One of my friends requested a blog post on how travel has influenced my taste, interesting pieces I’ve picked up while traveling, and how to incorporate these finds into outfits. It has been a delight to think back on international trips, because my travel plans have been put on hold (as have most of the world’s) for the foreseeable future. Staying put has made me more thankful than ever for the trips I’ve been able to make in the past and makes me eager to travel once I can!
If there is an overarching theme for what kinds of souvenirs I bring back from trips, I would say Portable. I pack very light, so my luggage consists of my purse and a carry-on bag small enough to carry up multiple flights stairs without hurting myself. Always plan for stairs. If you assume elevators, you will probably be disappointed. But the luggage size limitations keep me from buying lots of things, which works out just fine. I cherish the few things I bring home from each trip. My pack-it-in-pack-it-out philosophy may change over time, because if there is something that I truly want in my life, it would be worth it to have it shipped to my home. For example, my great grandmother traveled to Europe and fell in love with a powder blue Mercedes convertible. So she bought that car and had it shipped back to her tiny hometown in rural California. Isn’t that the best?
In my book, the ultimate portable and beautiful souvenir is a pair of earrings. Here are my reasons:
- I wear earrings almost every day, so they have great use value for me.
- They take up hardly any space at all.
- Beautiful earrings are wearable art. If I go to a different country, I want to invest in something that exemplifies what that country does best. (Glasswork, silversmithing, etc.)
- They are unique and give a little spark to any outfit I pair them with.
If I do buy clothes, I tend to buy based on what I see around me, so I can remember it when I go home. The colors, the shapes, the materials, the overall vibe of the place – these all inform my decisions. There’s usually a practical element as well, because the odds are good I will get to my destination and after a few days of walking in the sunshine, realize I only packed two short-sleeved shirts. Rather than wear those two shirts on alternating days for the whole trip, I will probably buy a cute one and throw that into the rotation. Here are a couple of examples:
The reverse is also true – sometimes I get to a place and it is colder than I expected, so I buy a jacket or a sweater to wear on the trip.
Even if the piece itself isn’t showy or unusual, I know where every single one comes from, what kind of day it was, what the shop looked like, etc. The bee earrings from the first photo came from a tiny jewelry shop in Florence and we walked by that shop every day for three days. I admired those bees every day, but whenever we walked by, the shop was closed for lunch hours. When we finally walked by and the shop was open, it felt like such a victory. Every time I wear them, I think of Florence and how long their lunch hours are and how wonderful their food is. So while it is entirely possible for me to come across an identical pair of bee earrings somewhere else, these are MY bees. And I love them.
While I have collected a few physical souvenirs along the way, what I mainly collect is ideas about how to wear clothes. Every city has its own vibe. One of the most extraordinary cities I’ve ever been to is Mexico City. Bright and dark mix together, where the ancient temple stones form the foundation for a copy of Paris. Saturated colors are fearlessly combined, usually with a black background for contrast. The key to Mexican style is in the combination and assimilation of every culture that has been in power.
But every place has its own personality. English style is referential, drawing from every period in history. French style is cool, calm, and classic. Italian style is driven by a pursuit of beauty. So when you travel, which I am mainly doing via book right now, keep your eyes open and think about what you want to take with you!