There are the types of tchotchkes you pick up while traveling that wind up dusty and in the back of your closet and then there are the souvenirs you treasure years after you've arrived home. Speaking of the latter, whether it's an impulse buy you accidentally stumbled upon or an item you tirelessly sought out, these mementos trigger fond memories of the unforgettable places you've been, experiences you've had, and people you've met along the journey. Here, our editors share their own most memorable purchase they made while on the road.
“It’s a bit cliché, and very touristy, but I bought a set of nazar bracelets when I went on a trip to Athens with my sister. I love anything that’s superstitious and/or believed to ward off bad omens, especially when I’m traveling. The nazars are such a classic Greek symbol that I get a lot of comments from other people who have been to Greece when I wear them. Plus, the shop where I bought them was amazing — a tiny little storefront filled with nazars, in all colors, shapes, and sizes.” — Jane Reynolds
"The Little Prince" from Saint-Malo
“While some people travel to escape themselves, I seem to become the purest version of myself, which is to say the ultimate bookish nerdling to ever fly coach. In truth, I think my definition of travel is, ‘visiting bookshops around the world.’ Sometimes I buy books to learn a foreign language, sometimes it’s to collect a rare artifact. And that’s why my favorite purchase was buying ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in its original French. This book haunted me as a child with its big emotions captured in language that’s so quintessentially Francais. As a child, I cried big gulping tears reading this book. And as an adult, I cry big gulping tears still. Because as de Saint-Exupéry wrote, ‘All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.'” — Maria Teresa Hart
“My youth was filled with souvenir shot glasses and cheesy magnets, but once I hit adulthood (and had to pay for things myself) I made sure that if I bought a memento it would be something I would actually utilize. So when I was in Seattle during a road trip last summer, I stumbled into an artist’s shop at the famous Pike Place Market. He was selling original paintings of Seattle landscapes and landmarks, which I knew would be perfect for sprucing up the bare walls in my apartment. I ended up buying a beautiful print of Mount Rainier for $20 that now hangs over my bed. It not only serves a decorative purpose, but is a lovely daily reminder of my wonderful trip and to travel as much as possible.” — Lara Grant
“I absolutely adore a hand-painted ceramic bowl I bought in Istanbul. The Turkish are famous for their hand-painted tiles and ceramics, and rightfully so. The bowl has a beautiful, colorful pattern and I always keep it out on my counter to put fruit in, and whenever I see it, it reminds me of my trip! I met so many warm and wonderful people in Turkey, and the tragedies that have rocked the country this year are absolutely heartbreaking.” — Kelsey Blodget
Huaraches from El Salvador
“My last morning in El Salvador, I did a big sweep of the ‘cosas tipicas’ market, which translates, quite depressingly, to ‘typical things.’ But the things that are typical in El Salvador are — to my eye — things that are atypically beautiful and colorful. I stocked up on ceramics and textiles, but my absolute best find were huarache-style sandals with soles made from reused tiles. Knowing that I’d wear them until they’d fall to pieces, I had the foresight to buy three identical pairs. (The total = $12.) Over the course of several years, I loved and wore all three pairs until they were each little more than a pile of scraps. A few summers ago I tried replacing them with a similar pair from Calypso St. Barth, which were great for all of a season or two, until they, too, fell apart. Oh, and the price of the Calypso sandals? $72. On sale.” — Anne Olivia Bauso
“Sometimes the best things aren’t bought, but found. When I was staying in McLeod Ganj, this musician friend of mine asked if I wanted to visit the Karmapa. I had no idea who he was, but she insisted — slightly incorrectly — that he was in the Dalai Lama’s retinue, and when you’re in McLeod Ganj, everything is about the Dalai Lama. The following day we went to his temple, passed through security, and tried to look reverent and sweat-less as we were surrounded by hundreds of the Karmapa’s devoted adherents. When he appeared, everyone queued up to pass in front of him and received a blessing. I’d been expecting to hear some fiery speech about Tibetan independence or something. Our turn came, and my heart leaped in my throat for fear that I was going to transgress some boundary of decorum — but I didn’t. My turn passed, I bowed my head, and was handed a red piece of string. After shuffling outside and into the hot sun, my friend and I stood blinking in an uncomprehending way, unclear what had just happened. I came to find out the red thread is a blessed object, an amulet that grants protection within Tibetan Buddhism. I wore that thread until it disintegrated after my return trip to India three years later — it got me there and back in one piece.” — Kyle Valenta
“There are many things I brought home with me after my two-week trip to Peru — salt from Salinas de Maras, an epic complex of salt flats, a beautifully woven rug that makes my kitchen pop, and even a scar on my knee from that time I slipped and fell in the Barranco neighborhood. But the item that stands out the most is the multi-colored bracelet my best friend (and travel companion) and I impulsively picked up in Cusco. Hand-crafted with naturally dyed yarn and white beads, the friendship bracelet-like accessory, which also goes by the name Watana, wraps around my wrist several times. The young woman we bought it from even told us how she made it herself while tying it on the two of us. It has been nearly a year since our trip, but every time I look down, I am instantly transported to the charming, cobblestone streets in Cusco, the aromatic restaurants that doled out ceviche and pisco sours, and the jaw-dropping views we witnessed after a strenuous hike to Machu Picchu. Best of all? Beyond the beautiful design, the bauble connects me to my best friend who lives across the country every single day.” — Alisha Prakash
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