Trinkets, Tchotchkes and Travel: How I Love Thee

by farrah on February 4, 2014 · 26 comments

The act of obtaining a physical object as part of a tradition goes back to when I was little and received a Christmas ornament every year from my mother. I have some that go back to my very first Christmas- and in fact, they’re handmade by my mother when she went through a ceramics phase. I do the same thing for the boys- collect ornaments every year (although they are most certainly NOT handmade) as well as other things. I collect for them places– which shows my sentimental side, something I try very hard at times to hide.

Tchotchke collectionA sampling from the past year

Life before children, I collected fridge magnets. My husband had a matchbook collection. By the time we left SC, we had so many things that they filled shoeboxes and we knew it would be silly to bring them abroad. Heck, I figured that we would just collect more. Well, that plan was scratched when we realized this house has a fridge in some kind of wood-paneling and clearly cannot hold a magnet. Additionally, many matches + kids = bad idea.

Thus, my trinket addiction started out slowly and I seemed to gain momentum right around the coronation of the new king here in the Netherlands last year. It was a really big deal- and I knew this would be the only time in our lives that we would be a part of something so special. So, I couldn’t resist and started picking up ‘Koningin’ stuff. It snowballed from there. I mean, I bought not one- but two of these tacky cheese plates (seen above) since one of them fell behind the fridge and I can’t get to it. Fortunately it was on clearance for €3 the second time I bought it. Score!

I used the excuse ‘they’re for the boys‘ whenever I picked up something new. And truthfully- they were. I remember being in Pisa and this guy pushed these red little animals on me for a price ‘too good to pass up.’ Since I thought they were unique, I bought them- but now know better. Those little red animals are everywhere. Anyhow, I got used to buying things in threes- one for each of them and have this idea in my head that they are items the boys will treasure forever. I’m sure their future significant others will REALLY appreciate this box of stuff, right?

Trinkets from travelsThe twins’ collection

On top of the magnets from yesteryear, the random object from wherever, and the occasional tee shirt- we buy a postcard. I keep them together in the cabinet and have taken the time to fill out the back with info on that trip or place. Right now we have a huge stack and I have no idea what to do with them.

Our Rome trip was the first time the boys seemed interested in picking out their own trinket- which proved to be a bad idea. They broke their little Vespa keychains before we walked across the square. I have no idea where this is going to go with them, so I may have to set up some rules and restrictions. Maybe one of them will like bar coasters? That would be easy.

Trinkets from travelsA wooden dino from Ireland eating a train from Pisa while a Pinocchio sits oblivious.

So much for my de-cluttering. We’re in serious trouble by the time we move in 2017!


I want to hear about your addiction to souvenirs you find when you travel. What do you collect and what do you do with them? I’ll reader comments (one entry per person) on this post and send the winner a collection of tchotchkes from our travels this spring and summer. I know this is probably the most exciting giveaway EVER– so please try to contain your excitement. But really, it’s fun for me to do- and you never know what funky thing I will find for you.

Contest ends a week from today: Tuesday, February 11th. I’ll pick the winner Weds morning and your prize will be sent out at some point this fall! (Note: if you like things in particular (magnet, thimble, etc) let me know and I’ll make a special effort to look for those.) Contest open to 18+, US, Canada, UK and EU countries.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather February 4, 2014 at 10:08 am

A few years ago I realized that time was flying quickly. My boys were then 12 & 10, and I didn’t know where the time had gone. We had a tradition of monthly “family fun days.” I started picking something up on every day, special trip and vacation as a way to keep those precious memories a part of my daily life. I keep them all, along with other sentimental treasures, in two glass display cabinets in the hallway next to our bedroom. Those memories bring me joy every single day!!!

What a fun contest!!!


2 farrah February 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I love it Heather! And yes, each one brings back grew memories. I’m so glad my husband and I are pack rats 🙂


3 Ann February 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

My blog’s name: Travel Turtle, came from the fact that when I traveled I would pick up a Turtle. It was unintentional, but then one day I realized that I had several turtles I picked up around the world. I don’t particularly like turtles, but I guess they’re big in the places I went those years.

With postcards I try to buy 1 for both kids and write a message to them on the back and date it. Then I mail it to them while we’re still in the country. Something nice to look forward to a few days later when we’re back home.

As for my big collection, I’m going to post about it later this week because you’ve inspired me! 🙂


4 farrah February 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Yes! Can’t wait to read about yours. It’s an addiction, I swear!


5 Ann February 4, 2014 at 10:29 am

Part two – with the postcards, when they’re older they’ll mail them to themselves.


6 farrah February 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Cool idea!


7 Elizabeth February 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

Or, you could mail all the postcards the day before you leave so they’ll have your postmark from your town and the date of when you left. Also, bar coasters isn’t a bad idea. They’d probably think it was pretty cool in their late teens, early twenties.


8 farrah February 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm

That’s a really good idea. Unfortunately I think you are confusing me with someone who has her act together and can easily find stamps and a post office lol! I guess the big thing to do at the Vatican is to mail yourself a postcard (there is a mobile post office right there in the square) and I STILL couldn’t do it 🙂


9 Jessica February 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I collect a lot of things but my favorite thing to collect on our travels here is vintage toys. They are unique and so fun for the kids! Whenever we are in a new place we must stop at the local thrift store and browse. We’ve found a couple of really cool toys. Including a vintage stuffed bear I bought for 5$ then found out it was a collectible worth over a 100$! We find funny things too. Including a stuffed dolphin that meows like a cat. (My son picked it up and wouldn’t put it down.) ha ha. But we love to look matter where we are. I love that you collect those things for your kids. They will love it once they are grown:)


10 andrea February 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Christmas ornaments here too!


11 Karla February 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I love the postcard idea! They take up a very small amout of space, don’t get easily damaged and you can write a memory of your time in that place on them! Splendid!


12 Leighann February 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I collect peacocks. Everywhere I travel or go I pick one up because they’re all unique. The design and the colours. I love them all. I have so many now that I have a hutch in my house dedicated to them.


13 Theresa February 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I had the bright idea to buy Ryan tshirts from all the places we visited. I don’t know if that was such a bright idea since they fit for 2 seconds. My Mom said something about turning them into something (pillow cases or something?? She lost me at the first mentioning of crafting) …any ideas anyone?

My husband and I are slightly cliche and can’t pass up a Starbucks city mug 😉


14 Kiley February 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Anything having to do with Royalty!!!!!! I love collecting Royal crap! 🙂


15 Jessica February 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I too have collected ornaments over the past 4 years of my travels – it kind of started accidentally when I went to an international women’s club festival in Kiev a few years back and managed to find telephone charm animals dressed in traditional Korean outfits. They can be ornaments too, right?? 🙂

I wanted to start collecting mugs of places we’ve visited, but you can only store and use so many of those! So I just settle for small art or tchotchkes (what a weird word) to put in our cabinet collection!


16 Julia February 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm

I used to do shot glasses but they got out of hand. Now I always get a Christmas ornament. I also get post cards and sometimes I pick up some other random stuff if it “speaks” to me if that makes any sense. I love collecting stuff from travels.


17 christie February 5, 2014 at 1:09 am

Oh lord, i love trinkets. I’d love to have those ornaments you have. I need to start collecting something STAT.


18 Jen February 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

I realized we have been collecting postcards too but they’re all still in the paper bags they came out of each shop in! My husband also brought back some artwork from his trip to Japan, and we have others we brought back from Greece and Egypt.

Also I’m so jealous of your Willem en Maxima plate.


19 farrah February 5, 2014 at 6:30 am

Jen, like I said- there’s another one behind the fridge and I can’t reach it. If I somehow manage to get it out- it’s yours!


20 Ace February 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

We do a pretty good job of picking up prints when we travel. We try to do more unique ones – but sometimes it’s hard to tell until you’ve seen the same print in 300 different tourist trap shops. In Dublin we didn’t find any good print, but I did get a St. Bridget’s cross made out of baked/hardened peat bog – and it’s still hanging up with my other prints.
But the one I bought in Malta is still waiting for a frame – because I never think about when I have to buy frames. It took me over 5 years to finally frame the prints we picked up on our honeymoon!


21 Clare February 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm

I like collecting prints of vintage trave posters from places we visit (especially Italy). And I’m obsessed with Guinness oven gloves! We have a whistling kettle that goes on the stove and I use the Guinness glove with that. I’m on my third now! I also collect silver charms for my bracelet. One day, my bracelet arm will be twice as long as my watch arm!


22 Amanda B February 7, 2014 at 10:23 pm

We do postcards too. And pencils when we can find them. Cheap, easy, fun. That’s my motto


23 Aimee February 8, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I used to collect shot glasses (small, cheap and everywhere!) but I gave up on those many years ago. I’m really into my photos and scrapbooking them, so postcards are my favorite to collect (and we do mail them to ourselves) but I will often just pick something up that is iconic or representative of the place I’m visiting. In fact, I recently broke my favorite cheese grater I bought on a tour of a cheese making village in the Netherlands. I was devastated!


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