What I Like to Buy when I’m on Vacation

Although Christmas day has already come and gone, our tree is still up, and I love looking at the ornaments on it!.

Trimming our tree every year is always a stroll down memory lane. I buy Christmas ornaments nearly everywhere we travel, near and far. So as we unpack the ornaments from storage every year, it’s nice to reminisce about the travels associated with each ornament. Like these ornaments from our trip to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon in 2012.

Christmas tree sentimental ornaments

I thought I’d share with you what else we buy when we go on vacation. But first, a story.


A Lesson Learned in Buying Local

When I first started traveling extensively in my teenage years, my mom always reminded me of the importance of bringing back small gifts for family. I’d bring back things like magnets or ornaments, and when I’d present one to my grandfather, he promptly look at the back of the gift, exclaim, “BLECH!! Made in China! It’s not even from [Whatever place I had just traveled to!]” And then essentially he’d throw it back at me. He’d end up keeping the gift, but you could tell he was still disappointed. (I should point out that my grandfather really was an incredibly kind man, but he was never quite able to shake off the whole “Made in China” thing.)

I used to be kind of sad at my grandfather’s reaction. So on subsequent travels, when I would be traveling and looking for something to buy him, I would hunt high and low for things that were locally made. I guess this habit kind of stuck, because now that is always what I’m on the lookout for.

And while it is still quite difficult to find a Christmas ornament that is actually locally made (and I still buy them anyway, even if they do say “Made in China” or wherever else), I do try to find other locally-made things that I can buy.

Here are a few of my favorite souvenirs that I like to buy.


Favorite Souvenirs

Tapestries. Ah yes, one of my favorites. It all started in India more than 13 years ago. I was at some small mall-type place, and I walked into a store and found this tapestry that I just absolutely loved. It was WAY out of my price range as a broke college student (I think it was around $35-$45 or so, which sounded like a fortune to pay for a “souvenir.”) But a friend of mine convinced me that it was too beautiful to pass up. It currently hangs on the wall above our bed.

Tapestry from India

Shortly after my trip to India, I was in South Africa. I fell in love with another tapestry that I found at a local craft market in Cape Town. This tapestry is enormous, and I still don’t have a good place for it in the house, but one day, I’ll figure something out!

Hand painted tapestry from South Africa

Anyway, my love of tapestries have followed me throughout my travels, including one like this bedouin tentmaker fabric from Egypt. (You may have seen it hanging on the wall in the pictures on our DIY Console Table post)

Bedouin Tentmaker Fabric from Egypt Tapestry from the tentmaker market in Cairo, Egypt


“Fake” Flowers. This all started with a wooden Tulip my sister bought for me when she went to the Netherlands about 10 years ago. I put it in a skinny vase and always had it out on display, even in my early scummy apartments.

Flower souvenir display

Back in 2009, when I went to New Orleans on a work trip (shortly after my first trip ever to New Orleans), I was walking through the French Quarter and found a small shop that sold art from local artists. I fell in love with a glass flower (the largest flower in the photograph), and I guess I just started my collection from there! A little more than a year later, Ken and I were in Florence (as part of a Mediterranean cruise), and I spied a lovely little orange glass flower at a small artist’s shop. And then last year, when we visited Legoland in Florida, I bought a red Lego flower! My “fake” flower collection is only up to four, and they’re not exactly something I actively seek out when I’m traveling, but if I do happen to see one, it’s hard to resist the purchase!

Flower souvenir display


Christmas Ornaments.  Ah yes, how this whole post started. My mom and dad were avid Christmas ornament collectors. They always picked them up when traveling. When I would travel without my parents, I’d always buy one for them as a gift. But strangely enough, the thought of buying ornaments for myself didn’t occur to me until I was in my late 20’s. I think it had something to do with the fact that I never had room for a Christmas tree! Well, I finally realized that that would not always be the case, and eventually I’d have my own Christmas tree to put up and decorate. So, I started buying Christmas ornaments. And for years, they just sat in a bin, unused. But now for the past few years, we’ve had an actual Christmas tree to put ornaments on, and I love it. I love looking at all our ornaments, like the Coca Cola one from our trip to World of Coca Cola in Atlanta, GA, and a cruise in 2010, a trip to Ontario in 2009, and our camping trip just last year.

Coca cola christmas ornament souvenir Christmas ornaments


Any miscellaneous item for display.  Stuffed camels from Egypt. Nesting dolls from Russia. Butterfly from the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West. Tiny Waterford Crystal clock. What do all these things have in common? They’re things that I have purchased on my travels and now sit on our living room display shelves.

Displaying travel memorabilia at home Waterford Crystal Clock

Although the Waterford Crystal clock was something my grandmother had me buy for her when I went to Ireland in 1999. She then gave it back to me a few years ago because she said her house is “too cluttered.” This coming from one of the most fastidious persons I know!)
If it looks cute or unique, it’s a difficult temptation to resist buying it!

What do you buy when you go on vacation?

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