Why this site?
I was finding that scoping out local shops when I travel was getting harder and harder– every high street from New York to London to Seoul was starting to look depressingly similar. And while there are many excellent resources dedicated to rounding up “hole in the wall” restaurants or “off the beaten track” tourist sites, there aren’t many focused
on souvenir shopping. Guidebooks all seem to have the same generic and sparse listings. Travel magazines focus heavily on the latest hipster shops or high-end design stores. And google searches yielded uneven and often unreliable results.
What kind of stuff do you look for?
Souvenirs can be anything from local artisan crafts, to objects that represent the traditions or culture of the area, to natural objects you can’t even buy, like sand from a beach.
I look for things I can use when I get home (wear it, cook with it, play with it). Or if it is something decorative, it needs to fit in easily with more or less traditional decor (for example, I don’t have venetian masks lining my walls). Instead of punctuating my bookcase or desk with home decor clichés, I’d rather find something more meaningful in my travels– like that 300 year old Portuguese tile or my tiny ceramic Japanese maneki-neko cats.
Where do you find your souvenirs?
My dream street is a narrow, cobblestone lane, tucked away in an area rarely frequented by tourists, lined with artisan shops dating back centuries…you get the idea. But I also love hitting department stores, grocery stores, flea markets, and vintage shops– basically any shop that we don’t have here in the US that might have something interesting to offer.
Is this just a database of souvenir listings?
Not at all. I want to make it easier for travelers to combine shopping with sightseeing and other tourist activities. I look at key information like whether the shops are convenient to where you might be touring or dining anyway, so you can plan your time accordingly. Or, if there is a great cafe nearby to take a shopping break, I’ll be sure to mention that too.
Do you waste all your time shopping instead of doing more important things like touring and visiting museums?
No. Of course I tour, go to museums, eat the local foods, etc. But you have plenty of other travel bloggers to tell you about that.
As far as what’s “more important” to do when you travel– that’s up to you. Personally, I may very well decide I have temple fatigue and blow off the entire next day’s plans to hit the local markets instead. Why not?
I never buy souvenirs. That’s so materialistic! My photos are my souvenirs. So there.
Souvenir shopping is not about spending money or materialism– it’s about a chance to interact with a local, learn about a new culture and capture a moment in time. Whether it’s gaining a window into Japanese culture by learning what customer service really means in their department stores or buying a wheel of cheese from the producer who cares more about quality than profit, shopping arguably brings you closer to locals than any other typical tourist activity.
And yes, photos do make great souvenirs, but that’s not what this site is about.
It’s not always about shopping
You’ll find that the actual tangible souvenir is not necessarily the focus of every post– sometimes the cultural quirks of a destination (as represented by the souvenir) are more important than the item itself. A rock is just a rock anywhere in this world but if it’s from the beaches of Normandy it’s about the story behind the place.
Or, the experience of attending a football game in London or a TV show taping in New York City might be more significant than the actual souvenir which caps off the experience.
Great, how to I submit my souvenirs?
Bloggers– your souvenir photos and/or guest posts are welcome! Contact me to discuss.
Or to drop us a line about anything, or email us at souvenirfinder (at) gmail (dotcom)
Disclosure: Souvenir Finder has an editorial only policy– meaning I personally decide what souvenirs I love and wish to promote and I never accept payment to promote a shop, period. However, as travel blogging is a giant money pit, I am hoping to defray some of the costs associated with keeping this site going by occasionally linking to shops I love and am writing about anyway (or wrote about a long time ago before I even knew what this link stuff was) and making a small commission on sales (this is a tiny proportion of editorial posts). But since the whole point of my site is to encourage you all to visit the store in person when you travel, I don’t expect this will be a very successful venture, but if you’re going to shop online anyway, I would appreciate it if you would please help out by using my links! : )