Destinations Magazine

Keeping Travel Memories Alive

By Expatgermany @Laurel_Robbins

How is that travel memories often seem like a distant memory as soon as I walk in the door after a vacation?  The therapeutic relaxing feeling seems to almost instantly disappear as reality slaps me in the face.  A pile of mail, mostly bills, a dusty house that needs to be cleaned, and over a hundred emails that have piled up in my In-Box.  Was it really just a couple of days ago that I was getting a massage on the beach under a palm tree?  To feel like I’m on permanent vacation, I’ve incorporated my favorite travel memories into my home and found that it helps keep them alive years after the vacation is over.

travel memories monkeys

My most prized travel possession, a 130cm painting of 3 Capuchins that looks more like a photograph than a painting and keeps travel memories from Costa Rica alive.

One of my favorite ways to keep travel memories alive is to collect art work from the various countries I’ve visited.   I saw the monkey painting on my first day in Costa Rica, across the street, through a window and knew I had to have it.  A few years earlier I was primed to start a Masters in Primatology (study of monkeys) studying Capuchins in Costa Rica.  The plan didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons, but my love for primates remains alive and well.   Surely I was meant to have this painting!  As I entered the store and saw an absence of price tags, my heart began to sink, art work with no price tags is almost always a sign that it’s expensive.  Dry mouthed with anticipation I asked the art dealer the price and swallowed when she told me.  I walked away empty handed, sullen.  I spent the next ten days diving with sharks on Cocos, where I met J.P. (my now German husband).  I thought of the painting everyday and he insisted as soon as we got back to San Jose that we see if the painting was still available.  We raced back to the store and it was still available.  I’ll never forget what he said to me “I wouldn’t want it in my living room, but you should buy it.  You’ve talked constantly about that painting for the past 10 days.”  It now hangs in OUR living room over our comfortable sofa and I’m grateful I made the splurge and bought the painting which now also serves as a reminder of how I met my husband.

travel memories guatemala

This large (80cm+) carving reminds me of travel memories from Guatemala every time I walk through my front door.

This piece of wood is my second favorite piece of art that I’ve collected along my travels.  I was hesitant to buy it due to the price and it’s large size, which at over 80 cm (31″)was not exactly flying friendly, but bought it anyway since I loved the carvings and the originality of the piece.   When I see this piece which hangs in my entry way, I’m reminded of the friendly shop keeper in Antigua, who we got to know over a few days until we finally made the purchase.  She needed to get some packing tape and left her 4 year daughter with us and told us to teach her some English until she returned.  I was in disbelief, who would leave their child with almost complete strangers?  What a wonderful place where you can actually trust strangers.  Every time I see the piece, which hangs in our entry way, I’m reminded of this friendly, trusting shop keeper and singing English and Spanish songs with her daughter.

travel memories mexico

A hand painted vase from Mexico which sits on a bookshelf in my living room.

Among my favorite travel memories are also items that were not expensive, but filled with memories.  This hand painted vase was painted by the son of the host family I stayed with in Cuernava, Mexico.  I think I paid him $8 US for it.  Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of my spirited and energetic host family who helped me learn Spanish and welcomed me into their home.

travel memories thailand

Hand crafted items from Thailand which also sit on my bookshelf.

Sometimes it’s a gift that keeps travel memories alive. The vase on the left was made especially for me by one of my Thai student’s grandma who said I was her “favorite teacher in the world”. I purchased the Thai picnic basket on the right for under $15 and it brings back memories of picnics held on the river bank of Lampang with my Thai colleagues and friends.

travel memories Galapagos

Diving photos from Costa Rica and the Galapagos surround our dining room table.

travel memories Costa Rica

Travel photos can be put on a variety of items including coasters.

Perhaps the best way to keep travel memories alive is through photos, which are inexpensive and doesn’t involve hauling back any bulky souvenirs.  My house is filled with travel photos, but our diving photos from Cocos, Costa Rica and Galapagos are my favorites and have even made their way onto coasters which I had made for less than $20.  I get so much more enjoyment from displaying my travel photos than having them in an album which I would rarely look at.  I realize that not everyone wants to hand their guest a coaster with a turtle on it, or wants a picture of a shark hanging over their dining room table or a 1.3 meter (50 “) painting of monkeys over their sofa,  but it makes me happy and keeps my travel memories alive.  Besides that they make for good conversation pieces and I really don’t want or need another t-shirt souvenir.  Now when I walk in the door after a vacation I feel like I’m still on vacation.  How do you keep travel memories alive?


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