For better or for worse, I’ve never been one to collect souvenirs. I don’t know how it’s possible to go to China and not find a single thing worth buying, but apparently it’s possible, because I did it. My minimalist habits come back to haunt me when I have nothing to show for my travels.
Occasionally, though, I do pick up a treasure or two. Here are some of my favorites.
I picked up this bag while in the Sacred Valley of the Incas - in an old Inca town called Ollantaytambo to be exact, which is the starting point of the Inca Trail leading up to Machu Picchu. Many of the towns in the Urubamba Valley almost seem frozen in time when navigating the narrow, Inca-built cobblestone streets alongside Quechua-speaking women wearing the bright prints (like the pattern on my bag) characteristic of indigenous civilization. I use this bag for everything - short trips, gym clothes, beach bag, etc.
This elephant I picked up in Tanzania is important to me because I spent some time with the woodcarvers who made it in Dar Es Salaam and got to know a little bit more about the work that goes into creating these pieces. The stunning material is called ebony wood and is native to Tanzania. While there, I helped a woodcarver named Tony buy a power saw to help him more efficiently carve his intricate tables, the sales of which provide for his wife and the education of his two children.
I got these harem pants (I suppose that’s what you call them) in Morocco. In a country like Morocco where it’s safest and most respectful to keep covered, the light fabric of these pants keeps one cool during hot summers. Protip.
The colorful necklace above came from a small shop in Granada, Spain, with a whole host of handmade things. I forget what it was called, but I could find it for you if you buy me a ticket to meet you there.
Every Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires, Argentina, there’s an amazing market in a neighborhood called San Telmo full of antique gems and bohemian creations. I love the structure and subtlety of this ring I chose one Sunday from a dreadlock-tressed man selling jewelry on a blanket.
The belt above that I got in Morocco is stunningly and intricately adorned with thousands of shells and beads. I got this piece in a little desert village called Merzouga for the equivalent of $8 USD. Unfortunately it doesn’t go with many of my outfits, and when I try to pair with certain things, others say, “Yeah… I would go without the belt if I were you,” but I still try. Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect outfit. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.
This last one isn’t a piece I “found” so much as I had it made. When I was living in Dubai, I noticed several women had these necklaces with their names. I found they all had them made at this jeweler in Dubai’s Gold and Diamond Park. I sent them mine and my sister’s names, and they created this beauty for me, and I gave my sister one for her 20th birthday. Ana Looreen al Arabi.