The Best Souvenirs! (imo)
My new favorite hat. I picked up this hat on my visit to Colorado two months ago and it has become my most favored hat to wear. Why? It takes me back to Colorado…the expansive sky, the sunshine mixed with crisp cold air, the people I met, the dogs I met! Fort Collins is one dog-friendly town, folks!
I have discovered that, for me, the best souvenirs are things I can wear. A few years ago I would have never thought of clothing in this way but when my little brother died, that suddenly changed. His death was an unexpected shock and I wanted (okay, needed) a way to have him close to me. During the aftermath of his death, I asked if I might simply have some of his clothing. I did not fully understand at the time the depth of comfort these things would bring me, all I knew then was I wanted a few of his favorite things that he loved…his leather jackets, a shirt, a sweater, and his camo pants. For the first several weeks, I remember wearing his shirt to bed every night. I could smell him and his cologne on the collar and it made me feel close to him, like maybe he wasn’t really that far away.
The things we wear are deeply personal and powerful. They can comfort us, excite us, bring us joy. The comfort can be something as deep as what I experienced or as simple as coming home from work and trading your office clothes for baggy sweats or your favorite jeans. Knowing this, I make it a point whenever I travel to look for something special that I can wear when I return home for I know it will bring back joyful memories whenever I slip it on. And, special doesn’t have to mean expensive. It is simply about what draws me and speaks to me.
I have a sweet little collection now that will grow over time as I travel more. I have what I call my “New York Dress”, a beautiful black lace dinner dress that is so classic it will never go out of style. On a later trip to New York, I acquired my “New York coat”, a black wool knee-length number. The decision of what to buy as a souvenir on that trip was made for me when the temperature unexpectedly dropped to 9 degrees with a 20-below windchill factor. I only had a “Seattle coat” with me, which translates to winter temperatures in the upper 30’s and 40’s. On that trip, I also ended up with some “New York long underwear”! Unplanned, but necessary! In Victoria, BC, I decided I wanted to go off-pavement for some photos so I picked up some warm winter hiking boots, which I am enjoying wearing again this winter. In Paris, it was a white and navy blue leather jacket and, of course, a Paris dress. Every girl needs a Paris dress. In Italy, it was a beautiful sweater that caught my eye. That sweater still takes me right back to the morning I met a woman at a cafe near the Arno River where I ate breakfast each morning (the outdoor cafe pictured here). I learned that she owned a clothing store around the corner from the cafe. Her English was excellent so we had a long and wonderful conversation.
The next day I went to her boutique store and picked out a steel blue, open weave, sweater, Made in Italy, of course. :) Also, while at the store, I had the privilege of meeting her daughter who helps her with the business. See what I mean? It’s so awesome!! All those joyous things come up from that sweater. And, now, most recently, my orange hat from Colorado. Even a quick glance at one of these things in my closet makes joy well up in my heart.
There is something so personal about putting something on your body, next to your skin. There is a physical connection that, for me, is so much more rewarding than any item I could buy and put on a shelf. Of course, things on a shelf can take people back to the experience also, but in a different way. If you’re wearing it, you are glowing all day long from the freshness of that memory!
Oh, and for those of you wondering how you would fit anything into an already-full suitcase (trust me, I know how this is…my suitcase is always full of camera gear and very little clothing), you can simply ship stuff to your home address! It works great within the states and is inexpensive. I once shipped a pair of my own boots to my house because they started giving me blisters from so much walking in NYC. If you’re traveling internationally, it may cost you far more to ship it than you paid for it, so an option in this case is to wear your souvenirs as layers on the plane ride home. That works, too (if you don’t buy too much). If you don’t want to deal with layers or ship anything, then remember…just one little orange hat can bring you great joy and keep those wonderful memories alive and well in your heart and mind.