Upon returning from many trips abroad, I find I am unable to part with what many would consider the “garbage” that accumulates during your travels. I’m not talking about banana peels or tissues – more like readily disposable items such as mass transit tickets, nightclub flyers and entrance passes to monuments.
For example, I have a used subway ticket from Stockholm that I like to keep in my messenger bag. Or there’s the pack of playing cards I picked up in Buenos Aires. Each item is relatively mundane and not really worth displaying, yet it holds a highly personal story.
Every time I stumble upon these items again during my day-to-day life, it causes me to pause for a moment, remembering where the item came from and how I acquired it. For instance, I remember the 20 random minutes I spent in the crowded Stockholm subway station office trying to buy the tickets pictured above. Or that rainy day in Buenos Aires where we had nothing to do and decided to play poker, wandering around for about an hour in search of cards and trying to explain the concept of “playing cards” to local store owners in Spanish.
What do you do with these items? The more ambitious put them in scrapbooks, but I like to think of these disposable travel items as something altogether different – as “youvenirs.” What is a youvenir you might ask? For me, it’s any highly personal travel memento with little monetary value – that fleeting item that you’ve managed to hold onto because of a memorable experience or highly personal anecdote.
It’s for this reason that a youvenir is fundamentally different than a souvenir. Souvenirs are items you purchased with the intention of remembering and commemorating your trip – that beautiful colored glass bottle, an embroided sweatshirt that says “San Francisco” or a jar of Spanish olives you bought in Madrid.
I find myself collecting fewer and fewer souvenirs these days – there’s something about artificially buying an item just to remind me of a place that rings false. But a youvenir on the other hand is grounded in my personal experiences. As artists like Marcel Duchamp or Robert Rauschenberg have demonstrated, there is something profoundly interesting about everyday objects – something mundane and disposable yet incredibly meaningful depending on your personal context and experience with it.
I like to think that the more each of us travel, the less we acquire souvenirs so we can “brag” or give gifts to our friends and instead begin collecting youvenirs – items that have little monetary value but speak specifically to the unique emotions and experiences each of us attaches to travel.
What do you think about the concept of youvenirs? Do you have any memorable items you’ve acquired that would qualfiy? Click below to see our gallery of examples of “youvenirs” and leave some comments about your own favorite youvenirs below.