What’s your most treasured travel souvenir?
Sometimes it takes more than memories and photographs to capture the essence of a travel adventure. How about a bronze flamingo, Indian drum or a lucky dollar bill?
If you’ve ever gazed at your battered guide book or travel souvenirs and reminisced, you’ll know the power of objects to evoke a time and place. So we asked Lonely Planet staff about the treasured possessions they’ve brought back from the road, and the amazing experiences behind them.
For Australian and New Zealand readers, go to lonelyplanet.com/amazing-experiences and find out how you could win your next amazing experience with over $20,000 in travel prizes. Terms and conditions apply, see website for details.
Vintage military hat, China
“My fiance’s mum came to visit when I was living in Shanghai and we had a brilliant day out exploring the city’s old lanes and hidden backstreets in a vintage sidecar. It was December 2009 and the weather was bone-rattlingly cold, so the guy driving us gave us these old Chinese military hats to put on. They smelt absolutely terrible but kept us warm! I’ve washed this one many times. but it still smells too weird to wear…”
Red gum spinning top, Australia
“A few years back, in the state of Victoria, Australia, a bunch of friends chipped in to hire a rather gargantuan house boat on the Murray River. We boarded the boat in the country town of Echuca. Before setting off, I came across a small woodturner’s cottage just near the banks of the river. Everything in the shop was made of plum-coloured, local red gum. I wasn’t far from home (Melbourne) but I felt the pang of the traveller who’d stumbled upon something special. Wanting a little relic to take away – so as to not forget what was special about this place – I chose this little red gum spinning top. It now sits on my desk in west London, and reminds me of the muddy, rugged beauties of Australia’s bush landscape.”
Business card, Thailand
“I had the privilege of meeting Dennis Peacock, AKA ‘The Walking Man’, in a small guesthouse in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. This lean and leathered British expat had walked the whole length of Thailand in 1998 and was doing it again ten years later. He’d wanted to promote Thailand during their financial crisis and, in his own small and eccentric way, he did just that by touching everyone he met with his warmth. Dennis passed away a few months after I met him and I can’t quite bring myself to throw away the ‘business card’ he gave me that day.”
Metal gecko, Barbados
“My wife and I have spent a lot of time in the tropics – in part to sate my wildlife-watching habit. We’ve seen geckos everywhere; slowly but surely, this sticky-toed lizard has become our personal emblem of travel. This one is from Barbados, but our house is filled with them if you know where to look; lurking on bookshelves, clinging to walls, watching over our continuing adventures.”
Domingo the flamingo, Morocco
“Meet Domingo the flamingo. I first laid eyes on Domingo in a crowded Moroccan souk. To my boyfriend’s dismay, all of my bartering instincts went out of the window: I had to have that flamingo. Finalising the price of the statue with an overexcited tourist probably wasn’t the toughest sale of this shop owner’s day, but it was the best souvenir I brought back from my trip. To this day Domingo has pride of place in my living room.”
Lucky $50 note, USA
“This is a US$50 note that one of my dad’s old work colleagues gave me when I went on a bit of a pilgrimage to New York City as a fresh faced 21-year-old with a backpack and no clues really. ‘This is your get out of jail free card’, he said when I told him I was heading to Mexico and Guatemala next. That note has been with me on all my travels, and so far I have only got close to using it once in Laos.”
Hammer bottle opener, Uganda
“My best travel souvenir is a bottle opener in the shape of a hammer – they’re ubiquitous in Uganda, for some reason. I love that it has a practical application, so whenever I crack open a bottle (not infrequently), I’m taken back to East African roadside bars and shady verandas.”
“My husband bought this drum when he was approached by a street dweller – it was the only thing he was selling. We laughed at the randomness of his approaching us, asking if we wanted to buy a drum when we were just minding our own business walking down the street. We were so worn down with the hassle we got in India, on this occasion we just caved in! Our kids love playing on it now, so I couldn’t say it was a waste of money.”
Alpaca wool throw, Peru
“My husband and I bought a grey baby alpaca throw from a little shop in a hotel that is run to support an orphanage in Cusco, Peru. We carried it around for the whole six-week honeymoon. When we got back and bought a flat together, it was the one item I used to decorate my living room around! I picked the wallpaper, and ordered the sofa colour and cushions to match that one throw.”
In Australia or New Zealand? Go to lonelyplanet.com/amazing-experiences and find out how you could win your next amazing experience with over $20,000 in travel prizes. Terms and conditions apply, see website for details.
Got some amazing travel souvenirs of your own? Tweet them with #lpsouvenirs.