Sunday, September 09, 2007

Buying frugal souvenirs that multi-task

I'm really happy with my souvenir-shopping on my recent vacation... because I didn't pick up a lot of "just because" souvenirs, but instead looked for things I already wanted or needed. This way I have items that will remind me of the wonderful time I had in Ireland, but instead of adding clutter to my home and straining my vacation budget, they fill needs that were already there.

For example, after moving from Chicago to Washington DC earlier this year, the decor in my apartment has remained rather sparse. One of the reasons I've held off on purchasing things is that I knew this vacation was coming up and I'd have the opportunity to look for art that would be especially special because of the associated memories.

Of course, for this to work well, you have to be patient and only buy things that are really right for you. Nina recently wrote about souvenirs that "don't translate" when you get home from vacation, and that's really true. So you have to be very honest with yourself about what will still seem like a good idea when you get back to everyday life. For me, this meant that I decided that if I couldn't find something that fit my criteria, I wouldn't buy any art at all. I didn't want to get something that reminded me of Ireland but after a few weeks or months ended up in the closet gathering dust! I just kept reminding myself about my plans to enlarge some of my nicest photographs from the trip to put on the walls, and made myself pass up a few items that temporarily tempted me but didn't hold up to scrutiny.

Luckily, I took my time and eventually came across a beautiful piece of pottery in a Dublin craft shop. It has a spiral motif, which I came to strongly associate with Ireland and my vacation due to the prehistoric art we saw, so that was a great and subtle connection. (If I'd gotten something covered in shamrocks and leprechauns I bet I'd have gotten tired of it pretty quickly!) It's my favorite color, blue, and goes well with a few pieces I already have. And even with the exchange rate, it was in my price range. In other words, it was something I would have realistically bought at home-- but I'm so happy to have bought it on vacation because it means a little more.

My next souvenir was smaller, but followed the same theme. We visited the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Now, the Aran Islands are famous for their sweaters, hand-knit by island women with each pattern having a meaning. However, the sweaters are rather pricey, and even more to the point, I don't need any new sweaters! What I did need, however, was an earwarmer/headband-- something I intended to buy all last winter every time my cold ears started to ache, and yet somehow never got around to. So I picked up a hand-knit Aran Island earwarmer instead of a sweater... same intricate pattern, same connection to the islands and their people, but more affordable and something I will actually use.

(I have to admit that my last souvenir was not nearly so useful, but it was sort of a last-minute airport "I-have-5-Euros-in-my-pocket-to-use-up" kind of thing... and I am enjoying my tin whistle even if it's not practical in the least!)

How about you? Do you try to buy souvenirs that also fit other wants/needs? How do you approach souvenirs? I must say, on most smaller trips I stick to postcards and other cheap or free souvenirs, but this one was a special vacation for me and I am quite glad to have something nicer as a memento.


MoneyChangesThings said...

Actually studies show that spending money on wonderful experiences DOES yield happiness; so buying a few triggers that remind you of the experience is a good investment in recalling happy events. You know that instinctively, it seems.
When my kids were little I started collecting miniature frogs from places our family visited. We put them out for the passover Seder, and when the plague of frogs comes up, everyone had lots of frogs to play with. And of course they played with them all through the meal. Focusing our attention on a frog, instead of on a zillion possibilities, was fun.
My favorites among the frogs were from a treasured trip to Italy where I sepnt at least 3 days in Venice frog shopping. (I did other things, too, but frogs were always on my list!) The last day I found a glass-blower shop in venice which had an entire frog symphony, each frog with its appropriate instrument. Quite astounding. I chose a family of four frogs, mirroring our own, from the store. What a great memory! thanks for conjuring it up.

PT said...

I like this idea. I do the same thing when I travel. We've all brought home the cheesy trinket before and thrown it out a year later. It makes sense to buy something you'd actually use or something tastfully decorative that will (in a suttle way) remind you of your experience. I'll be honest favorite souvenirs are pictures. I still have some from my honeymoon I want to get on the walls.