A meaningful souvenir can be just that – an object picked along your travels that means something to you, or resonates with a certain feeling or place.
I’m not big on typical souvenirs or anything that is mass produced but I do find ethically and sustainably sourced and crafted gifts to be rather a meaningful reminder of where my travels have taken me. Some of the questions I ask when shopping are – is it made locally, is it made with locally sourced sustainable materials, is it made ethically and will I use it back home.
If an item doesn’t make the cut, then I most often skip the purchase. I like knowing I’m not just supporting the economy, but also a local entrepreneur or business, the livelihood of the people who created and crafted such products. I may also inadvertently be supporting a craft that has been in existence for some centuries.
Do your research
Don’t just waltz into a souvenir shop and expect everything on the shelves to tick your personal checklist. Jump online and look up some of the sustainable materials in the country, and how it is converted into an object or product. Dig information on what the common or well known crafts and trades are so that you can expand on those elements to find something that could mean something to you.
Ask a local
When an online search fails, best ask a local. Or two. Or even three. Get your information and facts right. There might be some who wouldn’t have even thought of the idea of sustainable souvenirs so it could pose a challenge of sorts. Don’t let it discourage you however. Just keep asking questions, and it will get you to the right places.
Go straight to the source
Like I said, walking into a souvenir shop could mean mass produced products that are most likely not ethically made either. It’s wise to go straight to the source if possible. This is where the previous tip could also come in handy. Someone will know someone who will be able to guide you in the right direction.
Be prepared to pay a little extra
Unlike an item that is mass produced, an ethically sourced and sustainably crafted souvenir could possibly be one of a kind, and therefore cost you a little more than you’d expect. Be prepared for the extra price tag; keeping in mind that you are supporting a craft, an artisan, a community.
Take your time
It takes some patience to find the right meaningful souvenir so yes, take your time. There’s no rushing in finding what you need, unless of course you’re short on time itself during your travels. When browsing, keep an eye out for quirky patterns, textures, shapes and hues – this is more than often what will draw your attention and also be adopted as something unique to you.