Souvenirs– when to buy them, how much to spend on them, where to pack them in an already-full bag, even whether to get them at all– they’re one of those tricky aspects of travel that everyone does differently.
I’m the kind of traveller who has high hopes of buying something amazing for every single person I know yet is brought crashing down to earth when I realize that I’ve already spent all my money on my own adventures.
M. is the best at balancing me out in these times. On our last trip, he said to me, “No one expects you to bring them anything.”
He’s right! No one does expect anything, so there’s no point in trying to meet expectations of lavish gifts that no one actually has. Our friends and family know us– they know we travel fast, cheap, and light, and they know we often have to ship their presents across oceans once we do buy anything for them.
But when we really want to buy a little something for a close friend or family member– and we do, because exploring little markets and souvenir shops is part of the adventure for us– what kind of things can be bought that won’t break the bank or the backpack?
In 2014, when we first decided to go to Myanmar for a two-week holiday, we had so many questions. It’s not the kind of country that either of us had any general knowledge about. We had one set of friends who had been the year before, but they did super-luxury guided tours throughout their trip so their costs were not going to be similar to ours.
So we muddled through and set our budget as we went. Now that we’ve been there, though, we can answer our own questions with confidence!
*Disclaimer: It’s been over two years since we went to Myanmar and things in that country change pretty fast. Take these costs as an approximate and maybe add a few US dollars to each price.
What’s this about perfect American dollars?
You do still have to have perfectly crisp and uncreased American dollars almost everywhere you go (we saw a guy get turned away at a hotel because his money had a slight fold).
Keep American dollars for paying for accommodation; the guest houses tend to prefer US$ to kyat.
TIP – Bring a page of thick card stock paper per person. Fold in half then put money inside. Use an elastic to secure it and keep this bundle inside the cover of a book, preferably a journal or hardcover.
I’ve been gathering documents this week for the final stage in my quest to finally stop giving my hard-earned money to Immigration: dual citizenship! Many thousands of dollars and about a half dozen police checks later, I’m finally going to be done with the anxiety of not having security in Australia. M. is in the same boat, with only his swearing-in ceremony left to go.
This doesn’t mean that we’ve decided to stay here forever (who knows what they’re going to be doing forever, anyway?) but it does make me reflect on the last 5.5 years in this sunburned country.
What I have I learned? Lots of positive things, for sure. But I’m going to start with a few regrets in hopes that others can learn from my mistakes.
So here I am with a brand-new travel blog, and I’m asking myself what seems like a pretty silly question: am I travelling too much?
The answer should be a resounding never! But let’s be real: I am not a highly-paid (or low-ly paid, for that matter), media-savvy digital nomad whose travels are being bankrolled by their hard work on the road. When I travel, it’s out of my own pocket.
Part of my question is, am I getting to the point where those pockets have limited depth? Even with some money saved, should I really be spending it all on travel?
There are some days when the wanderlust hits hard. I get the itch, the need, the craving to head to the airport and go– wherever. Sometimes it happens when life is particularly routine or stressful; other times when I’m feeling envious of someone else’s photos from Prague or Cambodia. Sometimes it’s just a shaft of sunlight hitting the pavement or the scent of wet earth, reminding me that the world is out there for me to see.