Bringing mementos home as a reminder of your travels is an age-old practice.
Unfortunately for Greece, Peru and dozens of other nations, billions of dollars worth of irreplaceable cultural artifacts were removed from their natural homes and taken to private antiquity collections and universities far removed from their point of origin.
However, I am an ordinary tourist, so international issues about such relics have little to do with me.
With that caveat, having small reminders of my journeys to different locales is one way to prompt pleasant memories of my travels. A carving from Kenya, an alpaca garment from Peru, a paperweight from Murano (Venice), Italy, a carved egg from Romania—these small trinkets are more than enough to make me smile with satisfying memories when I see them displayed in our home.
I have learned to keep my souvenirs small and light. Some of the most miserable moments of my life have been spent toting overflowing bags that were too heavy with travel purchases (books, crystal, pottery and gifts) through the escalators and stairs of subway systems and airport terminals. (I have learned to ship some items home.) Buying china from the Aldridge Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent for Aldridge relatives was really cool. Carrying heavy packages home was really not so cool.
Out-of-the-ordinary trifles are my favorite. I am really not interested in a small replica of the Eiffel Tower. Something unique to the culture I am visiting makes more sense than something made in China (unless I am in China). In Athens, Greece, down an alley where I was wandering, far away from other tourists, I discovered a tailor who specialized in making vestments for Greek Orthodox clergy. This was not a factory. He sewed the garments one at a time as they were ordered. Not being in the market for any Greek Orthodox apparel, I saw a few fine pieces of framed needlework for sale. One was the likeness of John the Baptist. That seemed like a fitting souvenir. The price was better than reasonable for an original work of art. I bought it.
In Brussels, Belgium, art nouveau is a big deal. When I found a reasonably priced art nouveau glass paperweight at a Saturday morning flee market, I made the purchase.
What people bring home may be one way to distinguish between a traveler and a tourist.
I like cufflinks and they can cost as little as $10 or $20 in American currency and are easy to carry home. I love telling people about the St. Louis cufflinks I bought in New York City, or the peacock cufflinks I bought in Croatia. Good memories.