As we prepared for our life of travel, we gave away most everything we owned. Books, food processor, TV, down comforter, and so much more… It all came down to money. The expense of storing all of those things for the many years we planned to travel would cost quite a bit more than it was all worth.
It took a great deal of time and effort to give it all away, and, as we left on our trip, we were determined not to accumulate a lot of “souvenirs” on the road.
At the start of our travels, we spent 3 months in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand and didn’t buy anything to bring back for ourselves. That took resolve. By the time we reached Cambodia, we found a little something that we both wanted and needed.
As we traveled with so few possessions for such a long period of time, we felt a certain “lightness.” We knew that feeling would slowly melt away with each new purchase.
The first 3 or so years of our travel, we found a few treasures worth tucking into our suitcases: a small number of seashells in New Zealand, a porcupine quill and a few flamingo feathers on the ground in Africa.
We also received gifts along the way. Our hiking guide in Morocco, Rashid, gave each of us a memorable gift. The hotels where we stayed for some days in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia gave each of us scarves that we love to wear. Our hosts in Whangaparaoa New Zealand gave us a Maori peace symbol.
We were thrilled when an opportunity came to replace an item of our clothing. Joe found a very lightweight blue shirt in Cambodia. Beth found linen pants on Crete in Greece. After a visit to a soap factory in Corfu, Greece – we became faithful users of their olive oil bar – perfect for dry skin.
Finally, our trip to South America a few years ago forced us to reconsider our strict limitation on “souvenir” purchases. We visited the studio of Miguel Andrango, one of the best backstrap weavers in Ecuador.
We consoled ourselves, having made more “souvenir” purchases than we initially intended to, but also knowing we made relatively few purchases over our many years of travel. Many of our purchased items were useful and not merely decorative. The relatively small amount spent supported craftspeople in lesser economies.
After more than few purchases, we prefer to think that what we have brought back are “remembrances” of these 6 years of traveling. The gifts, found objects, and purchases made have continued to serve as a reminder of the far-away places and the wonderful, generous people we met.