Don’t Buy The T-Shirt!
I bought the T-Shirt. In fact, I have bought hundreds of T-shirts. Now, I wish I hadn’t. It is not the worn out, faded, should-have-thrown-them-away-years-ago T-shirts I regret. It is all of the never-worn, bought-as-a-gift-but-never-gave, and “what was I thinking?” T-shirts I regret.
Ask yourself, will you really wear that “I Heart Paris” T-shirt when you get home? Does it trigger a memory from your trip or is it just an ego-boosting accoutrement to prompt inquiring minds to ask you about your adventures? Does it make a fashion statement?
Then there are the funny but off-color slogans emblazoned on T-Shirts. I gave one as a gift once, and the person asked me where he thought he should wear it. “Sleep in it” I said. Apparently, whatever struck a funny bone on my trip didn’t have the same meaning for the recipient. (Some people have no sense of humor.)
Don’t Buy The T-Shirt!
I used to bring gifts to people from my travels, until I realized no one cared if their bracelets were made from coral from the Aegean Sea. Truth be told, when I asked, some family members did not even know where to find the Aegean Sea on a map. A teaching moment, right? But they didn’t seem to care when I tried to explain.
Over 20 years ago, I purchased Belgian lace wine bottle aprons to give as gifts. I gave them to all of our relatives, and have never once seen one of them used in their homes. I still have a few left in the bottom of a drawer. I thought they were so clever, because in the pocket of each apron were four Belgian lace coasters. I still have mine, but I am sure most of my family got rid of theirs years ago. I never remember to pull out this souvenir when I am entertaining.
I used to bring gifts to people from my travels, until I realized no one cared if their bracelets were made from coral from the Aegean Sea. Truth be told, when I asked, some family members did not even know where to find the Aegean Sea on a map.
In Spain recently, I looked at some beautiful scarves that I thought would make great gifts. As I approached, I looked at the tags of the scarves. Made in China. It no longer seemed like a souvenir of Spain.
As the recipient of travel souvenirs, I appreciate the gesture, but I’m tired of the pottery that doesn’t match my décor, hand crafted wooden bowls that are not dishwasher friendly, and funky earrings that aren’t my style. I keep the earrings in my jewelry box because they were made by poor women in a far off village. I have thought about re-gifting them, but I struggle with the idea of re-gifting something even I don’t like or use. I don’t mean to be ungrateful, I appreciate that people were thinking of me on their trip, it is just not necessary.
As a member of a generation who liked to collect things, when I realized I was over the hats and T-shirts, I started collecting Christmas ornaments. Last Christmas I realized I could decorate three or four trees with my travel ornaments. I will never have that many trees in my house. I do love pulling out the ornaments and remembering our family trips. However, now my grown daughter is the unofficial chairperson of the family Christmas Tree Decorating Committee. Last year she decorated a beautiful tree, but I noticed many of my ornaments were missing. “They don’t match the décor,” my daughter informed me authoritatively. There you go. Lifelong memories to me, tacky mismatched chotzkys to my daughter. I realized that when I die, all of those treasures will find a new home in the landfill.
Some say Facebook is causing depression in people who are jealous that their friends are off exploring the world and they are stuck at home. I couldn’t agree less. I love seeing where my friends and family are traveling and what they are doing.
Minimizing shopping and consumerism at home is one of my life strategies, and it means I have more in my budget for travel. So why would I shop on a trip? Shopping takes time. There are so many more interesting things to do in foreign lands. Many people obviously don’t agree with me, or there wouldn’t be so many souvenir stands in the world. Buying souvenirs means my suitcase gets heavier as I go. Instead, these days I leave home with all of the freebie t-shirts, tote bags and hats that accumulate in my house, make use of them on a trip, then leave them behind. I have clothed hotel maids and stewards on cruise ships who live and work in places where they don’t have access to a lot of stuff. They are thrilled, and I go home with less dirty laundry, which makes unpacking a breeze. I would rather spend the money on my next plane ticket or an extra night’s stay.
Instead, I like to buy consumables made from local ingredients. Wine is always good if you can be sure you can get it home in your luggage. I buy olive oil soap from Spain, vanilla from Mexico, or cinnamon from Morrocco. Look at your friends’ travel photos on Facebook: if they aren’t at the top of Mt. Kilamanjaro or bungee jumping in New Zealand, they are usually sitting around a table eating, or taking photos of their food. Are they wearing their “I Heart Paris” T-shirt while enjoying their dinner? Not usually. For me, cooking at home with the tastes and smells of my travels trigger memories and warm my heart. These products don’t last forever, but I don’t want them to. I want another reason to pack my bag and explore the tastes and smells of a new place.
Buying souvenirs means my suitcase gets heavier as I go. Instead, these days I leave home with all of the freebie t-shirts, tote bags and hats that accumulate in my house, make use of them on a trip, then leave them behind.
The world is evolving. This is the age of experiences, not stuff. We have the internet to share our travel stories and photos. Some say Facebook is causing depression in people who are jealous that their friends are off exploring the world and they are stuck at home. I couldn’t agree less. I love seeing where my friends and family are traveling and what they are doing. It gives me new ideas for places to go and people to see. It gives me promise that the world really is a village, and the more we all get out there and share, the kinder, compassionate world this will be, regardless of whether we are wearing funky earrings and tourist T-shirts.
If I add up all the money I have spent on souvenirs, it probably could have paid for a trip around the world. So, enjoy your adventures, but don’t buy the T-Shirt!
Don’t Buy The T-Shirt photo credit: Dov Harrington