I make no bones about the fact that I am a very, very poor law student. And by poor, I mean macaroni & cheese eating, ramen-guzzling, hold off on air-conditioning until 100+ degrees poor. So when I have the opportunity to travel abroad, I get down on my knees and thank God for the money to pay for the hotel. I’m incredibly lucky if I can pick up a few presents for my family and friends, but souvenirs. . . not real high on my list of what is worth spending money on (like food, and, you know, museum fees).
Then there’s the fact that I’m moving in less than a year, hopefully abroad, and that means GARAGE SALE! Woot, woot! I get to get rid of all my stuff/treasures or figure out how to pay for a storage unit for it all. Adding to the stuff I have to get rid of is hardly an incentive when looking at the prospect of buying souvenirs. If it isn’t worth keeping in a storage unit; it’s not worth buying in the first place.
And none of this takes into consideration the issue of packing. . . . I’m a professional packer. No, seriously, people should pay me to pack for them. I came home last summer with 1 suitcase at 49.3 lbs and the other at 49.7 lbs on a 50 lb. free luggage limit (the guy at check-in was incredibly impressed ). This summer, it cost me a pair of holey shoes, a few underwear-related items, and a buttload of beauty products but I got my suitcase through at 48.8 lbs. But I’ve had a friend who insisted on buying so much stuff she had to leave some souvenirs behind and it broke her heart. So I’m always a little cautious about buying things that will either break in transportation or weigh too much entirely.
Instead, I’ve stumbled upon the beauty of postcards. Usually people buy postcards to give away or to mail back home, but I actually like to keep them. I have a few rules before buying a postcard:
- It has to depict something I’ve actually seen — i.e. the building, the artifact, etc.
- It has to have been bought at the place where I saw it/or at a related place on the same day (If I’m visiting a bunch of temples in one day, I might pick up a package at one that has a picture of several I visit that day).
- It has to be worthwhile–a picture of the airport doesn’t count
- I don’t get a bunch of the same place. I have to choose what is the best image.
I’ve actually been collecting postcards for several years now, and each one has a special memory attached to it. I’ve got everything from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, to one of the churches in Savannah, Georgia, to a dolphin I saw at the zoo in Seoul. I have cards from the whirlwind tour my aunt, mom, and I took when looking at colleges where we covered the greater East Coast through Texas in 2 weeks. There are cards of the trip my mom, aunt, and I take on their birthday (they each have one in the same week) every year (we’ve gone all over the US). I have some from China, and from the temples of Japan.
But I don’t just collect post-cards; I also save some small gifts that I’ve been given during my travels. For example, the Red, yellow and blue fan was a present from a tourist-helper on a particularly hot day when I was dying of heat. There is a small, pocket-sized good luck charm someone gave me before my exams in Japan when I visited a local temple. There is also a sheet of paper I was given at the book expo in Seoul; the guy hand printed it with a replica of the world’s first movable type printing press.
I’ve been working on this wall for 4+ years now, and finally I have completed one portion of the wall! You can’t really see it, but I’ve filled up the rest of the wall with some hand-outs I’ve gotten from temples, a timeline of Korean history I got at a museum, etc. None of it cost me more than $3; many were gifts. They are flat and easily transported when I move; and they connect so carefully with all of my happy memories of these places. I hope to continue gathering my collection until I can fill up all 4 walls of my room. Each one a great memory; reminding me of the best of my trips and encouraging me to carry onward in the future.