OK confession time. What are some of your worst travel buys? What unimaginable horrors have you inflicted onfriends and family?
I posed those questions at a BBQ recently, along with, what have you have bought, traded or stolen to bring home? What embarrassing items have you got hidden under your bed, too ashamed to let them see the light of day – so bad or weird that even your best friend doesn’t know that your taste had dropped so low.
No-one confessed to a Jesus with a pulsing heart or pyramid pencil-sharpeners that I have seen available, but we did hear of two bottles of Mongolian vodka that was polystyrene-spray-packed to arrive home safely, the postage costing more than the product. The same confessor also admitted to buying a 1.5 x 1 metre, wooden-backed painting in Thailand causing more ‘how do I get this home’ problems to be solved.
One person, the host, admitted her taste was so low that one of her favourite souvenirs (now gone to the great souvenir heaven in the sky) was bought for her family by an uncle. It was a plastic donkey complete with panniers that, when the lids were lifted, became ashtrays. But wait, there is more. Into these panniers go the lit cigarettes, push the poor creatures’ ears up down or forward – I forget which- and the smoke was directed out its rear end. We all agreed she had no taste.
The next worst souvenir story, also in the nicotine addiction field, was about one that was not bought (he gets the best-taste prize). Imagine if you will; a merlion, Singapore’s half lion-half mermaid symbol, as a cigarette lighter and that plays the theme from Titanic when used! Ghastly.
A bow and arrow set was difficult to manoeuvre in and out of buses, plastic mirror and comb sets that are never used and the usual pencil sharpeners, plastic sphinx and Sydney’s bridge and the must-have-place-name-dropping T-shirts have all been admitted to.
My confessions are few as I rarely buy souvenirs – many are too difficult to carry in a backpack and I prefer to save the dosh for another day of travel – although I do try to buy something small to use as a Christmas decoration. These tiny reminders of various countries allow me to display my tiny blue china clogs, a wooden San Francisco tram, a Buddha in a glass cage, and a verse from the Quran: at least once a year. A unique tree I think – a mish-mash to others!
Why do we buy them? Reminders of a place and time that is special to us or snobbery and wanting to produce envy in others.
‘Oh have you been to Alaska?’ You are asked as you wear the thick sweater emblazoned with A L A S K A in the middle of a kiwi summer. ‘Oh yes I have’ we mutter, ‘how did you guess’ really pleased to be able to tell someone else about our travels. Alternatively we give the same item to a friend, mother, or child. Have you been to Alaska they too are asked. No I haven’t they mutter, but my mother, my friend, my son has. Envy once removed!
OK, I so I am not as perfect as I made out. I too do have confessions to make. I did steal a small silver-plated easel that displayed the wine list, from a suburban restaurant in Budapest, I also have bought stones and shells back from a romantic sailing trip, and I have a number of T shirts that scream where I have been.
Take only photos leave nothing but footprints – I don’t think so. I want my book of African legends, I want the T shirt that says I was staff on the Perhentians Islands’ Moonlight beach restaurant and I want my porcupine quills from a hiking track in Botswana. You might not be impressed but I am.
OK it’s your turn …confess, what can you add to the list?