“Trinkets From My Travels”
4 minute read
Since moving house a couple of years ago, I’d been using one of my spare bedrooms as a storeroom.
We’ve all done it haven’t we; where the task of unpacking everything can feel so huge that we end up taking out only the essentials. Everything else ends up either stacked from floor to ceiling in a spare room; or filling up the garage, leaving your poor car sat homeless and shivering on the driveway.
Having completed some of the key renovations in the house, the time has now come to tackle the ‘storeroom’ and to get rid of some crap.
And what a task it is.
But true to my new minimalist approach to life, I’ve been selling dozens of items on eBay, giving things away to friends, or when all else fails, they end up going for their final dirt-nap in the big black bin.
Yet it’s a job that I enjoy, the act of cleansing. It’s therapeutic.
And today was a special day, as I made an unexpected find.
During an interview with another blogger (1) a few years ago I was asked when my love of travel first began. The answer was 1992, when I was lucky enough to be taken on my first ever road trip in America.
Although I’d been to America before, the 1992 trip was something different altogether, because it was my first experience of living out of a suitcase and moving onto someplace new each day. We travelled through California, Arizona, and Nevada; and it was a complete assault on the senses, experiencing everything from the solitude of the desert to the chaos of Los Angeles (2).
But until today, I’d forgotten about something else that came three years before that road trip.
As I was unpacking another box I came across a tatty old blue plastic briefcase. And etched on the front of the plastic were the following words.
AMERICA THINGS 1989
I’d forgotten that during the house-move I’d also reclaimed a load of old childhood possessions that had been stored in my Mum and Dad’s loft since I first left home.
Up until today I’d not really looked at anything and instead it had all just been thrown into the spare room.
But here I was, sat in front of this old plastic briefcase that hadn’t been opened in 33 years; my first ever time-capsule experience.
I unclipped the fasteners and lifted the lid, not knowing what to expect.
But as soon as the lid lifted, memories came flooding back to me. There was an old plastic Mickey Mouse straw from Disney World, some letter-headed stationery from a hotel in Miami, and there were clippings from US newspapers.
There was an old Happy Meal toy from a visit to McDonalds, an Epcot Center (3) key ring, and various visitor guides and maps from a number of attractions.
But sat right on top of all this, in pride of place, was my autograph book.
And there were all the autographs that I’d collected from all my old Disney favourites; Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and Donald Duck. There were those lesser-known characters that were specific to the theme parks, such as Figment, and then a whole page that was signed by various members of a performing band.
But as I flicked through the pages something dropped to the floor.
It was an old envelope. I picked it up and turned it over, and then another memory came flooding back to me.
During the return flight of that 1989 trip, my Dad got into a long conversation with a man that was sat next to him. I remember them chatting as though they’d known each other for years.
When my Dad introduced me to him I remember feeling nervous, but then he asked me if I’d like another autograph.
I said yes, even though I had no idea who he was, but he shook my hand and said hello. And then he autographed the front of a blank envelope and handed it to me.
I took the envelope from him and said thank you, and then I looked it over and read the following words…
“Hi Elliot. From Art Malik.”
At the time I had no idea who Art Malik was. Apparently he was an actor, but he’d certainly never been in anything that I remember seeing as an 11 year old.
Back then there was no Google and there was no iMDB, but my Dad always told me to keep the autograph safe. And I kept my promise.
It wasn’t until almost five years later when I went to see True Lies at the cinema, that I finally saw Art Malik again.
There he was, up on the big screen, the nice guy from the Virgin Atlantic flight, playing the role of the bad guy in a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And here I was today, now 44 years old, sat on the carpet of my spare room holding the autograph that had been in storage for more than 30 years.
Everything came flooding back to me.
I remembered it all.
It was true when I said that my love of travel first began in 1992. But the emotional connection to travel clearly came before that.
Everything that I’d kept from the 1989 trip was kept because it had meant something to me. I’d brought it all home, I’d stored it, and I’d thought enough of it to etch it into the briefcase.
And that’s something that I still do. From every trip that I’ve been on I’ve always brought back souvenirs and trinkets; from beautiful locally-made ornaments to a scruffy old beer mat from a cheap beach-side bar.
At the time it can be easy to see some of these things as clutter, but as the years roll by and these things become unearthed, they act as a reminder.
But it’s not just that they’re a reminder of where we’ve been and what we’ve done, but also of how we’ve felt during a time in our life.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get so swept up in my day-to-day life and in working towards new achievements that I very often forget of what’s come before. But today I was reminded of the importance of the past. It grounds you.
It’s essential to keep moving forwards and we should never become stagnant. We should most certainly never get stuck in the past. But sometimes, it can be good to look back.
With my more minimalist approach to life, it’s amazing just how many ‘things’ I’ve gotten rid of that I clearly don’t need anymore. But my collection of trinkets is something that I could never part with.
They hold no monetary value whatsoever, but to me they are priceless.
And this is what travel is all about.
It’s not about the material things; it’s about living. It’s about knowing that you were in a certain place at a certain time and feeling a certain way.
And it’s those moments that can be captured and kept forever; either in a photograph, from picking up a pebble on the beach, or by bringing home a Mickey Mouse straw.
(1) This was with Andrew Scott on his website, Authentic Traveling.
(2) And this was 1992 – the year of the LA Riots, where the devastation was still evident.
(3) I’m keeping the spelling authentic for the sake of the American audience, but we all know that it’s spelt with an R and an E.
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Do you have any thoughts or opinions on anything you’ve just read? How does it apply to your life? What are some of your favourite trinkets that you’ve picked up over the years? Do they still hold memories for you? Or do you believe that there’s no benefit to holding onto items such as these? Do you have any thoughts about the content that you’d like to share with the readers? Or do you have any questions of your own to ask that either myself or my readers can share an opinion on? Please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll begin a conversation.
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Interview with Andrew of Authentic Traveling
I’d Forgotten How To Live (in Praise of Feeder)
Don’t Ever Lose Sight of Who You Are
The Young, The Old, and The Easy Tiger
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A great article which resonated with me. Getting rid of clutter is so therapeutic, but keepsakes are just that – your link to the past ….:- x
I’m so pleased this one spoke to you. And there really is that fine line between knowing what things to get rid of, and which should be kept.
Really enjoyed this article it made me think too. Some of the smallest keepsakes can give us the most pleasure.
I agree that we shouldn’t live in the past but I feel we can learn from it. Sometimes to reminisce can give us time to appreciate what we have now and strength to go forward into the future….x
Thank you for commenting, and yes, I agree. The things that trigger the most memories don’t have to be anything big. But it’s amazing the power they can have.
The past definitely has it’s benefits, because if you don’t learn from the past then you can’t have a better future.
And anything that can give you gratitude for the present can only be a good thing.
I remember Arnie telling a story once about Art Malik. He asked Art why as the most famous Asian man in the world, did he not have a restaurant!
Must have been around the time of True Lies.
Nice article. Did you have to make any difficult choices about what to keep or throw away?
Well who’d have thought Arnie would be prone to stereotyping eh!
Glad you liked the article buddy, and yes, there were a few difficult choices along the way, but I found something that helped me. If there was anything that I kinda knew I wanted to get rid of but was having trouble detaching from it, I’d take photos. I soon came to realise that memories are always inside of us, and the item just acts as a catalyst for remembering. That can also be achieved by looking at a photo of it.
Elliot, your article means the world to me. Thank you so much, it reminded me that I keep a keepsake box in the back of my wardrobe and haven’t opened it for years.
The beauty of collecting mementos is that they can be anything. The objects do not need to be valuable or even attractive. It’s all about keeping items that will remind us of a special time. Keeping a ticket stub may be all you need to remember one of the best weekends of your life.
Because it’s a tangible reminder of childhood, a treasured belonging that evokes powerful memories & emotions, offering comfort, solace, joy & peace—sometimes bittersweetly, but all the more poignant for that. With all of the items we save from childhood & from our past in general, we’re curating the museum of our lives. Sometimes we may barely recall that we still have them, while at other times we have an urgent need to return to them & walk reflectively through the past with them—often to carry the best of the past forward into the present with us, or at least some portion of it, because we need that consoling & sustaining presence with us during rough times. We know the stories behind the photos and trinkets we keep, but to a stranger, our collection is meaningless.
Looking forward to your next article.
Keep smiling my friend. 🙂
Hey Katy, thank you as always for commenting on the article. I always look out for your thoughts. I’m glad you liked it.
I really like what you say there about the ‘museum of our lives’. I never thought about it that way, but that’s a really beautiful way to think of it.
Thank you as always, and I’m happy to let you know that I have a few more articles written and ready to go. I’m on a bit of a roll right now, so watch this space.
Take care my friend. 🙂
Love this Elliot. It just shows that even though we all like to clear out and minimise things we don’t need, the simplest, most financially inexpensive and childlike things often turn out to be the most precious and treasured items which give such special memories and experiences shape which not only shape our lives but also the person we have become. Don’t change. Stay minimal but don’t clear out all your precious clutter – treasure some – it’s special and though of little actual value is priceless to your personal spirit.
Hey Bev, great to hear from you and it’s lovely to have you commenting on the site. Thank you.
And what you’ve said is so very true. If other people were to look at the things we keep, to them they could appear to be absolute nonsense. But the beauty would then come in sitting with them and sharing the story that goes with that item.
Thank you again for reading and commenting, and wishing you all my best.
It is very therapeutic going through old boxes & getting rid of clutter. Feels SO good! But as you say, there are some things we don’t want to ever get rid of. Some items from our past are triggers to fantastic memories…and just seeing them in the box – even if just for a few minutes – is like being instantly transported back in time.
I love what you wrote in this blog: “But today I was reminded of the importance of the past. It grounds you.” This is true. It does ground us. I have a box-full of memorabilia that has, among other things: some of my fav stuffies as a kid, my little baton (which I always pull out of the box and twirl a few times), my ballet costume/leotard that my mom sewed (and would now fit on one leg…maybe), and my Brownies uniform, complete with an awful lot of cool badges 🙂
I could go on – but I won’t. ahahahahaha!
Great blog! Thanks for triggering a little trip down memory lane to my childhood!
Hi Maryanne. Great to hear from you as always and thank you for commenting. I really appreciate you sharing the details of some of your items and what they meant to you. Which Brownie badges did you get? I was in the male equivalent here, but I’m having trouble remembering which badges I got, hmmm…
It’s been so nice hearing that so many people have the same thing…boxes of memorabilia…that memories are triggered. It can be so easy to forget things in day to day life, but then when we stumble across something, it just brings it all back… 🙂
I will have to dig out my Brownie uniform & have a look at the badges on my sleeve!
Hahah brilliant…yes let us know if you find it. 🙂
Thanks Elliot for another thoughtful post. Our lives can be so busy and we can easily feel pressurised to do more and buy more stuff and end up feeling dissatisfied and inadequate. Your post is a timely reminder to be reflective now and then and to remember with gratitude. A small time capsule is a great idea. The fact that you only open it occasionally gives it more impact. I find that photos and ornaments permanently on display can just become part of the scenery and I don’t really notice them anymore.
True Lies is one of my all-time favourite films! 😀
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It’s appreciated!
And that’s so true…I’d never thought of that. I have photos and ornaments on display – which are great to have – but it’s amazing how the majority of the time I just walk past them without necessarily paying them any attention. The time-capsule/trinkets box certainly gives a more concentrated focus, and because years can pass by without looking, it then provides an element of surprise each time.
And thank you for sharing that about True Lies. It’s been a few years since I last watched it, but it’s such a great movie.
Great read once again…. I didn’t even know this story about you! Loved it.
Now I want to get in my attic and sort through it all as I too have kept trinkets along the way…. I always worry that the old “I’ll get round to it soon” always comes to mind and before you know it, another 5 years have passed by.
I need to pull my finger out and sort it. Then hopefully I can be reminded of some special times.!
Keep up the good work…. Your brother from another. X
Hey brother, thank you for reading and commenting. And most definitely get yourself up into your attic because you just never know what you might find. I feel confident you’ll come across some awesome stuff.