Travel Souvenirs and Giving Something Back – Pack for a Purpose

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.

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.

Pack for a Purpose
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.

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.

Pont des Arts Paris

Pont des Arts Paris – Author: Disdero – licensed under Wikimedia Commons

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.

Cockington glass blowing
Do you agree with these suggestions of what to leave behind and what not to? Would you ever consider trying out Pack for a Purpose or Book Crossing? If you do, I would love to hear how you get on! 

This post is part of the Travel Link Up brought to you by Emma, Kelly, and Rebecca with guest host Jaime.

  • This is such a great initiative – and a wonderful addition to the travel link up! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    Lauren xx
    The Lifestyle Diaries

    • It’s a clever idea they have there, isn’t it! Wish I’d known about it when I went to Tanzania

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    What a lovely idea and a completely different take on the subject.

    Lots of love,
    SilverSpoon London

    • Thanks Angie, I enjoyed reading yours too – loved the elephant statue you brought back

  • That is crazy about the bridge! I heard they are removing all of the locks and not letting people put them up anymore!
    Melanie @

    • They have their work cut out, I think the locks reappear as fast as they remove them

  • I like the idea of pack for a purpose; instead of giving cash, you can actually decide what exact items you want to give away. Thanks for letting us know that this exists.

    • Like you, I’d much rather give items and know they’re definitely getting to the right people

  • What an inspirational post, Suze! I love the idea of ‘leaving something back’, especially when you travel to countries where even the smallest object may be appreciated. As for bringing back something, you had me at the chocolates! Everything stops when i see CHOCOLATE.

    • I’m exactly the same Anda! And currently working my way through a lot of gelato! Thanks very much for your kind words

  • Wah – I totally forgot about this link up this month :/ I love the idea of leaving something behind though – I always have to make wishes with coins in fountains when I see them – I would be totally broke if I lived in Rome permanently as I would always be throwing my money away!

    • Still time to write your post, Holly! Link-up ends on the 7th. Just add your post to the widget at the bottom of my, Emma, Rebecca, or Kelly’s posts! We’d love to read about your favorite souvenir 🙂

      • Would be great to hear about them Holly if you get time, I’d be particulary interested to hear what you suggest people bring back as souvenirs from Canada – maple syrup obligatory of course!

    • I noticed it’s not just the Trevi fountain, there are quite a few other fountains with coins in them so you would indeed be broke! I’m saving mine for the Trevi fountain though as there’s lots of gelato to spend them on!

      • Mmm – that is one thing about the trevi fountain – you spend all your pennies on gelato before you even get there!

  • I have always wanted to go to that bridge in Paris


    • It’s a very atmospheric bridge, particularly at night – most of the main bridges are beautifully lit. Hope you get the chance to go one day

  • I haven’t heard of Pack For A Purpose before but now that you’ve introduced me to it, I’m really into the idea. I’m off to check it out now, so thanks for that! 🙂

    • So glad to hear that Kate and thanks for the retweet. I actually got a lovely email from the founder, they really appreciate everyone’s efforts

  • Thank you for highlighting some very worthy, sustainable, and humanitarian causes in your post, Suze! Definitely something for me to keep in mind for next time. Also: totally agree on the Neuhaus chocolates and the handblown glass is beautiful! xx

    • Yes bit of a random collection of musings but thought I would do something a bit different! Enjoyed your hosting, great theme!

  • Paola

    A post full of inspiration! Great idea to le ave something back!!!
    I love chocolate!!!
    xo Paola
    My Facebook

    • I’m very glad you liked it Paola, hopefully more and more people will give it a try

  • Love the pack for a purpose concept!! I’d never heard of this before so thanks for highlighting it Suze. As you know, I work in CSR so these initiatives are really appealing to me and this post has actually given me a few ideas 🙂

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

    • That’s fantastic Polly, so exciting to hear that. I’ve administered charitable donations in some companies and checking where the money ended up was essential. so this initiative really gives peace of mind

  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    I like the pack for a purpose idea. I agree with your what to leave behind, books are always welcome

    • I tend to pack lots of books and don’t get round to reading them which only makes me feel guilty. If I give them away, I feel better despite having not finished/started them and my suitcase is a lot lighter!

  • I love the pack for a purpose idea! I also read about the locks in Paris, so crazy that they weigh enough to start crumbling a huge bridge! It is a shame though as I always like the idea of putting a lock on a bridge.

    Ash | Liakada

    • It started as such a romantic idea, didn’t it. Maybe someone should sell ultra-lightweight plastic locks that you are allowed to put on there – that way everyone is happy!

  • This is a great idea, always a good thing to give something back!

    • I’ll definitely be bearing it in mind for my future travels, I was surprised how many destinations are actually listed so there’s quite a lot of opportunities to get involved

  • Andrea Petersen

    Pack for a Purpose is such an awesome idea! I love that there are people out there who create such wonderful initiatives. As for Belgian chocolates… don’t even get me started. My boyfriend and I visited at Easter 2 years ago and I think I must have eaten my height in those delicious slabs of chocolate! ha, Lots of love, Andrea xxx

    Andrea’s Passions

    • I bet you had some amazing chocolates in Sicily too? I loved all the creamy desserts there

      • Andrea Petersen

        Not really actually – had lots of tiramisu, cannoli’s, gelato and Italian handmade biscuits! Although I did have an extravagant and mindblowingly good chocolate bombe dessert at the restaurant we went to on our final evening (post coming soon ;)) xxx

  • Jamie RS

    great post! very interesting! but i’m quite a bit saddened by the news that the authorities will force to remove the love locks at Pont des arts 🙁

    Love Peace and Shimmer

    • It does seem a pity but they’re the equivalent weight of elephants so they don’t have much choice.

  • Pack for a Purpose sounds like a brilliant concept and very similar to one I recently took part in after hearing that my local church was reaching out (it involved packing a backpack with school supplies for young girls). Also, gosh do those chocolates look delicious.. she says whilst eyeing up a bar of chocolate sitting next to her! haha 🙂

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice


    • How nice that you did that Gabrielle – enjoy your chocolate!

  • great post dear,so sad to read that some part of the love locks will be removed

    • Unfortunately they all have to be removed, or the bridge will crumble

  • I really enjoy your posts. They are all so different and with a purpose. Well done for this one :))

    Lu |

  • What a wonderful post! I would love to participate in pack for a purpose- it’s crazy how much we take these little items for granted. i didn’t know the locks were having such a negative effect- that’s so odd!

    Rachel xx

    • I think it was fine with the locks to begin with but there are so many now that it’s having quite a bad effect

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    Such a great idea Suze. This is something we could all get involved in that would make a difference to people and I will definitely make sure that either myself or my parents look this up next time we go to India to see family, as they seem to have projects around Delhi.

    • That’s fantastic Skikha, and hope you have a lovely trip to Delhi

  • Corinne C

    I love the idea of leaving things behind.

    When I lived in France I left so many books behind, but I couldn’t physically take them with me ha.

    Corinne x

    • I didn’t realise that you had lived there too. I got rid of a lot when I moved back, most of my furniture went to a local organisation and the guy who picked it up said he would have most of it so it was nice to see it going directly to him – where did you live?

  • Love your take on this Suze and what a great idea the pack for a purpose is. There is always space in luggage to take something for others!

    • Definitely, or if there isn’t at the start, by the end I’m usually happy to leave something behind

  • Wonderful idea. When we are headed to underdeveloped countries we tend to bring things for the kids, little souvenirs from New Zealand. I like the structure of pack for a purpose and will be checking them out before our next trip. There is always room for things like this, especially when traveling with teens who need a bit of packing space to bring back something new.

    • That’s such a good idea for teens, Rhonda and I hope that yours like the idea

  • Such a lovely idea. Your posts are amazing and you are so kind.


  • Aw. That is one kind and generous gesture.

    Love those travel souvenirs. 🙂

    • Thank you Lux, hope you get some nice travel souvenirs this year. We’ve just come back from Italy and I got a couple of sunglasses as a memento

  • stylentonic Constantinos

    This is so nice! xxx

    • Glad you liked the post Constantinos, thanks for stopping by

  • Oh I love this idea! I do usually leave books behind, as I always appreciate finding a book at a hotel if I’m fresh out of something to read. Postcards are something I love to collect from my travels–easy, light, and you can do a quick journaling on the back of them to remind you of highlights from the trip!

    • We left an umbrella when we left Rome yesterday, we’ve got so many at home and hopefully someone will find it useful

  • A great idea and something I have done now on a few holidays, pens, colouring books, a-z alphabet books and crafts are always well received. I also believe that buying local handmade gifts Hagar better than mass produced nonsense. The love lockets agree with totally not sure that love is killing an iconic bridge that has stood for hundreds of years Lucy x

    • Yes it’s very ironic that love is killing an iconic bridge isn’t it!

  • Packing for a Purpose sounds like a lovely idea! Have to agree that chocolates are the perfect thing to bring back, if only they lasted longer 😉

    • If there’s a chocolate shop where I’m travelling to, I can be relied upon to find it!

  • What a great idea! We once lugged home a VERY heavy and BIG stone bust of Nefertiti we bought in Egypt – it looks fabulous in our living room and every time we look at it, it reminds us of all the remarkable temples and tombs we ogled there. But now we prefer to bring back good pictures on our camera 🙂 Much easier to transport! So to go with that, the idea of packing with a purpose and taking some much-needed supplies to donate to the country visited is brilliant (and you come home with a lighter suitcase – yeah!) We’d heard that taking school supplies is always welcome. We checked Pack For a Purpose’s website and they really help you figure out what’s particularly needed in particular destinations and how to pack them, eg. how to deflate soccer balls for travel. We’re also happy to see that some of the luxury lodges we’ve just written about in our “travel philanthropy” post are member lodgings of Pack For a Purpose, e.g., chiawa Camp in Zambia. Great post…

    • Yes there are lots of places that take part in Pack for a Purpose and I really like their advice on what to bring for each destination too