There are two types of souvenirs you can load up with on your vacation – imported, mass produced tourist fare or you can find local treasures. There’s nothing wrong with the former. They serve the purpose – they are a souvenir and provide you a memory or are a gift for someone. Local treasures however, are more than a mere souvenir. They capture the essence of a place and provide a more meaningful association with the destinations you travel to. But, with hoards of sellers pressing their wares on you, how do you find local treasures?
1. Ask Your Host
Your host ranges from friends and family you may be staying with, the people running your bed and breakfast and the people who work in your hotel. Cultivate relationships with these people – they should know the area very well and can recommend where to go. Try and do a good job of explaining that you want to find local treasures. Being vague could just end up with you being pointed in the direction of general tourist stuff.
If souvenirs of your trip are important to you, the most obvious way that you will find local souvenirs that will provide meaning is to find out beforehand what you should be looking for. Reading about your destination will give you an idea of its strengths and what is most known for. You might discover there’s a tradition of silk rug weaving or wood carving. You can then use the Internet to look up galleries, craft stores and markets where you might find examples.
3. Ask the Locals
If you find it easy to approach strangers and strike up a conversation, ask locals who look like they would know where to find “stuff”. If you spot a girl with a gorgeous handbag that clearly looks handmade, ask her where she got it. Ask street artists. Talk to people in the local market.
4. Follow Your Instinct
Instinct can hold you in great stead when you on the hunt for local treasures. If you’re a seasoned traveler, you will pick up on little details as you do your exploring and visiting. You might notice that all the tablecloths in the restaurants exude a certain style or that there’s something unique about the tableware. You might spot there’s a certain trend in the leather sandals everyone is wearing. These might just be the kind of thing you want to take home, so then it’s just a case of finding out where to get them from.
5. Ignore the Tour Party Vendors
One thing to avoid, unless you have a burning need to have a certain something, is to not buy souvenirs from vendors who flock around organized tour parties. Firstly, it won’t be of good quality and secondly, you can probably find the very same thing at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
6. Beware Recommendations
Following on from the last point, do be careful of places that are recommended to you by strangers like bus drivers and taxi drivers. They might well be genuine, but very often the recommendation is either a member of the guy’s family or there is some kind of backhander involved. It’s rare that the items are a genuine bargain, or even genuinely made where you are.
7. Know the Value of Money
When you find local treasures, do give consideration to the price. Getting something back home and wishing you really hadn’t paid so much for it takes the shine off it being a precious reminder of your trip. If every time you look at it, you think about how much it cost, it will override the happy memories of your trip. If you don’t carry a currency converter of some kind, have a simple calculation in your head and always err on the cautious of making the price higher than it really is.
Did you know that it could be this complicated to find local treasures? It may seem OTT but trust me, after seeing 2 friends fleeced for a carpet in Morocco I can see the bad side of souvenir hunting. Yes I accept they made the decision to buy, but if they had followed some of these tips they may have made a better choice. Are you a souvenir collector?