When I found out that this month’s Travel Linkup theme was souvenirs, I was initially stumped as to what to write about. I don’t always manage to bring something back from my trips. In some destinations, there’s not enough time and occasionally I’ve been in such a remote location that there was nothing to bring back. Then it struck me – bringing back travel souvenirs is great fun, but what if we could give back whilst travelling, and really pack for a purpose? Wouldn’t the act of giving be the best travel souvenir of all?
One of my most memorable trips was to Senegal, where I and a group of friends saw in the year 2000. Partying there involved a dance-off where we all took our turn around the camp fire, much to the hilarity of the villagers. A baby was born that night and they named him after our friend who had organised the trip, as he travelled there regularly. He’d advised us to bring as many useful items as we could in our bags – pens, head torches and so on. It was incredibly worthwhile seeing these going directly to the locals who made immediate use of them.
PACK FOR A PURPOSE
I recently found out that there’s a similar organisation called Pack For A Purpose. I have no affiliation with them, I just think it’s a brilliant idea and one that can really make a difference to so many childrens’ lives. Let’s face it, charitable giving is rewarding but much more so when you can see exactly who is benefiting from it. You start by selecting your destination country, then your lodging and choose from the list of items that are needed – whether art supplies, Lego, frisbees, or flash reading cards. Even if your lodging isn’t listed, you can still participate. In some cases you’ll be able to visit the actual school where your items have been gratefully received. I should also add that if you’re a hotel owner or manager, you can also get involved by adding your lodging to the site.
WHAT ELSE TO LEAVE BEHIND
Books that you’ve finished reading, so that other guests can enjoy them, if there’s a hotel library. Whilst we are on the subject of cool schemes, Book Crossing is dubbed a modern day message in a bottle. You leave a book with a trackable label for someone else to find and then follow where it goes next. To quote Henry Miller: A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.
Polaroid photos for the locals – as long as you get their permission to take them first!
Coins in a fountain. This last one may not be as worthy but hopefully it’s not doing any harm and it will enrich the enterprising locals who fish out the coins. I’m heading to Rome soon so will definitely be keeping this tradition alive.
WHAT NOT TO LEAVE BEHIND
Love locks on bridges, especially in Paris. Parts of the famous Pont des Arts have started crumbling under the weight of the estimated 700,00 locks and authorities have been forced to remove them.
Donating second-hand clothes may potentially hamper the development of the clothing industry in Africa, as those items will generally be resold abroad rather than given directly to recipients, making it hard for local manufacturers to compete.
MY TRAVEL SOUVENIRS
When I can, I love to bring back travel souvenirs, in fact I’d happily single-handedly support local economies with my purchasing if I could! When travelling to Belgium, I always bring back Neuhaus chocolates, they invented the praliné and supply the Royal Court. I was delighted when they recently sent me a selection of their goodies and one of their luxury Magritte tins. Luckily for me, they’re also now readily available in Europe and have a few stores in the UK.
When I recently visited Devon, I couldn’t resist bringing back a hand-blown paperweight to remind me of my time there with my Aunt and Grandmother.