As we Americans say, “Tis the season!” For many cultures, this is the time of the year for giving, but for travelers, the season of giving is year-round. When I went home to my family in July after spending six months in Europe, my suitcase was filled mostly with gifts for family and friends. That’s right, the bulk of my suitcase wasn’t even mine! Souvenirs, as I lovingly call “souvies,” are kinda my thing. As a lifelong traveler, I’m always scoping out the best gifts, big and small, to bring to my dearest friends and family.
As a giver and receiver of Souvenirs, I’ve accumulated a guide for buying meaningful gifts for loved ones. You should always skip the cliché gifts, such as keychains and t-shirts, unless the person you’re buying for loves cliché gifts! Then by all means, indulge them.
For The Fashionistas
Scarves have never gone out of style, and I don’t think they ever will. In fact, I still wear my great-grandmother’s scarves that are nearing 40 years old! With that said, scarves are popular in almost every culture. Light scarves can be found in hot climates for protection from the sun. Thick scarves can be found in cooler climates as protection from the cold. Thankfully they’re usually both fashionable and affordable. I have seen scarves being sold from street vendors and at festivals and flea markets at every destination I’ve visited, no matter the time of year. Treat the fashionista in your life to one of these! You can never have enough scarves, in my humble opinion! 😉
Fabric and Textiles
Along the lines of scarves, each culture has a fabric or textile they value. Lace, cashmere, silk, and pashmina are some examples. These products don’t have to be big or expensive either! Again, don’t discount street vendors when looking for these special gifts.
For The Readers
Books in the location’s native language:
One of my friends collects Harry Potter books in different languages. I took a leaf from her book and purchased the first book in Hungarian when I visited Budapest. Bookstores are the same in every country, and the book lover in your life is sure to appreciate whatever book you decide to purchase.
These can be beautiful gifts. They are small, inexpensive, and easy to travel with. I bought my grandma a beautiful Arabic-style bookmark in Granada, Spain. It’s a nice, small gesture to show you think about the person on your travels.
For The Artists And Art Lovers
These are even better if they were done by local artists.
Home For The Holidays
These are perfect gifts, year-round. When I studied abroad in the summer of 2012, I bought a Christmas ornament in every country I visited and distributed them to all my family members. Now their trees are filled with love from Sweden, Belgium, and Germany.
For The Green Thumbs
Bulbs, Plants, and Seeds
These are perfect for environmentalists and plant enthusiasts, especially if the plant is rare in your home country. When I visited Amsterdam, I brought my mother blue tulip bulbs to plant. Be prepared to declare these products in customs at the airport!
Gifts from the season of the country
I mentioned Hungary previously. I had the pleasure of visiting during their Easter celebration. I bought several beautifully hand-painted wooden Hungarian Easter eggs for many of my family and friends. Bringing home seasonal gifts is an easy way to share another culture with your loved ones who are yet to visit.
Products that are only made in that region, – like herbs, spices, sauces, soaps, creams, oils, and wine.
I would love to know what you do bring home as souvenirs for your loved ones. Please do share with me in the comments below.