The Most Valuable SouvenirGuest article by Louise from Pint-sized Wanderlust
We’ve all got them, those tacky travel souvenirs. From the cheap key-rings and magnets, to the cheesy t-shirts and gaudy head wear. Whether you’ve brought one back yourself or a loving friend or relative has thoughtfully brought it back for you, we’ve all go one.
We’ve got a few ourselves but in no way are we ashamed of them. These cheap trinkets are reminders of the good times and fantastic experiences we’ve had on the road, and also a reminder that someone has thought enough of us while they were on the road, to have brought something back for us. We’ve got many of these tacky reminders proudly displayed throughout our apartment and seeing them everyday makes us happy, makes us remember that even though our travels are over for now, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored.
But, for me, the most valuable souvenirs of any of our trips have been the connections we’ve made. From the five-minute-friends you make on the bus or subway to the few-hour-friends you make during a day tour or on a long bus or train journey, to those lasting life-long friendships you seemingly stumble upon, every interaction you have on the road can have a profound effect on where you end up, both geographically and mentally.
One of the best examples of the effect of one of these interactions happened while on the way to Delhi from Kathmandu. Our flight had a slight delay, and we were a little bored, so we got talking to a lady that was sat next to us on the plane. As it turned out the lady was from the United States and she was living in India, near a place called Leh, and teaching English to some of the kids that lived there. She recommended us going to visit Leh and described it as a unique part of India that wasn’t very well-travelled or busy and would be a welcome change to the chaos of Delhi. India is a fantastic place to travel, but it can be incredibly draining and exhausting. After 4 days in Delhi, including being scammed in a mosque and almost being run over by car and rickshaws numerous times, we decided to take her advice and got on a plane to Leh. Despite the amazing views of the Himalayas during the flight, we only realised the value of her recommendation, of our interaction, when we landed at the airport near Leh.
The city of Leh sits at 3500m above sea level and its climate can only be described as a cold desert climate. It honestly felt like we had landed on Mars. As we stood waiting for the shuttle to arrive to take us from the plane to the terminal, we took in the desolate beauty of the place. We stood in what I would describe as a desert valley, complete with barren red and brown sands, with towering, majestic, snow-capped mountains surrounding us. It took about 15 minutes for the staff at Leh airport to get a shuttle out to us, but we didn’t notice the delay because this was some of the most beautiful terrain we had ever seen and we straight away resolved to spend as much time there as we could. The power of a five minute interaction is such that you never know where you’ll end up, for us, we ended up on Mars!
We’ve been lucky enough to have formed much longer lasting connections as well. Through these connections we’ve been privy to experiences we would otherwise have never known or even thought about. We were invited to San Juan, Argentina by a couple we met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we witnessed the intense passion for sport at Pablo’s professional Volleyball game. We’d go on to meet up with our friends Elaine and Pablo in Poland as well. We learnt how to play the traditional Swedish game of Kubb with our friends Amir and Jesper in Uddevalla, Sweden, we partied Polish-Style with Marcin and Lidia in a little village called Polajewo in Poland, and amongst a host of other things, we learnt how to throw a boomerang with our friends Julien and the good doctor, Whitney, in Vancouver, Canada. Australians learning to throw a boomerang from their French friend in Canada is a perfect example of an experience borne out of taking chances and forming connections with the people you meet along the way.
Travel has also allowed me to rekindle connections I’ve made a long time ago, in a country far, far away. What has happened, and is happening in my homeland, Zimbabwe (click here for more information), means that my family and people I went to school with are scattered all over the globe. Our travels have enabled me to re-establish connections from 12 years ago, connections formed in the 16 years before leaving Zimbabwe 12 years ago. These connections, these interactions, to me, are invaluable, and mean more than any trinket ever could. I hope that one day I’ll be able to repay the kindness and generosity that I’ve been shown overseas and give these connections a taste of my country, Australia.
I’ve come to realise that travel is much more than the what we see, what we spend our money on, where we stay and how many photos we take. Travel is about the interactions and the connections we have, no matter how big or small. So cherish these connections and welcome them, you never know where you’ll end up.