What to buy overseas

Have you ever come home from a trip only to discover you’ve spent a mint on awful souvenirs? Tacky knick knacks, novelty t-shirts and things made from shells? There’s something about being on holidays that lowers defences and loosens purse strings. It could be the Mai Tais, the Hawaiian music or the sunshine but something bad happens to good taste.

Dear readers – I’ve made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. I have bought postcards off street urchins, polyester beer branded t-shirts and floral mumus that look great on locals but make you look like you’re about to give birth to quintuplets.

Here’s my guide to purchases that will stand up to the harsh light of home:

1.     Scarves made from natural fibres

Every country seems to have a local scarf. Vietnam has silk, Peru has baby alpaca, India has pashminas and New Zealand has merino silk (a possum and wool blend). Scarves pack flat and can be worn – with full bragging rights – for many years as they never go out of fashion.

2.     Original artwork

If you only buy one thing, make it a piece of original local artwork. It might be a hassle to carry around if it’s ceramic or glass but it will be worth it. Timeless and worth every cent if you truly love it. It may be one of the only surviving relics of a trip that cost thousands so splash out on something special.

3.     Jewellery

A few pieces of well-made jewellery made from precious metal and stones are a wonderful way to remind yourself of your holiday. The bonus is that it will last long enough for you to pass it down to your grandkids and impress them with your tales of adventure.

4.     Small handmade craft items

If you find yourself in a village meeting local artisans, it’s very tempting to buy something from them to show support. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do this because these things make great gifts. In Oman, you can buy handmade tassels, in Japan, little flowers, fruits and vegetables made of fabric. These small items are painstakingly crafted and while usually a bit pointless, they don’t take up much room, are lovely mementos and help keep tradition alive.

5.     Fridge magnets

I always buy a fridge magnet from every country I visit. They’re usually ugly or funny but I love them. The upside of the humble fridge magnet is that they’re small, cheap and light.

What do you buy overseas? Any tips?

2 comments on “What to buy overseas

  1. I agree, Em, fridge magnets are the best! I have a collection too and love looking at them every day in the kitchen (at least I did before I had to move and pack them all away for now). I also buy scarves and unconsciously collect “ethnic” bags – bought another one yesterday because I forgot to pack one of the many ones I have at home – at least I know I’ll use it here in Bali!

  2. I always buy scarves when I go on an overseas trip. They make great gifts for people back home as well because they are light and easy to pack.
    Strangely I also often find myself buying shoes overseas. These are not light or easy to pack but I can usually find something unique and when people complement me I love saying, ‘Oh these. I just picked them up in Thailand / Spain / Germany’.

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