Why Souvenirs?

Why Souvenirs?

While I am setting here enjoying my breakfast, I notice that I am drinking coffee from my favorite

Kentucky souvenir coffee mug.  My light blue t-shirt reads “Kentucky- Birthplace of Bourbon.”

Nobody would own so much Kentucky gear if they didn’t have roots sunk deep in the Bluegrass, right?

Well, actually, no, but I do have a strong affiliation with Kentucky. I used to live there, and I loved it.

Whenever I go and when I travel for business, I always come home with souvenirs. Kentucky just

happens to be my favorite place to visit.

My little hobby has become almost an obsession. I have t-shirts with the

picture of Kentucky on them, travel mugs, and Koozies. I have hats, a

dozen refrigerator magnets and now I started collecting postcards from

my travels as well.

Why and What are Souvenirs?

In our minds, we usually think of souvenirs as keepsakes with Christmas or

gift shop merchandise. The word “souvenir” is really a French word meaning

memory or remembering. Souvenirs are also referred to as keepsakes,

tokens, or mementos. Souvenirs are any item that someone, usually a

traveler, keeps for the memories the piece brings back.

Collecting Souvenirs

The reason I collect these items, I suspect, is to try to validate and mark my

travels. Being away from family and friends’ week after week makes me feel

lonely, lost and depressed. It’s time I can never get back.

On the other hand, when I travel for work or pleasure, it’s also so much fun. I

have a love affair with travel. Most of the time I travel alone. Me and myself

untethered and alone on a big adventure. When you travel you truly learn

you need others.  Traveling alone opens me up in a way that is impossible when I am at home.

By traveling alone, I must depend on the kindness of strangers. At home, I

hardly talk to strangers. When I am in a far-off place, I will chat up complete

strangers because I am a visitor to their home.  I am a better version of

myself when I travel and far away from home.

Buying mementos of my trip are tangible evidence that I’ve actually been

someplace. Souvenirs are a reminder of one of my far-flung adventures.

Souvenirs act as triggers for where I was and who I met.

Most times when I travel for pleasure, I don’t have a plan. Just going

somewhere is the best way to learn about the place that you are.

Travel is not an escape from my life. No matter where I go, there I am. I am

stuck with me. Travel allows me to be wide open to the world. Souvenirs

allow me to remember those incredible experiences and places I visited.

Specific- Place Souvenirs

If I come home with a t-shirt from Cumberland Falls, I can also place that experience

with a time and place.

Without a souvenir, it’s almost like I never went there at

all. When you buy from local companies you may be able to buy something

before it goes national. One of the great ways to experience life as a local is

to seek popular local hangouts. Go visit a State Park or local attraction.


(Breaks Interstate Park)                          (Kingdom Come State Resort Park)

Checking out the local scene is always a great way to learn about a new place.


One of my favorite places to travel is Kentucky. Like the license plates say, Kentucky is a place of “unbridled spirit.” Kentucky is a mix of down-home southern hospitality and hardworking Midwest charm.  The people there are generous, kind, and full of adventure.

My good friends Daniel Mays and Blake Shewmaker own Kentucky Souvenir Sales.  It has been a family-owned business since 1947.  Seventy years in business is almost unheard of these days.  Thinking about all the smiles their souvenirs have produced for 3 generations is something to be very proud of.

For the past three years Daniel has provided a steady stream of items to fill my obsessive souvenir collecting habit.  I’m partial to shirts and hats because a) they proudly display where I visited and b) I just like to wear them.

I was a military brat and later spent 25 years in the United States Army.  I literally have lived all over the world and over a dozen places in the United States.  In 2003, I was lucky enough to be stationed at Ft. Knox, KY.  From then on Kentucky has always felt like coming home to me.

My Kentucky souvenirs carry a lot of emotional weight for me.  My t-shirts and hats from Kentucky Souvenir Sales are a great way for me to remember the place that is “my home away from home.”

What is your favorite souvenir or gift to buy for yourself or loved ones while you are on vacation?  Let us know in the comments.  Also scroll on down to the bottom and like our Facebook page if you enjoyed this.


Dominic Oto loves reading and writing about traveling.  Dom is a wounded veteran with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is a writer, social media manager, and blogger on several websites.  Dom is a keynote speaker on entrepreneur and veteran issues.  His website is www.militaryhistoryveteran.com