While I was on my trip, I didn’t buy many souvenirs for myself. I came home with a small assortment of postcards, an evil eye bracelet and three small bowls from Greece, a first American edition of Mill on the Floss from a bookstore in Brussels, a scarf from Lisbon (which I bought because it was starting to get cold), a thin cloth bag for groceries from Barcelona, and durable smaller bag from Ireland (which I used as a carry-on to lug back all the souvenirs I bought for family and friends). I don’t think that’s too much given that we were gone for three months. Matt and I figured that the photos I took would be our souvenirs. But printing a photo book is expensive (I’ve found more important things to spend my money on with our recent move). We printed out a few photos to hang on our fridge and put at our desks at work but not much else. Before we even moved to our apartment, I knew that we needed something to commemorate the trip by, something that everyone could see. I knew it wouldn’t be that photo book quite yet so I decided to make my own souvenirs to display our trip.
At one point I thought I might buy a print for each country from some of the sellers on Etsy. Thinking about how that could really add up too, I decided to try my own hand at making some small maps to display. I bought some acetate, watercolors, paint brushes, and watercolor paper and then went to work with all of that plus the supplies I already had (Sharpies, a pencil, and a blade to cut the acetate). I printed out small maps of each country which I then traced on to the acetate with Sharpie. Then I used the blade to cut out my own stencils which I saved for future use. I traced the countries on to watercolor paper with pencil. I then went over the pencil with Sharpie and applied watercolor in a variety of colors. Finally, I used Sharpie to label each country. Right now each piece is mounted with an adhesive material (which shouldn’t destroy the paper) to our apartment wall until I get around to buying materials to frame each.
I loved making my own reminders of our trip. It was a very reflective experience as I took the time to consider each country and our memories of that place while I was making each piece. I also used these as an opportunity to surprise Matt with the art for our anniversary and first apartment together. In the future we plan on saving our maps and doing something with those. Matt came up with the idea after we got home. Creating our own souvenirs with maps would also be a great option as Matt and I really used our maps; the maps became our own as we drew routes on them, marked important locations, wrote down useful information, and folded them in odd ways. Retrospectively, those could have been some of the best souvenirs would could have kept but we are pretty happy with our current alternative.