hawaiian ukelele

Ukeleles from Hawaii and other handcrafted instruments are surefire souvenir wins. (Photo: Getty Images)

Culture + Style

For Memory’s Sake: Support Local Artisans and Traditions with These 10 Travel Keepsakes

Returning home from vacation with a meaningful souvenir keeps memories fresh, and supporting local artisans helps sustain their communities and traditions. Here are 10 characteristic keepsakes from around the world that you can journey to collect or purchase from home when travel isn’t possible.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Handmade Hawaiian Ukuleles

The next time you travel to Oahu, embark on a uke quest: Four of the top Hawaiian ukulele shops — Kamaka, Kanile`a, Ko`olau and KoAloha — are near Pearl Harbor.

All are family owned, from the 100-year-old Kamaka to the upstart Kanile`a, which offers a range of ukes, from custom-made to budget models for beginners. Each website lists dealers for ordering throughout the mainland and beyond.

Coastal First Nations Art in Vancouver

The First Nations artists of Canada’s Pacific coast produce work so distinctive it’s instantly recognizable, whether it appears on a totem pole or in the form of the Seattle Seahawks’ logo, whose design was inspired by a 19th-century Coast Salish ceremonial mask.

For those building a fine art collection, try Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery for museum-quality pieces. The store makes for a memorable in-person visit and offers online ordering.

Belizean Wood Products

wooden bowls
Traditional wooden bowls are a pretty travel reminder. (Photo: Getty Images)

Visitors to the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye in Belize often purchase intricate wood carvings by local craftspeople who can make just about anything, from gorgeous, glossy bowls to carvings of sharks and sea turtles.

While you’re on the island, visit the San Pedro Artisans Market to select your favorite pieces. Back home, kick back in a Belizean clamshell chair from Orange Gifts, which sources sustainable mahogany and also offers a variety of puzzles, game boards and pens.

Mayan Textiles

When shopping in Mexican markets, it’s hard to resist colorful woven blankets, shawls and huipils, garments that Mayans have worn since ancient times. These bright-hued textiles are so essential to the Indigenous people who produce them that Mayan weavers in several countries have formed collectives to ensure their authenticity.

If you can’t venture to a Mexican market, check out Friendship Bridge, offering handmade scarves, blankets, hair accessories and more.

Alpaca Sweater from Peru

peruvian weaving
Keep warm with Peruvian wool. (Photo: Getty Images)

When it’s cold outside, travel memories will keep you warm — especially if you remembered to bring home an alpaca sweater from Peru.

Indigenous sells pullovers, throws, cardigans and more made of yarn sourced from small alpaca ranches in Peru. German clothing brand Achiy specializes in fashionable fair-trade garments that protect workers and the environment while preserving traditions.

Tablecloths from Provence, France

Nothing brings the spirit of Provence home better than a bright yellow tablecloth decorated in the traditional regional olive branch pattern, evoking lingering outdoor feasts on country tables overlooking fields of lavender.

Remember Provence offers linens, gourmet gift boxes and beauty products exclusively made in Provence; all items come with a certificate of authenticity attesting to their origins and quality.

Handmade African Drums

The diverse cultures of the African continent perfected the drum, a souvenir that will evoke the rhythms of your travels long after you return.

Africa Heartwood Project is an all-volunteer nonprofit launched in Ghana in 1999 that connects West African drum artisans with eager drummers worldwide. Proceeds have launched a training program for deaf students, water projects, family-based care for orphans in Liberia and continued support of drum makers.

Aboriginal Boomerangs

aboriginal boomerangs
Boomerangs make an apt memento. (Photo: Getty Images)

While in Sydney, perhaps you visited Gledswood, a 19th-century colonial homestead, to tour the winery and watch a boomerang-throwing demonstration.

For an apt memento, By Indigenous sells eye-catching boomerangs handcrafted by artisans at the Girrawaa Arts Centre at Bathurst Correctional Centre, providing incarcerated Indigenous people with training in traditional Aboriginal techniques.

Authentic Regional Carpets in Dubai

Perhaps no object evokes the artistry, culture and heritage of a variety of different Middle Eastern cultures than traditional carpets.

National Iranian Carpets showcases rugs from Persian, Turkish and Indian traditions in its appealing, air-conditioned showroom in Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah souk and offers online ordering.

Kyusu Teapots from Japan

To recreate the serenity and grace of a Japanese sencha (loose-leaf) green tea ceremony at home, the essential object is a kyusu teapot with a side handle, traditionally made of volcanic clay. These teapots originated in China during the Song dynasty, and joined Japanese culture over 400 years ago, to provide optimum enjoyment of sencha tea.

While in Kyoto, visit Nishinotoin Tea Shop & Motoan Tea House for an authentic tea ceremony — with English menu translations available — and tour a matcha factory.

When home, order authentic teas, teapots and accessories from the Kyoto-based Sazen, which ships globally.