Surprising Souvenir Collecting with My Son
I didn’t start traveling with my son until he was five years old. I was terrified to travel with him by myself: due to his Dyspraxia he couldn’t speak intelligibly at that time, and did not know what a stranger was. Our first trip was a jaunt down to Monterey, California. My sister-in-law and her grandson met us. Since that first trip, the four of us have been to Disneyland twice, and up and down the Northern California and Southern Oregon coast. Even as parenthood changes everything about travel, some things remain the same. I wasn’t allowed to shop at Disneyland until the last day—not only because of having to wrangle bags, but because once I start buying I run through all the money I budgeted for the trip. Quickly. Thankfully, I was able to change my souvenir shopping and souvenir collecting habits. Here are some things that my son and I love to collect while travelling.
Collectable spoons started being a thing for me when I travelled cross-country with my parents. Mom and I always took our time finding just the right spoon, and sometimes we were picky! When my son was small, I reclaimed my spoon collection and hung it on the wall. As soon as we took our first trip together, he insisted we find a spoon for our memories. There are unexpected pops of personality in our spoon rack now: a fancy soup spoon from a Disneyland restaurant, a green plastic spoon with Mr. Happy on top. Do they match? Nope. Do they fit in with the rest of the collection? Nope. But somehow, those two spoons “found” by my son make the whole collection.
Boys love sticks, and mine is no exception. He started collecting them when he was barely toddling around. We took them from parks, family picnics, just about any place my little tree-hugger could find one worth lugging. Imagine my surprise when my favorite souvenir from a trip to Oregon was a stick. I found a piece of driftwood and all of the family – including the kiddos—signed it. We pick it up and read it every once in a while.
I was never into the crystals, but I’ve always loved a pretty rock. My mother used to find what she called worry stones: a highly polished stone with a groove just right for your thumb to rub back and forth on. I stopped trying to find them until I started travelling with my boy. Now, every place we go, we have to look and see if they have stones. Moaning caverns, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Oregon, science museums, planetariums… It doesn’t really matter. He’s very sweet, making sure to find pink and purple stones for me. But we also collect rocks from the beaches we’ve walked, the river, and other hiking trails. If others are with us, we all sign the stone we find. If it’s just the two of us, we date the stone with the place we found it.
I love postcards. They capture the perfect shot. I wasn’t able to get a shot of Face Rock off of 101 in Oregon, but I found the postcard. And while I have several lovely photos of San Francisco’s Pier 39, it’s just not possible to take a photo that isn’t teeming with strangers. I also love aerial views of landmarks, and that’s something that my budget will never allow. I buy postcards almost everywhere we go. While they’re great at showing the place, they can’t catch the magic of the trip. I love it when I get really lucky, and a picture that captures the feeling of the trip ends up on my phone. My best friend, on her first train ride, looking out the window like a kid on Christmas morning. A head shot of my son, just a peek of blue sky behind him, sand on his face and so much joy in his smile. That particular photo helped me through major surgery and being separated from my boy. It was my focal point while working for a crazy man, and even through I’ve since changed jobs that picture is still on my desk to remind me of our next travelling adventure.
Gifts from the sea!
The Pacific Ocean is one of our favorite destinations. We’ve started a pretty respectable seashell collection, mostly store bought. We have seashell ornaments for our Christmas tree. But it’s another gift from the sea that speaks to my heart: a vase full of sea glass. Right before my surgery two years ago we went to Fort Bragg. It’s the same trip that I got lucky on the photo. The others went down to Glass Beach, but I couldn’t go down. The cliff was too gnarly for me, that close to surgery. I watched from the cliffs, took some fantastic photos of the cliffs and surf. When they came back up, they had a bucket full of sea glass for me. I love it, almost as much as I love them.