We brought our own travel experiences into our relationship. There were differing styles and mindsets surrounding travel, but as we began to globe trot together, we found our groove. This rhythmn was later lost and rediscovered when the littles joined our travels.
Few things were ever so contentious as souvenirs. Like any good pairing, we differed greatly. One of us was happy with the memories while the other wanted to bring home something to memorialize the meanderings. Eventually the confines of our first tiny flat solidified the “less is more” argument. Our new normal became picking-up something for our home that we needed. To this day we have lovely ceramics from Japan, serving dishes from Spain, and a paperweight from India (we use a lot of fans so this is more practical than it sounds – don’t hate on the paper weights).
Longer trips, volume limits on backpacks, and budget airline weight restrictions, made this approach doable only for a season. It was when we moved to Central Europe that we fell in love, and we do mean hard, with Christmas markets. We can gush about glühwein some other time, but it was there in those quintessential markets that our travel tradition was born – Christmas ornaments!
Admittedly, this is not revolutionary but it has blossomed into a beautiful element woven into our wanderings. Putting-up the tree takes us hours as we become all kinds of nostalgic. These ornaments bring back memories that seemed to slip our minds during the rest of the year. We tell our children stories of this place and that adventure as we adorn the tree together. As a family, we keep alive the travel memories represented by ornaments we’ve found as a tribe.
While exploring somewhere, we are not on the hunt for new tree trimmings. It happens organically and soemtimes this means we’ve left a place without a new ornament. And that’s OK. We’re not out to ruin our adventuring with the stress of finding our newest decoration. Along the way’ we’ve found stunning additions to our tree. There’s also a few keychains. We’ve never done it, but we’re convinced that if we were to lay our bobbles out chronologically, then complete strangers would be able to tell when our kids became involved in the ornament procurement. Though those decorations may not match our esthetic, it’s the memories that matter!
Each ornament is a gateway to a memory. As we hang our yellow egg, we’re taken back to Esztergom and the lady with the kind eyes who sold her hand-painted wares on the steps of Europe’s 2nd largest basilica. The fish from Bratislava swims us back to our early 20’s and our first Christmas abroad. Our wooden ornament from Jerusalem causes us to laugh at ourselves as we spent an entire day 1 hour off from local time because we screwed up the conversion from Central European Time (and couldn’t figure out why things were closing so “early”). Our hand carved bear from Banff, reminds us of walking out of the little shop only to stop in our tracks as we were overwhelmed by the magnitude and beauty of the Rocky Mountains. “The feathery one” was part of a day full of laughs and randomness – including when our boat driver accidentally drifted over the Brazil-Argentina border.
In the still of the evenings, with our littles all a-snooze in their beds, we sit in the glow of our tree and let the ornaments lead us down memory lane. It fills us with gratitude for all the exploring – both past and present.
What do you bring home to make those memories last?