adverse effects on the environment. Similarly, removing something from a conservation area or wildlife reserve could have a detrimental effect on the local environment. If you are really keen on collecting mementos from the natural world to commemorate your travels, be sure to do your research, follow all regulations, and respect the environment.
Choose Something That Resonates with You
No matter what you decide to start collecting while out on your travels, the most important thing to remember is that you should choose something that resonates with you. Think of exactly what it is that you love about going on an adventure, whether it is dining out, taking in stunning natural scenery, or visiting historical sites, and try to collect something that reflects your interests. It might take a bit of time to find your niche, but hopefully in 5, 15, or even 50 years you will have a nostalgia-inducing array of trinkets and mementos that will allow you to reminisce on a life well lived and a world fully travelled.