Like most people, I like to bring a little bit of a trip home with me, but I think most would agree that the majority of "souvenirs" you see in little shops when you visit new places can be terribly tacky. After purging our lives of so much "stuff" when we first made our trip out here, I learned two things: 1) I don't want more "stuff" and junk in our lives, and 2) since we knew this was temporary, we always had the thought of moving again in the back of our minds, and who needs more stuff to move next time? With these two thoughts, I've now learned what kinds of things I want to bring home with me from our travels, and the list is very small.
1) Postcards: You can never go wrong with buying a few postcards when you visit a new city. I always mail out a few to friends and family back home, but I also like to collect a few for myself. I especially love the vintage style ones. Eventually these will all go into a photo album, along with postcards sent from friends abroad. I just try to keep them under 5"x7" so I won't have any issues fitting them into those in the future.
2) Prints: I dream of the days where walls of my future home are covered in artful prints of the places I've visited. I believe this is something I picked up from my parents; there are prints from all of their travels in frames all along the walls of the stairway in their home and all along the upstairs hall. I grew up looking at those prints and trying to imagine what those destinations were like and what my parents had seen there. I truly blame them for my wanderlust. I began my collection with a beautiful 2'x3' illustrated poster I bought in Saas Fee, Switzerland and knew that I would continue to seek out beautiful prints during future travels. The one pictured here is from Gastown in Vancouver, BC. Prints can pose the biggest challenge when packing to travel home, but I think on any big trips in the future I may take a small poster tube in my suitcase just for this purpose.
3) Mugs: I don't know when my obsession with mugs began (probably while working at the Barnes & Noble Cafe in college,) but I subconsciously started collecting them a few years ago. Not that I have like five hundred mugs lined up or anything, but I do have a sizable collection of them. I figure if you're going to bring back something from a trip that takes up space, it may as well be something you'll actually use. I love thinking back on old trips while sipping my coffee in the morning. Shortly after arriving in California I discovered the Starbucks 'You Are Here' Series of mugs and decided to pick one up in every place we visited. The photo above shows all of the mugs I've picked up in the past two years: Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Vancouver, and Canada. And yes, I shamefully bought the Seattle one in the Seattle airport, but we never managed to take an actual trip to Seattle while we lived here...whoops. Still love it. (This collecting may need to come to an end soon, because eventually they will take up too much space, and I don't want them to get junky.)
4) Useful Momentos: This is a rare addition to the types of things I usually buy as a souvenir. This may be the type of thing that takes up too much room in a suitcase, but might be worth it. One favorite thing I picked up living here in California (and the only "souvenir" I could think of other than those listed above) is this hand-woven Mexican blanket, which I picked up on Olvera Street in LA. It's Dan's favorite to curl up under on the couch. It will always remind us of the hispanic influence we love so much in this part of the country.