When you are first undertaking a Completionist Travel quest, it is a good idea to pick a souvenir or something that you are going to do at every stop along the way. Completionist Travel destinations are very closely related to each other. So when you line up all your souvenirs, there is something really satisfying about them all together.
Here are 12 souvenir ideas to kickstart your collection.
1 Take the same picture of yourself
Free. Personal. Shareable.
There is no better souvenir than a photo. Since you are visiting a series of places with a common theme (like every state or every national park) it is really cool to get a picture of yourself doing the same thing in every spot.
For example, when 50-state traveler Heather Archuletta traveled the country, she took a photo at every State highway “Welcome” sign. By itself it is a rather boring photo but put together, the series is an amazing monument to dedication.
Same Clothing – Wearing the same thing with a similar pose can create a powerful set of photos. Photographer and artist Tseng Kwong Chi wore a pair of reflective shades and the traditional Chinese Mao uniform at every monument. What he ended up creating was the greatest set of selfies that have ever been taken (and this was 30 years before Instagram!)
Same Sweater – You could also be like knitter Sam Barsky and make a sweater of the place you are visiting and then take a picture of you wearing it there.
Same Shot – Or take a picture from the same vantage point. Photographer Oliver Curtis went to some of the most famous places in the world, but instead of snapping the same shot we have all seen, he turned 180 degrees.
Same Action – Performing the same action in a video across all the sites has an amazing ability to tie together your adventures. The most well-known example of this is the “Where the Hell is Matt” 2006 viral video
You could also try running from one side of the frame to the other and stitch them together to make it look like you are running around the world. See Casey Neistat’s Make it Count video:
Same Sign – Cary a small sign with the accomplishment. Fellow completionist blogger R Scott Jones is working to visit every national park unit. He carries a piece of paper with the number that he has visited.
If you are hiking the highest points write the elevation and how many you have completed
2 Take a picture of the Survey marker
If you are hiking the geographic high points or other official points there are typically survey markers at the exact spot. Take a picture of it as a way to check it off your list.
- Be careful how it is shot each time. Is your foot included or not? Do you give a thumbs up
- If you get there at night use a phone to a white screen and hold it to the side of the medallion. The side light makes the engraved medallion much easier to read than blasting it with a front facing flash.
3 Collect NASA passport cancelations
The NASA visitor centers have a similar program to the national park passport called Passport to Explore Space program. These smaller 8-page passports can be purchased at any of the NASA visitor center gift shops.
4 Get travel club awards
Completionist travel clubs often have special awards for accomplishing travel milestones. The highpointers club provide pins once you have climbed at least 5 peaks.
5 Collect National Park passport cancelations
If your completionist quest involves any visit to one of the US national park units (such as every national park, or every national battlefield) you should definitely get a national park passport book.
To get started, buy the $10 passport book at any park gift shop or online. Then at your next national park visit, go to the visitor center information desk and look for the small sign and ink pad. There you will find the park’s official cancellation stamp.
- There are also stickers that fit in your book. Buy them from your favorite sites.
- I also like to write a short message around the perimeter of the cancellation about who I am with and why I am here.
- Sometimes the stamp is dirty or not well inked Make a couple test stamps on the provided papers slips then stamp your book.
6 Get your pilot’s signature
Many airlines (Such as American Airlines) give free logbooks to Junior fliers. When you board, present the book to the flight attendant and she will have the captain sign it.
7 Sign the book
When Yuya Abe decided to visit every pub in the The Dublin Pub Spotters Guide he has the bartender sign the corresponding entry for that bar. At the end of his quest he is going to have an amazing record to look back on and the people who helped him realize it.
8 Buy a personalized stamp
When we got married, my wife and I ordered a customized stamp with adjustable dates. Every hike that completed in the guide book we left a nice bold mark “We DID IT.” Get your own stamp and leave your mark on your collection of ticket stubs, travel brochures, or maps.
9 Track it on an app
I love Fog of World and related location tracking apps. When you turn it on, the app records every move you make and leaves a small breadcrumb trail on a scrollable map. Traveling to every state is so much more rewarding when you can look back at a spiderweb of a journey.
- Fog of World
- World Uncovered
- Strut App
10 Buy the same item at each gift shop
Don’t hate the junky souvenir stand. They have existed since the origin of travel for a reason. They help us remember. Here are some ways to incorporate it into your Completionist Traveling:
Patch I purchase a patch for every country I visit and affix it to my favorite day bag. Patche are not always at every shop though and I always enjoy spending a bit of my trip trying to find one. It adds to the journey.
T Shirt You should never wear the t shirt of the band you are going to see. I feel like the same thing applies to travel destinations. However, once you are home wear it with pride. And when the shirt gets too ratty to wear anymore, have someone with sewing skills cut up the shirt and turn it into a giant quilt and wrap yourself in your memories.
Magnets I have seen refrigerators packed so tightly with destination magnets I couldn’t see the door any more. The more 3 dimensional the better. Grab them.
11 Earn hiking badges
German Volksmarching clubs are a national hiking tradition where participants go on a collective walk around their town. After completing the walk, you receive a metal hiking badge that gets hammered into your walking stick. The cool thing is that at the next event, you can compare walking sticks to tell the story of your travels.
12 Scratch your travel itch
My cousin got my wife and I this great scratch off map to mark off our travels. We had our local frame shop mount it without glass so we could still have access to the map. As an added ceremonial touch we always scratch off the country with the local currency.
13 Collect currency
Save a few coins and bills from your travels. Rather than just stuffing them in a box that rarely sees daylight, consider turning them into functional art pieces. For coins you can glue a magnet to the back of them and turn them into some pretty cool refrigerator magnets. For paper bills you can affix them to a table and pour polyurethane on them.