We are beach creatures. We prefer bumming on a sandy shore than climbing a mountain, rappelling down a cliff, storming down the river on a raft or playing rape-the-pond-fairies in god knows what other body of fresh water there is. We crave for the sticky feel of the evaporating salt on our skins and the attenuating sound of waves crashing the shore. We lie down the hammock under the shades of coconut trees and forget about time for a change…
Someone softly but rudely interrupts your heavenly time in paradise to sell souvenir key chains. Let’s just call this anticlimactic moment–The Paradisus Interruptus!
We understand that selling crafts and goods to tourist helps the local industry of towns and it has a significant impact to a local economy. But sometimes they can really go a little too creative and in terms of marketing that they come few pushes away to becoming an insurance sales agents. Let’s say you are just starting your well planned summer holidays to Aruba, then the vendors will start stalking you and clinging like a desperate fungal infection. I bet you will try restrain your self from wringing their necks for ruining your ultimate getaway. I personally will uncontrollably go berserk, Hello it’s Aruba, for crying out loud!
Travelers may forget about time but we will never forget one thing–Buying souvenirs! And we noticed that there is a trend and souvenirs items are becoming more and more staple than relevant, they are starting to be generic and cliché. So we listed down the Top Cliché Souvenir Items travelers buy on a beach trip.
Key Chains. Which we recently noticed that it became a cheap pick. Cheap not in a good way. That is because in the recent years, the local vendors started resorting to materials they can purchase by bulk, which apparently all made in (where else?) China. They import them for 10 dollars a sack, paint it with letters spelling Kokomo or Bohol on its surface and VOILA! Key chains costing a dollar each!
Flip Alternative: Instead of Key chains, why not collect something more meaningful? (Monette will kill me because she collects key chains) Bring a vial and scoop a small amount of sand from the beach, I know someone who collected a whole shelf of sands from beaches that he have been to and it looks really good when displayed side by side.
Beer Shirts. This is the same as buying those “I <3 ______ ” city shirts to display and quietly tell everyone back home that you have been to that place or that you downed a whole case of beer when in fact you only bought one bottle and not even consumed everything. Shirt prices varies and ranges between USD 5 to USD 10 depending on the ripping power of the seller.
Flip Alternative: Why not try going artsy fartsy? Grab a plain tank top or shirt and ask a local friend or those kids playing in the beach to vandalize your tops with colored marker. It would be more creative, fun and I can bet to go commando for a day if you will not have a meaningful time working on this little immersion project. Or if you really want the beer souvenir, score an empty bottle or bottle crown to take home.
Sarong or beach towels. These generic batik sarong are being sold everywhere, from Bali Indonesia all the way across the world to the Cayman Islands. And they all claim to be an authentic local craft. Who are they kidding? I wouldn’t buy a piece of Sarong in Jamaica unless it has a weave of Bob Marley’s locks in it, or unless I really needed one because I’m stupid enough to go to a beach without any form of mat (Yes, I’m guilty) they were all made in China anyway.
Flip Alternative: A sarong usually costs around USD 10 each. Instead of spending your money for another piece of tasseled cloth, you can go to the local sunday market right outside the touristy town and grab something with cultural significance: like a wayang kulit from Bali, a pair of fisherman’s pants from Koh Phi Phi or a small Aruban painting made by the local artists. You will be surprised that there are places where you can buy these items at unbelievably low prices.
I’m not saying that something is wrong when one collects key chains, beer shirts or Sarongs. Most, if not all collectors continue-on with their own little tradition because that was what they already started, because it means something to them (because we collect those too. LOL!) But we just noticed that when we started searching for a more meaningful alternatives, we experienced the local culture in a more profound manner. We talked to the locals, we played with the kids on the beach and we understood the places more.
Now as for me, instead of buying those magnets, I’d rather spend it getting a traditional beach massage–the scents of the local extracts and oil, the feel of human touch and techniques, all are unique to a place and it is something that I will remember forever.
PS. After posting this article, a good friend sent me an SMS: “Thank you for bursting my bubble!” and I replied “You sent this to the wrong number girl friend! This is Ron… Not KC Concepcion!”
Do you collect souvenir items?