The pattern is always the same; we travel to a new place, visit local sights, shop some souvenirs for ourselves and for our loved ones back at home. Everyone has done it, even me. But have we really thought about the consequence of all this? Should we stop buying souvenirs?
Tourism is a huge money making business worldwide. I have written previously about the reasons why I travel. A lot of people have travelled at least once in their life abroad or just in their home country. One thing is sure that where ever you go, you will find shops for tourists. We see these shops so often that we don’t even think about them at all. All tourist shops have astonishing amount of stuff for sale. Clothes, key chains, magnets, stuffed animals, cheap jewelry, you name it. Usually this stuff in tourist shops is just junk and brought most likely from China. Some shops might have quality local items, but the problem is that you have to do some research about it in advance and most people don’t bother.
Why we buy souvenirs?
People love stuff. It’s the whole shopping experience that makes us happy. The hunt for that perfect item and the bargain is a never ending process. It’s human nature. Shopping is not bad, don’t get me wrong, but you should definitely stop and think if the things that you buy is either useful or at least brings joy. You don’t want to drag souvenirs miles away back home just to notice that they are poor quality, they break and look tacky. It’s not worth the money. Don’t buy useless stuff because of obligation, stress or habit.
Do we need more stuff?
Not at all. We are born and taught to be consumers. You might think that it’s not that bad if I buy useless souvenirs that end up dusting in closets, everyone else does it too, but look at the bigger picture. The reality is that this planet cannot handle our increasing consuming habits. Our land and ocean is filling up with garbage (read more). It’s hurting the wildlife and this will eventually affect humans too. The key is to buy less and useful quality items.
Should we stop buying souvenirs?
When buying souvenirs we don’t often think about where they are from or who has made them. Child labour is a problem and also possible toxins when manufacturing the product. There are also issues about what kind of souvenirs we buy (read more). Spend money on new experiences and not material things.
If you want to bring some small souvenirs back home for friends and family, buy local food products. Tea, spices, chocolate, cookies, jam et cetera are great souvenirs. You can taste local food culture and the best thing is that you don’t have to store stuff! Other alternative for buying souvenirs are photography and scrapbooking.
I don’t think that we should stop buying souvenirs, but let’s try to shop smarter! Tourism brings jobs and money to a local community which is a positive effect. It’s sustainable to support local entrepreneurs. One of my favourite souvenir is a unique hand knitted sweater (lopapeysa) which is made by a local Handknitting Accociation of Iceland. Every time I use this sweater, it takes me back to a memory lane. I wear my sweater every winter with pride and joy.