Beyond pins on a map: Three great physical reminders of your trips

If you’re looking for a great way to impress a potential suitor with how well-traveled you are, you can’t go wrong with hanging a massive world map on your wall at home and sticking pins in the countries you’ve visited. “You’ve been to Croatia!” she’ll marvel. “You are so worldly and continental! Now let me slip into something a little more comfortable…”

Of course, if this approach works for you, have at it. But to me it lacks subtlety and humility, and it feels a bit too much like you’re turning the world into a checklist of countries to be “completed.”

Now, buying traditional souvenirs can be a great way to incorporate the feel of a certain country into your home. Around my house, for example, I’ve got rugs and wall hangings from Morocco, beer steins from the Czech Republic, and a neatly-framed map of Poland (with, alas, no pins.)

But I find that even these displays are a little troublesome; after all, I don’t want to be the kind of person who ostentatiously displays his wonderful trips for all his visitors to admire. When people ask why I have a map of Poland on my wall, for example, I always groan and mutter, “I got it when I was in Poland.” Then I always feel like adding, “But I didn’t hang it on my wall so you’d ask that question… Honest!”

The trick to bringing your trip back home is to try to create an effective, meaningful reminder of your trip without turning it into a showy display of your own worldliness. Here are a couple ideas beyond sticking pins in a map:

The Wine Cork Keychain

I first learned about this idea when I arrived home from a trip to Israel with ten beautiful wine corks I had collected during the course of the trip. (Yes, ten. It was a fun trip.) To make a keychain, I took a screw with a loop on one side, and then screwed the cork onto it. It’s a subtle everyday reminder of a wonderful city and a pretty good bottle of wine too. And as a bonus, it’ll make your keys float.

The Beer Coaster Collage

After spending time in the Czech Republic and a few other places known for their suds, I decided to start a little coaster collection. (That is, I started swiping coasters from bars.) I didn’t know exactly what I’d make from them, but eventually I decided on a framed collage that’s currently hanging on my wall. Check it out:

See if you can pick out the coasters from the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Israel, and my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

The Travel Journal

If you’re not keeping a journal of your travels, you’re really missing out on the best way to commemorate your trip. Not all of us can draw like this…

…but every one of us can write about the beautiful things we’ve seen on our travels and the funny things that have happened to us. Not a month goes by that I don’t break out my old travel journals for a reminder of all the bizarre, humorous, unbelievable, and amazing things I’ve been lucky enough to experience.

Any other ideas for great ways to commemorate your travels? Share them in the comments.