One day, when we finish traveling the world, I want to have a home filled with memories of our globetrotting. Little knick-knacks that join together to form the story of our life-journey.
This past week we stayed in iDesign Hotel in San Marino, one of the smallest countries in the world. When talking with the owner, he shared with me his passion for travel, and with pride, he walked me around his hotel showing me many of the gifts he had been given, and treasures he had collected from many corners of the globe. He had so many incredible treasures, and he displayed them just beautifully.
So here are my tips on collecting when you travel.
We have several different themes with things we collect. At one point it was Licence Number Plates, and we would stop at car wreckers in many countries and try to buy old plates. Sometimes they saw me, and tried to charge me a fortune (i.e.: $50 a plate) and other times they would dig a box out of the back shelf and tell me they were fifty cents or a dollar a piece.
We’ve collected a flag from all (except two) countries of the nearly seventy countries we have visited. One day we will string them up in order in the relaxation room – or somewhere!
We also try to collect a unique keyring or object we can turn into a Christmas Tree decoration – something that is a special memory from that country.
Some items I have collected have been more for the memory. A floor rug made by an old man’s Grandmother in remote Serbia, or a table runner from a dear old lady that helped me walk through the mountains and rice fields of Sapa, Vietnam.
One that is really special to me is a wall hanging that I bought in Morocco on tour. These were quite remote and I’d suggest someone like Encounters Travel for North African Morocco and Egypt tours – we loved our tour we did with them, and our tour guide is still our friend. He helped us to go to reputable sellers with authentic wares. Knowing who you can trust when spending your hard earned money is important, and we often rely on a reputable travel company when we go on tour.
Clusters and Collections
Explorason started a cushion collection. Sometimes we couldn’t find a cushion, so we would buy a bag I will have to sew and adapt, or a table mat, but these will form his ‘Cushion Corner’ when we get our home.
National Icons, Symbols etc
Another is statues, dolls, carvings etc. Some countries have strong icons and symbols you may wish to buy like in Egypt. Whether it be a Cuban wood musician, or a set of Russian Dolls, often as an eclectic set all mixed together, these can look great. I know a friend in Adelaide who had a wood carved doll or statue from Japan, Tahiti, and many other places, and they looked so good all together.
Not all souvenirs are trashy. My son started collecting weapons when we first went to Fiji. In Africa we managed to get a spear from a local farmer – I bought it in exchange for paying his daughter’s school fees – to him it was a dust collector, but to her family it was a ticket to a better education, and to me it is a very special as I remember helping the family over several weeks in a remote area of Uganda. The collection of wooden weapons he now owns, holds quite a lot of value.
Colour and Texture
An important part to collecting is to keep the colours blended. We have collected a lot of brightly stitched cloth, but on a black background. Colour will play an important part in our home.
We have shipped many boxes back to Australia that are all now in storage. It is important to find the cost of shipping out prior to a big spending spree. We travelled with a lady who ended up paying hundreds of dollars to ship things back from the country she was in. Most times SeaMail is the least expensive. For me, the most expensive part was posting from Scotland and it took the longest.
We’ve never lost a parcel yet, but we have had three that went astray for quite a while. Africa can be a slow place to send from.
Posting Can Be Tough
In some countries, the language barrier alone can make it tough to organise your post. Here is one challenge you might like to read about posting parcels that we encountered in Bolivia.
At The Post Office – Insurance, Tracking
Make sure you purchase insurance and that the paperwork has a barcode number.
I take a photo of the box / carton on all sides.
If you have to wrap in brown paper (some countries insist on that) then write on the box too, in case the paper is ripped off.
In developing countries, it is often good to give the postal assistant a tip and he will give you his cell number in case anything goes wrong. Write that and his name down.
See the box labelled, stamped and documents are all secured BEFORE you leave the post office. In a poor country they can sell your stamps, so make sure to see they are stuck on well, and I often put tape over one edge which they do not like but it secures them to the box.
And lastly, take a photo of the paperwork and send the photo to the person who is receiving your parcel. Zoom in on the Tracking Number.
Treasure Your Memories
When you finally unpack your memories and decorate your home, sit back and think of those wonderful places you visited all around the world. Your home will be filled with the memories, and you will be glad you went to that effort.