Do I Buy Tchotchkes For Others On Summer Vacation?

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Dear Miriam, 

I love to buy souvenirs for people when I travel. But my friends are all transient 20-somethings who don’t want a bunch of tchotchkes from destinations they’ve never been to, my parents have downsized, and I don’t particularly have space for these things either. How can I scratch that shopping itch during my summer vacation and show appreciation to my loved ones at home without burdening everyone with a bunch of stuff they don’t want? 


Souvenir summer 


Dear Souvenir, 

Browsing stores, whether on vacation or not, can be its own pleasurable activity. There’s no reason to deny yourself that experience just because you don’t want it to end with a bunch of unnecessary purchases. You can have a legitimately enjoyable time eying the variety of shot glasses, tee shirts, and decorative wall hangings that depict your environs, and you can show people back home you’re thinking of them without creating clutter. 

If your friend, for example, loves cats, take a picture of a stray cat hiding in a historic location or a tee shirt showing a cat with the name of your vacation site. You can either text that picture to your friend on the spot or use one of those apps that turns a photograph into a postcard and send it away. Take a selfie for your parents so they know you’re alive and turn that into a postcard as well. Regular old postcards are great, too, and then you can add “unfamiliar post office” to your vacation activities. 

You can also opt for buying consumable products like candy, soda, or crackers that you can’t get at home. If you’re somewhere that uses a different language, even buying familiar products with multilingual packaging can be a fun novelty. Consider buying other local products like wine or baked goods (as long as they’ll travel well) and then serve them to your friends at a get-together upon your return. (But please don’t bore them with a ton of pictures unless they ask!)

Recognizing that neither you nor your family and friends need a lot of stuff is better for the environment, makes it easier to pack, and is generally good for decluttering morale. But you don’t need to be extreme about it. A souvenir that you pick out for yourself because it’s something you want can serve an important purpose in helping you remember a happy moment. A shirt doesn’t need to have the name of the place emblazoned on it to still be an objectively good souvenir. And if a collection of themed spoon rests really speaks to you, just go for it and revel in the joy it brings you. 

Safe travels, and be well,