Souvenirs, Treasures and Dust-Its

When you travel, you get to see so many new things, whether it is a place, person or interesting item. Sometimes these items are of a nature that is non-transportable, so it needs to become a memory or conversation inclusion for future. Sometimes it is interesting in a weird and wonderful way but you wouldn't personally want to have that particular item in your own space. Other times the souvenirs are a must-have and simply have to find space in your luggage - so you buy the new piece and carry it away triumphantly.

This last part is fine, providing you are actually going to derive some sort of benefit from that particular item that you have just bought. Now this may be highly debatable - if you have bought some sort of cultural item you will need to remember its particular story, otherwise in a few years the piece will sit forgotten on a dusty shelf, or get passed on in a garage sale or be given away. Someone once said to me something that is rather wise if you are a regular traveler: " Always buy things you can eat, use or wear. Anything else is a Dust-it!" I guess that is self-explanatory.

Now if you are a collector of Dust-Its, then the money you spend on your souvenir should be reason enough to take some pride in the item. If you take into account the time spent by the craftsman, then this too should be a reason to hold onto your treasure. This is particularly relevant if the item is hand-crafted and individually created. I have some lovely little bits and pieces that I can tell you quite a bit about, from where they were purchased to a story about the particular day or experience. My own souvenirs range from soft toys to jewelry, from books to fridge magnets, statues, and so on.

Yes, they may be Dust-Its to the most part, but I treasure each and every one of them. Some have been gifts and are valuable to me because of that, others were selected specifically to be part of my memory of a particular trip or place. While it may be an obsession of a sort, I do like to be able to look at a small stone, or fluffy face, or picture, and be carried back to the exact place where I found it. My memories are priceless to me, and I am able to precisely recall small details that add value beyond measure to the selected item in my hand at the time, or under my gaze.

If I look next to me right now, on my right is Munich mouse, a small soft toy with fur that is wonderful to stroke, in front of him is an enamel mug from a more recent trip to a coffee roaster in Curries Post, and in it are some pencils and pens gathered from other trips too. Above the desk is a shelf full of bits and bobs from various excursions, at eye level are soft toys (Nuremberg Manatee and Christmas Market small bear with a hat and scarf, Jungfraujoch Mammoth), snow-globes (Cape Town Seals, Jungfrau Observatory), a pewter statuette (Prague knight on horseback) and a shell (Hout Bay, Western Cape).

Further along there is Innsbruck Swan & babies, Neuschwanstein Flamingo, Bern St Bernard, Vienna Lipizzaner, Schonbrunn Panda, Prater Zebra, Windhoek Springbok, Caprivi Hippo, Oberammergau cow, Victoria Falls Zimbabwe bird and zebras, Prague elephant, rubberized plastic Vienna Lipizzaners and Linderhof mirror.

Each of the mentioned items evokes a strong memory for me, and sometimes it is of the place where I bought it, or how I was feeling at the time, or possible a seemingly unrelated story of the shop or something that happened around the time of the purchase. I could speak for hours about my collection of souvenirs, gifted items and Dust-Its. Yes, I am a very sentimental person and am inclined to hoard items that hold a particularly strong memory - biggest case being a blue bear bought with my own saved pocket-money when I was still in nursery school. I also possess two watches that no longer work, one a gift from my late father, the other from my grandparents and smashed internally when I had a huge fall riding the cross-country part of a competition on my horse.

I am sometimes able to weed out some lesser remembered items from my collection, and feel a sense of accomplishment if they actually make it out of the door. Other times I put them in a box for disposal, only to relent and feel 'sorry' for the individual piece, taking it from the box and replacing it in its given position somewhere in the house. Soft-hearted, particularly with toys, that would be me! I also possess more key-rings than I will ever have keys for in my entire life.

I know as we travel, whenever and wherever, that I will gently add to my Dust-It collection. I am trying to be strict with myself and have recently been able to part with some bits and pieces that hold less memory value to me, but others are simply told "You can stay", and stay they will, until I am no longer able to stroke their soft fur, admire their particular beauty, or whisper their name or story to myself.

Enjoy your travels, try (!) to collect more memories than stuff. Remember to eat it, use it, wear it and then when you return home with the Dust-its, remember their stories and don't forget to dust!

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