I recently returned from a 10-day trip (Arizona & California) with my family of three. Well, four, if you count the pint-sized person brewing in my belly. Prior to this trip, it had been almost 8 years since I’d had a real ‘vacation’. Travel was something we cut from our budget when we got serious about being debt-free, and while we’re not out of debt yet, we made an exception due to the “extenuating circumstance” growing inside me. When you go long enough without a vacation, you almost forget what you’re missing… And at the same time, you also forget what you’re NOT missing: Souvenirs.
Maybe that last sentence didn’t completely make sense, but this idea of a ‘souvenir-free vacation’ has been floating around in my head ever since I realized that we hadn’t really bought anything while on our trip. In fact, we didn’t stepped foot into an actual souvenir shop (or any boutique for that matter) until 7pm on our last day in San Diego, when we purchased a postcard while walking to our car.
How could this be? ME? The gal who used to dumpster dive weekly for hidden treasures, or who couldn’t resist stopping at even the most picked-through garage sales… How did I become a person who doesn’t bring back souvenirs? Perhaps this journey toward minimalism really has changed me.
Yet, when we stepped into the colorful shop to purchase our postcard, I found myself unable to look away from the mountains of stuff available for purchase. T-shirts, hats, shorts, ornaments, key chains, shot glasses, stickers, picture frames, and whatever else you can print ‘San Diego’ on. My brain said ‘no’ but my eyes said ‘yes’. I didn’t need, nor want any of this rubbish, yet somewhere deep down, my past self was clawing her way out of me, whispering in my ear:
“Who could I buy this for?”
“I wonder if this would fit me”
“My daughter would love this”
“You can never have too many sunglasses…”
Yes, these were actual thoughts going through my brain. And while I did finally manage to exit the store with only the postcard, I couldn’t stop reflecting on all the money my past self wasted on meaningless souvenirs — shells of a memory of an otherwise amazing trip.
Now I’m not saying you’re bad or wrong if you buy souvenirs, in fact, aside from postcards, I did purchase a couple things from street vendors along our travels: A necklace in Arizona and a sundress for myself (and one for my daughter) in San Diego.
You could argue those are souvenirs –and perhaps they are– but here’s the kicker: I didn’t purchase them as souvenirs, I purchased them because I loved them, and I would have purchased them from my hometown if it were an option.
So what DID I come back with, if not souvenirs? A handful of incredible memories and a phone full of photographs of time well spent with my family – Another thing I forgot I was missing from my nearly 8-year traveling hiatus.