Finding that special something to bring home from a trip isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping. But, even though I take a million and one photographs, I generally don’t want pictures to be my only mementos of a particular trip. My requirements normally are threefold:
- Little: I normally travel with a backpack or one small/medium suitcase. Space is at a premium.
- Unique: I want something that no one back home has.
- Not obviously a souvenir: I’m not one for a bag that says “London” a million times all over it or a plastic something that has “France” stamped on it. “Made in China” need not apply.
Basically, I like things that I can have in my home and be ‘everyday’. Even though it may take a little digging or going off the beaten tourist track, I’ve managed to find a random assortment of things in my travels over the years. One item that I consistently seem to gravitate towards, surprisingly enough, is earrings. Jewelry tends to reflect a culture in which they were created but in a way that doesn’t scream “I was made elsewhere by someone who doesn’t know anything about this country”. As such, every time I wear a pair I got on a trip, I’m instantly transported back to where I found them. So for me, unique little non-souvenir earrings have been a perfect memento. Here are four that I found during my travels:
Due to its size, Canada is the land of the road trip. Getting anywhere generally feels like an excursion and there are many small towns scattered all over the place worth visiting for one reason or another. It was to one of these small towns that my mom and I once decided to visit in order to check out an antique fair. There was nothing to this town other than a lovely boardwalk and the fair…hence why I have absolutely no recollection of this town’s name. But I remember the fair and I remember the day spent with my mother as we spent a great afternoon poking around this antique fair a couple hours away from home. It was here where I found one of my favourite earrings. What drew me to them were the colours and the fact that I’d never seen a pair like them before. One of them was missing its hook but the circles themselves were perfectly fine. Sold.
Buying jewelry can be one way to support local traditions and craftsmanship. You may not necessarily wear them often or even at all, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying it if you love it for itself and its art. I once spent three months volunteering in a Guyanese Amerindian village. St. Cuthbert’s Mission, being relatively close to the country’s capital of Georgetown, is constantly in danger of its traditions being eroded by so-called modernism. But thankfully, the women still practice traditional craftsmanship in making all sorts of things out of palm fibres. They normally make things like baskets and containers but they also make earrings. Someone gave me a pair and I loved them so much, I commissioned more to be made! I love their uniqueness, the traditions to which they speak, and their colourfulness.
On my first trip to Turkey, I brought home about four pairs of colourful copper earrings. They didn’t cost much at all and were probably cheap to make…yet they were unique and I thought they were great. I wore them all the time at home. When I went back to Istanbul for a second time, high on my list was to get more of them. However, this time around, they were fairly difficult to find. I got lucky, though, near the end of my stay. Wandering down the steep streets near the Galata Tower, I stumbled across this dark basement shop that was practically exploding with bags, carpets, kilims, jewelry, and other randomness. How anyone was expected to find anything in there was beyond me. But, luckily, my earrings hung in row upon row on the wall. I browsed to my heart’s content and ended up buying ten pairs and even got one pair for free.
I’d just finish walking over 800km across the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in western Spain. It was rainy. I wasn’t really looking to buy anything as a memento as I did pick up all sorts of random things over the past five weeks of walking. But for some reason, I found myself in a silver jewelry store. The proprietor probably saw a slightly wet and slightly raggedy pilgrim and dismissed me as a “browser only”. And at first, I was only browsing. But then I saw these earrings. They were real silver shaped into a stylized shell. As the shell was the symbol of the pilgrimage I had just completed, I fell instantly in love. I didn’t care how much they cost – I had to have them. Because of what they represent, the Camino (one of the best experiences of my life), these earrings are one of my favourite pairs in my collection.
Thank you to Invaluable, a pretty neat looking jewelry auction website, for the inspiration to do this post!