Flight 001 featured this stowaway bag in a recent e-mail newsletter, and my first reaction was: Neat product.
But my second reaction was: I wonder if carrying a bag like this encourages us to bring back stuff that just becomes clutter?
I realized that while I carry such a bag myself - not this one, but the same basic type - I very rarely use it. I'm still glad to have it, because sometimes I do happen upon something bulky that I just adore. But I've also taken a number of trips where I brought home no souvenirs beyond my photos and my travel diary. So for me the secret is being prepared to have that extra bag sit unused, if nothing special comes my way.
Travelers have different approaches to souvenirs. Some go for foodstuffs, or Christmas ornaments, or refrigerator magnets, or tea towels. Looking at my collection, you can see I've picked up stuffed animals, plates, and artwork - and some special t-shirts. I also love to buy holiday greeting cards from different countries. A book or two often finds its way into my suitcase, too.
Here is Erik Torkells' approach:
When I first started traveling, I was delighted by refrigerator magnets, T-shirts, embroidered patches, and snow globes - all the usual gift-shop kitsch. At some point, however, it struck me as a shortcut, celebrating a destination’s clichés rather than the place itself. So I moved up to items that were unavailable on every other corner and, ideally, handmade. ...Compare this what Chani wrote on the Rick Steves web site: "I have lots of things I could happily have left unbought." That includes "dozens of knicknacks that are hidden in a cupboard because if they are on display, the cat attacks them and they need lots of dusting."
Now, I hunt for what I call “unsouvenirs.” ... They’re different from souvenirs in that they capture the essence of a place not simply because they were purchased there, but because - this is the important part - locals actually use them. ...
I just visited Rome for the first time. ... I bought ... premixed Campari and soda in Art Deco bottles, a package of assorted paper from an art-supply shop, Elmex toothpaste, and a lip balm called HerpeSun. They’ll remind me of Rome every time I use them.
The key is to figure out what items will bring you joy when you get home - rather than making you wonder, "What was I thinking?"
Souvenirs: Select with Caution
Souvenir Advice from Susan Allen Toth