Souvenirs don’t have to be tacky. Some can hold lifelong memories.

Every member of the Friendly Planet Travel staff has been bitten by the travel bug. Over the years, members of our team have gone soul searching in India; served in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia; collected local art in Spain; returned to their roots in Ireland; and much more.

Each trip exposed them to a new culture and opened their eyes a little wider to the diverse world around them. To celebrate the unique experiences of our staff, I asked them to submit photos of some of their favorite souvenirs from their global travels. Here’s Friendly Planet Travel’s souvenir gallery.

Continue reading to hear a personal description about each memento.

1) Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel: I visited India in late November 2009. I found a shop in Agra that was creating gorgeous home décor items from marble, precious stones, and semiprecious stones. Each design was painstakingly created by master craftspeople, working with miniscule tools to cut, shape, and set the stones into the marble. I couldn’t resist this gorgeous pedestal, which I had shipped to avoid schlepping such a heavy item in my luggage. Every time I look at this piece, I remember my time in India and smile.

2) Alyssa Ramos, Administrative Assistant at Friendly Planet Travel: I brought these glass bangles home with me from India. I got them in Sangli, a rural town in the state of Maharashtra, with my host family. I bought them because I love brightly colored bangles. They are delicate, simple, and beautiful. I have bangles in every color for every outfit. I love to wear them on special occasions because they remind me of my six-month Indian journey that transformed my life in many ways.

When I look at the bangles, I remember the children running in the street, mothers lifting themselves out of poverty with microloans, women forced to work in the red light district, and my schoolmates that would correct me when I mispronounced Hindi words.

3) Judy Poliva, Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet Travel: I’ve been buying inexpensive street art for a while now, and sometimes even watching the artist paint it. Often these talented artists are students or less fortunate individuals, making a living on the street. I bring them home, invest in a beautiful frame, and hang them on my walls. Every day, I look at them, and I am reminded of my good fortune to be able to travel the world. This piece was purchased during a walking tour of the streets of Cartagena, Colombia in 2012. There were local artists on every corner. This is a watercolor on thick paper, and the buildings in Cartagena look exactly like this.

4) Leora Hafri, Marketing at Friendly Planet Travel: This is a painting that I had framed from my time in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia. An artist from the town of Ozurgeti, where I served for the first part of my service, made this painting of Bakhmaro for me after I visited the village with my host family. The area’s mixture of sea and mountain air is supposedly beneficial for respiratory problems, and families from nearby towns flock there in the summer to escape the heat.

The artist dramatically depicts the wood houses that sit on top of stilts on the side of a mountain. The painting is very true to life. The houses are built on stilts to maximize air flow in the warm, damp climate.

This piece of art currently hangs in my living room, and is the largest and most prominent of all of the artwork I’ve collected. I gather art from every country I visit, so I’ve been lucky to assemble quite the collection! When I see the painting, it reminds me of my time in Georgia. It conjures specific, fond memories of my time with my host family. I love it!

5) Kristin Wagner, Reservations at Friendly Planet Travel: I received this bronze plaque as a gift when I was in Ireland. It’s my favorite thing that I brought back from my trip. The plaque says, “céad míle fáilte,” which means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” This phrase perfectly describes the feeling you have when visiting Ireland. I had never experienced anything like it — everyone you encounter is warm and welcoming. Wherever you go, total strangers will start talking to you just for the pleasure of a friendly conversation. The plaque hangs by the front door of my apartment to remind me of the wonderful times I had, and the lovely people I met while traveling in Ireland. It also serves as a reminder to tap into a little more of my Irish heritage — be a little nicer, a little warmer, and make someone else’s day a little brighter.

6) Terence Foley, Product Development at Friendly Planet Travel: I purchased this souvenir dagger in Toledo, Spain. As a city that dates back to the Roman Empire, Toledo has been historically known for its metalworking and expert sword making. This dagger reminds me of my travels through Spain and the glory of the Roman Empire.

7) Kate Katubi, Reservations at Friendly Planet Travel: I purchased my favorite souvenir in China. I spent one evening wandering around Nanjing Road in Shanghai. I stumbled down a small, dark side street. There I found an old rickety shop. Blue tarps covered the entrance to keep the pouring rain from flooding the store. A woman sitting on a milk carton and grilling pancakes on a hotplate smiled at me as I entered. Hundreds of souvenirs lined the shop walls, and I sifted through the unorganized knickknacks. Hidden between a stack of books and a pile of magnets, I found a little China doll. She was all by herself. She smiled at me, and I knew I had to take her home. Now she sits proudly on my nightstand. She has found her home.

8) Elizabeth Hutchins, Reservations at Friendly Planet Travel: This perfume set is from Penhaligon’s in London. I collect perfumes when I travel since olfactory memories are the strongest and can instantly transport you back to the destination with just a sniff. I bought this set when I visited London a few years ago. All the stores were closing early due to a snowstorm, but I managed to sneak into a little apothecary. Everything they sold was just beautiful, and the packaging was gorgeous. This set features perfumes that smell like roses, lily of the valley, and two other blended scents. I wore them when I was on the trip, and every time I wear them now, I remember London.

What are some of your favorite souvenirs from you international adventures? Let me know in a comment below!

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