Home Travel Gathering Mementos: What People Collect From Traveling

Gathering Mementos: What People Collect From Traveling

by SharonKurheg

If you love to travel, chances are you have a little something from most places you’ve visited, just to remind you of your trip. A T-shirt. A piece of jewelry. Rocks. What I lovingly call “paper poop” (tickets, receipts, etc.) Here are some things people collect, and a few examples of what I collect, too. See if any of these sound familiar…

Bus/subway cards – A friend of mine who works for Delta is the one who mentioned these to me. He obviously travels a lot for work, and had kept the bus and subway cards from all the places where he took public transportation. I thought it was genius! My collection is comparatively small (I think I have a Oyster Card from the UK, Metro Card from NYC and a local SunRail card – 1 of which will soon be a dinosaur – NYC is getting rid of Metro Cards) but I’m looking forward to expanding my collection.


Postcards – people will put them in a scrapbook, or hang them in a frame. Joe used to mail a postcard to himself from wherever he was, and when we first became a couple, I got into the act, too. But when we were in Hell, in Grand Cayman, I mailed myself a postcard from the Hell post office and it never got to us. My one bit of proof that I had been to Hell and back, and it was gone. I pretty much lost interest in postcards after that.

Money – I know lots of people who collect coins or even small bills from countries they’ve visited. OK, OK, MAYBE it’s just because they didn’t get a chance to exchange the money for their own currency before they left, but I know sometimes it’s on purpose to add to a bona fide collection ;-).

Spoons – my mother-in-law collected spoons. It didn’t matter if she had gone to the place or not; she was just happy to add to her collection. So Joe and I brought her decorative spoons from wherever we had visited, whenever we could.

Photos – Some people like photography and take pictures of their visits as a form of art, others take them “just because.” Personally, I take pictures of my travels this way (go ahead, click on the link…it’ll make you laugh) – it’s a little unusual, but it works for me and I’ve amassed quite the collection ;-).

Socks – Please tell me I’m not the only one??? (and don’t think this any easy feat [pun intended]). Remember that I’m pint sized and have the size foot of a 6y/o. It’s not always easy to find cool socks in “Toddler” size ;-).
Souvenir book about the city or site
– I used to collect these from wherever I went – the books are usually thin and light, with great photographs and stories. It took a good 30 years or so to finally own up to the fact that I’d buy them and never, ever read the damn things. 😉 Do you?

Stuffed animals – A friend of mine from when I was in my 20s used to collect teddy bears and, as it turned out, so did my mother-in-law. So just as we bought her spoons, we also bought her teddy bears with the name of where we were. She’s been gone for several years now, but I still can’t step foot into a Hard Rock Cafe anywhere in the world, see the teddy bears and think of her :-).

Pins – I am woman enough to admit that I had a BAD pin collecting problem for a LONG time and I totally blame Disney for it, with all the pins they sell there. There was a time when I would buy, not one, but every single pin I saw from every place we visited. I wound up with a lot of pins. And I mean A LOT. Literally thousands. Thankfully, I was able to go cold turkey in the very early 2000s, but not before I had amassed a collection of WAY TOO MANY pins (many of which I now sell on eBay). Oops.

Coffee mugs – I was a sucker for international coffee mugs for a long time. Especially the old Starbucks “Icon Global City” collection series ones. Sometimes starting your first coffee of the day with a mug that has a picture of Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher or Mozart’s house in Salzburg just makes the day start off a little better.

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I was so disappointed when the handle of my Sydney mug broke off. They don’t make this one anymore and they go for way too much on eBay 🙁

Coasters – those cardboard flats that go under your drink at a bar or restaurant are a great, free reminder of where you’ve been.

Handmade crafts – What better way to remember the culture of places you’ve visited than handmade crafts from those places? Especially if the craft item is significant to the country! One of my favorite handmade craft we have is a 1950s style car, made of wood, that we got in an artisan’s store at a rest stop while on the road between Havana and Trinidad, in Cuba.

Stones, shells & sea glass – I’m guilty of collecting rocks and shells here and there. And I’ll also grab a piece of sea glass (a piece of a broken bottle that has been “softened” by swirling around in the ocean) if I see it. I always found it interesting how different parts of the world will have some shells that are almost exactly the same, and others that are totally different. Lest anyone be worried, I’m always VERY careful to not take things from places that say not to. So I have no volcanic rocks from Hawaii, so Pele won’t be mad at me (I learned my lesson early on, when I saw what happened to Peter Brady when he took that Tiki Idol).

Phone cards (SIM cards) – Another “free” souvenir (well, once you’ve used up the minutes or data, LOLOL!). I used to scrapbook my phone cards (back when phone calls to the U.S. were like like 50 cents a minute) when I used them. I think those have been taken over by SIM cards now.

Refrigerator magnet – Once again, I’m guilty. The entire front and side of our refrigerator is FILLED with magnets of where we’ve been (OK, those and the Broadway shows we’ve seen). Cleaning the outside of the fridge is a royal pain 😉 (and yes, we WILL get rid of our mid-1980s era cabinets [they came with the house when we bought it] one of these days. Travel’s more important, though).

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Restaurant menus – If you’ve had a particularly memorable meal somewhere, it’s usually pretty easy to get a menu from a restaurant – offer to pay for it, or sometimes they have paper versions that they’ll give away. I used to collect menus…and I may or may not have have an elusive (and frickin’ HUGE) Hard Rock Cafe menu somewhere that I stuffed into my oversized bag, undoubtedly after imbibing too much…

Charms for a charm bracelet – They’re easy enough to get and a nice, small reminder of your travels.

Christmas tree ornaments – I am definitely a Christmas ornament kind of girl, to the point where we eventually got a new tree just for the “travel” ornaments…and after the first year, we had already run out of room so we had to get a 7.5′ tree to replace the 6′ tree. Some places don’t readily sell Christmas ornaments (Japan and Cuba were good examples), so I’ve been known to buy a key chain and use it as an ornament if need be.

Shot glasses – Another small, easy to carry memento. I remember the girl who used to cut my hair collected shot glasses and when we went to the UK one time, she asked me to bring her a shot glass to add to her collection.

OK, now it’s your turn to fess up….what do YOU collect from your travels? Something listed or something completely different?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



Paige February 7, 2018 - 10:19 am

I’m a knitter and always on the lookout for yarn shops. I try to buy locally produce sock yarn and knit a scarf (same scarf over & over) so I can wear the memory. My current favorite is yarn purchased in London but dyed in Ireland. I also collect Christmas ornaments

SharonKurheg February 7, 2018 - 10:21 am

Hi Paige! I’m def with you on the Christmas ornaments, LOL! And oh wow, I love the yard idea! So….how many scarves do you have? 😉

David March 17, 2019 - 3:53 am

Cloth patches for me, some cities and countries don’t have them though, drives the wife crazy as i futilely keep looking for them.

SharonKurheg March 17, 2019 - 5:46 am

That’s like when I was looking for Christmas decorations in Cuba. They just don’t have them. So I got keychains and use them as ornaments 😉

Ilona March 17, 2019 - 8:25 am

I am in awe of your magnet collection. It is so much bigger than mine. Then again, I only buy one magnet per trip or per country. I also don’t have a fridge on which I can put them (mine isn’t metal) so I had to get more creative and find a place to stick them.

I also collect sand from places where I’ve been and put it into small glass bottles. I love having a collection of those sands of different colours.

I think, by the way, that using key chains as Christmas tree ornaments is a brilliant idea. My boyfriend has a huge collection of keychains and that would be a great way to display them.

SharonKurheg March 17, 2019 - 8:28 am

Thanks so much! The magnet collection started over 25 years ago, so it’s several years in the making. The top half of the front of the fridge is actually magnets from Broadway shows we’ve been to 😉

I will insist that we always have a fridge that magnets can go on…where else would I put them??? LOLOL!


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