Travel Souvenirs of the World

Leonard Lea Frazer
Travel Souvenirs of the World
My earliest memory of a “Travel Souvenir” was at age ten. A pair of wooden shoes from Holland was mailed to me from my father who was teaching in Europe at the time. The wooden clogs actually fit me and I wore them at home until I grew out of them. My brother received a black plastic wallet from Spain, with a painting of a bullfighter on it.
A few years later my Mom picked up a little, spring-loaded “Hula Dancer” while in Hawaii. You know, the kind that attaches to the front dashboard of your car and appears to be doing the hula when the vehicle moves. These were all travel souvenirs.
Ever since man began to travel and explore the world he has brought home items that were purchased, traded for, or gifts from the host country. No doubt, this is how “World Trade” began.
Today, travellers bring back small curios for their personal collections and gifts for family members. They display their mementos at home and are reminded of the journey to Peru, a cruise in the Caribbean, or a cross-country road trip. They see their travel souvenirs at home and can revisit the holiday they took so long ago.
With my first two years of travelling by boat and overland by train and hitchhiking, I began my own quest for souvenirs. While working and travelling the world on two Norwegian ships I started collecting woodcarvings from Mozambique. Because I was able to trade old clothing for these African treasures I spent my money on practical things. I bought a guitar in both Spain and Japan. Of course, electronics have for many years been one of the main export items from Japan. Both I, and my fellow shipmates took advantage of all the Japanese audio-visual equipment available. This became our souvenir of Japan. The accumulation of nick-knacks in my cabin onboard continued to grow.
My travel souvenir collections included postage stamps, coins, paper money, beer bottles, and post cards, all from different countries. Included in my cache of goodies were a few unusual items such as an African oil painting on a stretcher frame (the canvas used was an old flour sack), several two-foot long bean pods that, when dried, were like wood, and when they were shaken, sounded like a percussion instrument, an African thumb piano, a conga drum made from tanned cow hide and twisted strips of cowhide (with the fur still on), tiny tea spoons (for my mother’s collection) and cassette tapes of World Music. My photographs from these early travels are some of my most cherished souvenirs.
When I started working as a Travel Writer/Photographer years later, my travels brought me things like wine glasses from a glass blowing factory in Sweden and a coffee mug from a Swedish Railway Museum. In Wales I found a hand-carved wooden “courting spoon” and in the Fiji Islands a room-size piece of colourful native tapa cloth.
In countries where foreign visitors are “big business” production-line travel souvenirs appear. Little key-chain Eiffel Towers or English tea towels are included. Any country where there is tourism, there is souvenirs for sale and eager travelers who are willing customers. Unfortunately many items sold as “travel souvenirs” are manufactured from animals often threatened with extinction. Obvious examples include turtle shells, ivory (big and small) large seashells and reptile skin products. Statistics show the seriousness of these sales: Between 1998 and 2007, at least 176 tons of illegal ivory were seized internationally, representing the death of close to 26,675 elephants. Wildlife and plant-based items continue to be confiscated from owners at international airports. Many travellers are fined for items that they illegally import. We can avoid embarrassment and disruptions in our vacation by opting for souvenirs that don’t endanger the survival of plant and animal species.
Woven baskets, gemstones, pottery and batik paintings are excellent alternatives to restricted purchases. So, when we travel and buy items in foreign countries, we can prevent unnecessary extinction of plants and animals by being mindful of our choice of travel souvenirs.
Speaking of souvenirs… here’s the first verse and chorus of the song “Souvenirs” by John Prine and Steve Goodman.

“All the snow has turned to water
Christmas days have come and gone
Broken toys and faded colors
Are all that’s left to linger on
I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs

Memories they can’t be boughten
They can’t be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me”
Travel Souvenirs of the World