A love letter to... travel souvenirs
In early 2019, a combination of moving house for the first time in 12 years, and the global zeitgeist that was Marie Kondo's Netflix show Tidying Up, saw me standing in my living room clutching a plastic London snowglobe, agonising whether or not to throw it away.
"Does this spark joy?" I asked myself, following Kondo's patented method of working out what was clutter and what was cherished. After much deliberating, I tucked it into a moving box and carried on.
As a frequent traveller, my home was full of travel souvenirs. Nothing too tacky or useless - no gaudy fridge magnets or oversized sombreros - but many much-loved reminders of the trips I want to remember forever.
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And now, as I sit in my bubble in my sixth week working from home, mourning the journeys I won't be taking this year, my joy comes from the fact I didn't throw them all away.
I've noticed that through my souvenirs, my travel memories have become a functional part of my everyday life.
Each morning, I drink a coffee from my maroon Harvard University mug, and it takes me back to a cold November day touring the Boston campus, marvelling at its red brick buildings and centuries of academic history.
When I'm cold, I pull on my Brooklyn Brewery sweatshirt, and am instantly reminded of a day in the coolest of New York's boroughs, tasting beer in a hop-soaked barrel room, followed by a raucous night 10-pin bowling across the street.
When the chill reaches my toes, I pop on the hand-knitted Peruvian alpaca-wool socks gifted to me during a stay at Lake Titicaca's luxury lodge Titilaka. There, at 3810m above sea level, I battled the ill-effects of altitude sickness and freezing temperatures. The socks gave a deep sense of comfort then, as they do now.
At lunchtime, I drink water from the handmade ceramic cups I discovered in a market in Tel Aviv. The artist was manning her own stall and she lovingly wrapped them for me so they wouldn't break in my suitcase on the long journey home.
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Keeping busy throughout lockdown has been key to survival; key to stopping myself descend into despair at the state of the world and what the future might bring. Motivation struck one weekend and we finally unpacked the leftover boxes that have been lurking in the spare room since we moved in. More than a year they've sat there, taunting us. I often imagined Marie Kondo softly admonishing me, saying the boxed-up contents clearly couldn't spark joy and we might as well throw them away.
But finally, one rainy Sunday afternoon, we pulled them all out and tackled them properly. Lots of things were thrown out, yes, but we also discovered forgotten treasures.
In the depths of one battered, dusty box, I found newspaper packages, carefully rolled and sellotaped. Opening them reminded me of childhood parties playing pass the parcel. When the music stopped and I finally got to the centre, I discovered more travel trinkets, long since forgotten. A wooden turtle I bought in Fiji; Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) figurines from the witches market in La Paz; a miniature metal Eiffel Tower from a souvenir stall in Paris.
That trip to Paris was five years ago this Easter - I know, because Instagram reminded me, its algorithm bringing up a photo of me and my mum on an open-top tour bus circling the Arc de Triomphe.
Right now my mum feels very far away - she's in lockdown in England while I'm in Auckland and I don't know when we'll see each other again. These thoughts spark no joy, so I prefer to throw them away.
But as I write this, and look at the cheap, pointless Eiffel Tower that now sits proudly on my shelf, the memory of that trip feels closer than ever.