When your walls tell a story, your home is a lot more interesting.

During my sophomore year in high school, I tagged along with my parents to visit my oldest brother in Spain who was studying abroad in Toledo. During that trip, my parents purchased a traditional Spanish hand painted tile mirror for the house. Oh the memories of carrying the 2.5′ x 3′ mirror through international airports and praying it made it home in one piece.

On another such trip, we visited my middle sister in Ecuador where my parents purchased a brass mobile at the Guyasamín museum. Another adventure getting it home, but all worth it, as it has become another wonderful reminder of an amazing trip that I see every time I visit my parents.

Nomad Book by Chronicle Books on Flee Fly Flown

So, I owe it to my parents’ own habits for inspiring my approach to how I purchase souvenirs when traveling. Since high school, when I became a bit more aware of my surroundings and style, I started buying things on trips that I could display as decór somehow. The best place to find such treasures? Often in open air markets, bazaars, street fairs and such. A new book, Nomad: a global approach to interior style, coming out soon from Chronicle Books reminded me of my own travel buying habits, and so I thought I’d share.

The most common item I buy are little paintings, ceramics and the occasional photograph. Sprinkled into the mix are three dimensional items such as a cobbler’s foot mold I picked up at a vide grenier in France, or hanging elephants from Mumbai that cost less than $1. When looking for your own treasures to remember a trip by, make sure to think about the following:

– How the item will travel: Too fragile? Do you have space in your suitcase or carry on? Is shipping an option?
– How much the item costs: Can you negotiate? Is it something that will remind you of your visit?
– What will you do with it at home? Will it actually go with what you already have? What room do you see it in?
– Is it unique to the place your visiting? Find out if your destination is known for certain goods (ie: Italy – Leather, Spain – Shoes, China – Silk, Prague – Crystal, etc.)
– Limit your buying to one or two nicer items vs. a lot of little trinkets.

Best way to display? Wall collages of course! Check out more inspiration found by SF Girl by Bay (vintage inspired, but you get the idea).
SF Girl by Bay image on Flee Fly Flown

I would take the Nomadic lifestyle one step further and extend it into fashion. The other things I look to buy, if not something to decorate my home, are jewelry pieces or a fashion item that is significant to a place. I find people striking up conversations with me about the turquoise earrings I picked up on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Or the Feather Hat Pin from the Neuschwanstein Castle gift shop in Germany for €5.

Happy trails!

- Colleen McIntyre on Flee Fly Flown