Monday, 28 March 2016

Guide to souvenir shopping - Do you really need another sarong?

We've all done it - been enraptured by the vibrant clothing at an exotic destination and bought the shirt/hat/sarong/skirt, whatever, thinking that this will be just the thing to wear for summer barbecues back home. Problem is, we get back from holiday and find it simply doesn't look right in our home setting so it ends up cluttering a drawer. At some stage it gets hauled out for a fancy dress party.
                                                                                             One of my mistakes
 Wrong colour, wrong size, never worn

I have traveled a lot over the years and have learnt from painful experience what are good and what are bad souvenirs.  Here are a few of my suggestions to make your souvenir shopping worthwhile.

1. Think carefully about whether the item will be useful or whether is it just a novelty.  If it is a novelty don't buy it.  Novelties are five minute wonders and end up in a drawer until eventually thrown away.

2. On that note: Don't buy key rings, shot glasses, hula skirts, sombreros, clogs, mini Eiffel towers or similar, or anything vulgar or funny-the jokes wear off pretty quickly.
3. If you want to buy something to remember the trip by try to choose just one good quality item, within your budget, rather than a lot of small gimmicky items
4. Don't leave your souvenir shopping until the airport.  You will be pushed for time, flustered and could make rash purchases.  Airports are homogenous and there is not much of a choice anyway. Buying friends and family chocolates says "I forgot about you until the airport and then I panicked"

5.  Ask yourself if it is a popular item at your holiday spot. For example is everyone wearing a batik shirt?  Don't be swayed, you will probably never wear it back home

6. Beware of touts.  Good quality shops don't need them

7. Don't buy books on places you visit.  Unless it is something you are really interested in take it from me you are unlikely to look at them again.  I am referring to the  colourful, and usually expensive, guide books to palaces, castles, cathedrals etc. Having said that, one of my favourite books, a memoir, The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer, is a souvenir from Japan

8. Start a collection of something useful.  I collected one Christmas tree decoration from every country I visited  until my tree had enough decorations.  Every Christmas it is fun to unpack them  and remember where they were bought. I have also collected coffee mugs, usually in blue and white, from various places I have visited.
Some of the mugs in my collection these are from Italy, Turkey, Japan, England and Wales


A child's antique kimono bought in a small village in Japan

A wooden tobacco knife crafted by a whittler from Tennessee

Displayed here with a Celtic cross from Dublin, a Japanese painting and a New Zealand sculpture

Miniature pottery houses from both the Cinque Terre and Copenhagen

A white linen and lace tablecloth and napkins from China
A tiny pewter pepper mill from Turkey
A collection of scarves from many different places
My diaries - I write extensive diaries on my travels and enjoy re-reading then from time to time.  It is amazing what you forget,
A few of my sarongs.
CDs of ethnic music - ethnic music is one of my interests 

.....and, yes, several sarongs.  Sarongs are useful and good gifts since they take up no room in your bag. I always pack one when I travel.  They can be used as beach wraps, table cloths, picnic mats, summer bed covers, even towels in an emergency.  It's just that you don't need too many of them!

Enjoy your holidays.  Don't spend time hunting for souvenirs and gifts, that's just wasting precious time when you could be doing other things. Send postcards if you want to remember folks back home.  It's a dying practice but I, for one, love to get postcards from exotic destinations.  Buy one good quality souvenir for yourself if you want and buy scarves, bookmarks (can't have too many, they always go missing!), sarongs, coffee mugs, place mats, linen for friends.  For male friends some duty free wine or spirits always goes down well.