Once the minimalist travel bug bites you, there’s no going back to a life of excesses. Less is more becomes a natural thing and the merits of living simple far outweigh a hoarding lifestyle that often ties you down to a place, just to be able to protect possessions.
So how do you then balance a nomadic life with a little bit of material memoirs, just enough to bring us joy and yet allow us to move without movers-and-packers?
Here are my tips, hacks and ideas for travel souvenir shopping that are minimal, fun and meaningful at the same time!
1. Notes, Coins & Stamps
This one is a no-brainer if you’re traveling to an international destination. Besides nostalgia value, this collection can also have a numismatic value like the Bhutanese Ngultrum coin, which is no longer minted and has become a collectors’ favorite! I realized this only after i gave away all my coins to friends. Today, the rarity of this coin has escalated its value 100x.
Stamps: Look for custom, unique and limited edition ones, for philatelic value as well as aesthetic value.
In the age of Insta-everything, postcards remain one of the most endearing, impactful and fun ways to share the joy of travel with loved ones. I make it a point to write a postcard to my parents and grandma from every new location i visit. Besides bringing them joy, it becomes a unique collection that i can access any time and revisit memories!
Savvy making pen friends in the digital age? Check out one of my favorite communities, PostCrossingwhere you can send a postcard to a random person that the site selects for you. For each postcard you send, you also receive one from a random person anywhere on the planet 🙂
3. Beer Bottle Labels
If you’re like me or HIMYM’s Ted Mosby, you’d have perfected the art of peeling off beer bottle labels by now. For every unique beer i have, i keep the label as a memento. Try this and you’ll have a terrific collection in no time, especially on that Eurotrip, with hundreds of beer brands around!
My good friends Priya and Q did exactly this upon my suggestion, and they have two wall length frames of all their beer bottle labels, making it the ultimate conversation starter when they have guests over!
4. SIM & Metro Cards / Starbucks Cards
Visiting a new city that has a metro? a Starbucks? Keep those cards and treasure them, without bulking up your drawers! Visiting a new country and getting a local SIM (definitely a sensible idea)? Keep that for memories! This also applies to ticket stubs, even movie, railway or bus tickets – they may not mean a lot during your travels besides functional value, but just looking at an old one you kept will bring back vivid memories!
5. Playing Cards
This one’s a personal favorite. I love collecting unique playing cards from the cities / countries i visit, and they make the perfect memento because of aesthetic as well as utilitarian value – you can play with them, glance through photos of the places you visited and sometimes even learn a thing or two (like the ones i picked up in Norway, which teach me one new Norwegian word or phrase on every card!)
6. Keychains, Bookmarks, Magnets & Decals
Perhaps the most obvious travel mementos and souvenirs, these make for great keeps as well as great gifts without weighing you down too much!
7. Maps & Guides
My love for travel started ever since i looked at a world map, so i’ve always had massive love for maps – physical as well as digital! Maps tell you so much about a place, from topography to how cities and towns are structured to serendipitous discoveries in nature. So different kinds of maps are often the kind of souvenirs i land up getting back home. Give it a shot and blame me for the addiction later.
Finally, there’s nothing like a memento that is also usable or wearable. Caps and tees are my usual candidates, but you could also look for accessories like wallets, bags or home decor. Mugs, pens and notepads make for great usable souvenirs too!
These were just my personal favorites. What about yours?
What minimalist souvenir do you cherish the most? I’d love to read your ideas, so do drop them in the comment below, and happy travels 🙂
Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.