A souvenir, traditionally speaking, holds the essence of the place it comes from; it packs in the history, the adventures, the culture and the colours of the country.

Feature Photo by Lola Akinmade. Photo Above by ddexter_free

But the more you travel, the quicker you’ll realize that the world is, in fact, made in China. Gone are the days when a little curio – the Eiffel tower on the coffee table, or the Chinese tea set in the showcase – held dreams of a distant land. But who says the romance of travel has to die with outsourcing?

With a little creative thinking and an observant eye, you can find that great souvenir to treasure.

Invest in a Future

Forget the flimsy key chains and postcards, here’s something that lasts you a lifetime and beyond. The next time you take a trip, come back with a solid investment; sponsor a child’s education in that country. Across the world, there are a number of organizations that work towards keeping kids in school.

And how can you help? By making small contributions towards building schools, or sponsoring a child’s annual fees and school materials. The options are varied, from programs funded by the United Nations, various religious organizations, to smaller grass root initiatives.

What do you get out of it? Annual report cards and progress sheets, personalized letters and drawings from the kid(s), and the opportunity to shape a future that may not have had a chance otherwise.

Besides, if you ever run into Angelina Jolie, you’ll have something to talk about.

Comics, Graphic Novels and Movie Night

Introduce Batman to the world outside Gotham City. Most cultures have their own set of masked heroes and damaged wonders.

Photo Above by mattlogelin

Those that don’t, reinvent ancient legends and colourful mythology into comic book format.

Bilingual prints are available in many places, but an exotic script or two will only enhance your collection.

If comics aren’t your thing, the world is full of great cinema with English subtitles.

What better way to revisit that trip to India, upset stomach and all, then to slip in a DVD of a Bollywood blockbuster, over a candle-lit curry dinner?

Local Newspapers

Pick up a local newspaper on your first day in the country. Once you get back, laminate the first half of the front page and refashion them as kitschy placemats, which also work as great giveaways.

The placemats work as constant reminders of your trip and it adds a little quirk to the décor.

They make a great starting point for any travel stories you might want to share, and they also remind you that there is a whole world waiting to be explored out there.

Doors

Photo Above by Steve & Jemma Copley

Welcome the world into your home through an exotic hand carved wooden door discovered during your travels.

This option could be a tad bit expensive, building a collection is pretty much out of the question, and shipping it back home could prove to be a complex process.

It also requires much research on your part to find a reliable source to ensure your front door gets home without fail.

But this is an exceptional find. It gives your home a look of elegance and a touch of the exotic.

If you have a green conscious, opt for a discarded door which can then be restored and put back into circulation.

Own a Tree, Save the World

Well, doors cost trees. And apparently so does development. Tree after tree, forest after forest and mangrove after mangrove are brought down in the name of improving facilities.

If you want to give back and save the world, spend your money on trees, instead of that predictable souvenir. Many local and international organizations are working towards rebuilding the world’s forests.

For small sums they plant a number of trees, nurturing them and allowing for a greener, safer world. So instead of wondering what to do with all the assorted tacky trinkets, you’ll smile with every breath of fresh air.

Community Connection

Looking for more gift ideas? Check out 10 Gift Ideas for Under $10 and 5 Creative Ideas for Souvenirs – Set I