“I have a habit of being an archaeologist of my own past, a sentimental collector of personal artefacts which may at first glance appear random, but each of which holds a unique significance. As the years pass me by, I find that the number of objects within my possession begins to accumulate. A torn map. A sealed letter. A boat full of paper animals. Each item encapsulates within itself a story, akin to an outward manifestation of my inner journey.”
― Agnes Chew, The Desire for Elsewhere
The desire for elsewhere has led me to collect mementos of my travels and journeys throughout my life. But, why am I unable to throw any of my mementos away?
“At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.”
― Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
I have hoarded the world. My collections are stories of my existence. I am hoarding stories of my life, afraid that I will lose the stories if I give away my travel mementos. And will I lose my existence in this world? Do my mementos hold onto my place in this world ever so briefly?
“Hoarding is holding onto what I can’t keep and all the while convincing myself that I can. And in the end, what I’m really hoarding is my need to believe something at the expense of my existence.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
Or can my collections be of making order from the chaos in the world? I get nervous when things are in disarray. I like order in the world.
The author describes a collector’s mental state as metaphysical angst…”perhaps because they cannot bear the idea of chaos being the one ruler of the universe, which is why, using their limited powers and with no divine help, they attempt to impose some order on the world, and for a short while they manage it, but only as long as they are there to defend their collection, because when the day comes when it must be dispersed, and that day always comes, either with their death or when the collector grows weary, everything goes back to its beginnings, everything returns to chaos.”
― José Saramago, All the Names
A good photograph keeps a moment from running away. I make photographs like I make memories. Am I running away from my mortality? Are all photographs a warning or reminder that death inches closer, so we must preserve the moments in suspended time?
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” -Susan Sontag
I am a sentimental traveler, always trying to find a way to keep my trip memories alive in my home. It takes some work to turn travel knickknacks into art, but I have found a couple of organization ideas that would inspire any globe-trotter. I have shadow boxes, travel poster walls, shelves, journals, scrapbooks, rocks and sand bottles, and memory boxes.
But, are these objects I collect a bridge to my past, or merely an illusion?
“We keep stuff in order to hang on to what’s important, but it’s an illusion … These objects are not bridges to the past, they’re bridges to memories of the past. But they are not the past.”
― Helen Fisher
My colorful and eclectic travel mementos give me joy. Until I began to write this article, I really hadn’t given much thought to my collections, other than…my goodness, every nook and cranny in my house has a memento and a story that accompanies it. What will happen to these things when I die? Who would like my llama toenail musical shakers or my rock collections? Our poor son!
“The items people own reveal something about the owners. Every quaint item that a person selects to surround themselves with has a basic quiddity, the essence, or inherent nature of things. As a people, we assign a value meaning not only to the things that we presently possess, but also to the items destined for one generation to hand down to the next generation.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
I am sure I am not the only person in the world musing about my travel mementos and collections. I think I am normal, right? Don’t all travelers collect mementos of their trips?
Are you a sentimental traveler who collects mementos? How do you display them? What will you do with your mementos when you downsize, move, or transition or die?