What We Bring Home

Above Image | Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s For your consideration: the James Bond classic Aston Martin DB5

Just Don’t Call Them Souvenirs

A pot, a rug, a bottle of something unpronounceable and delicious—the best on-the-road finds have the power to conjure our favorite travel moments long after we’ve returned home.

Illustrations by Sarah C. Rutherford



Ukulele god Jake Shimabukuro knows exactly what you should bring back from your next trip to the islands.

“As the ukulele has reentered pop culture in the last few years, I’ve seen more and more visitors to Hawaii buying ukes to take home. Yes, you could buy a cheap blue or pink one in your hotel’s gift shop, but you’re not going to be able to make it sound all that great. Spend a little more money on one and you’ll actually look forward to playing it.

“It’s a purchase that won’t gather dust. The uke is so small and light, you can take it with you on a hike or to the beach. Or even hand carry it through the airport; you can often find me practicing by the gate while I wait for a flight.

“I prefer ones made by Oahu’s Kamaka Ukulele. I don’t think I’ve ever played one not made by them. Owned by a native Hawaiian family, Kamaka was one of the world’s first manufacturers and still makes the best ukes 100 years later. You can find them at high-end music shops all over the islands. Their instruments, made of native koa wood, are such good quality they can be passed down generation to generation. My very first ukulele, which I got when I was four, was a Kamaka that belonged to my mom when she was a teenager.” —as told to Sarah Purkrabek



At Pushkar’s camel fair, rustic bells provide the soundtrack.

As I walked from town into the surrounding desert, it was the bells I heard first. Softer than cowbells, and disorderly. One here, one there. Then I saw the camels. Thousands of them along the dunes waiting to be bought and sold. I watched as their owners brushed their fur and adjusted their pompom necklaces of pink, yellow, and orange yarn. Rickety stands sold these ornaments, along with saddles and the small brass and bronze bells, imperfectly shaped, that carried that sound I’d heard. I had to have one. Years later, I can pick it up and I’m immediately back on the dunes.
Jeremy Saum

(Almost) Anywhere


Tasting distinctly of the place they were made, local honeys bring the world into your kitchen.

When archaeologists peered into the tombs of the Egyptians, they found vessels of honey, nectarous and edible as the day it was harvested from the hive. Because honey lasts, literally, forever. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that if the apocalypse comes, excavators centuries in the future will find my own trove of honey, fresh as a daisy.

Like wine, honey conveys a distinct terroir—the earth, sunshine, and flora of a place—in the primitive yet provocative raw material of buzzing bees. Unlike wine, it comes in tiny, surprisingly durable jars, which is why I pick some up from every place I travel.

My collection consists of a few dozen. There’s a dark, heady honey I found on a drive through Montalcino, Italy,some creamy stuff picked up at a vineyard outside Rioja, Spain,a fruity, clear avocado one from a co-op in San Francisco, and an inky, savory honey from an argan tree plantation along the coast of Morocco. Each one tastes unmistakably like its homeland.

So honest an expression of place are these honeys that in a teaspoon they revive vivid memories of standing on a sun-drenched roadside in Italy or watching Moroccan goats climb dusty trees. I haven’t yet picked up any ancient Egyptian honey, but one day I will. I have a feeling it can wait.
—Leslie Pariseau



In sherry country, track down a rare bottle that echoes the past.

“It comes from my husband’s grandfather—before the Spanish Civil War,” said Carmen Pou. In Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosia, her winery in El Puerto de Santa María—a Spanish coastal town famous for its sherry—Pou was drawing liquid from a rare relic: a tiny barrel of jerez quina. The nearly extinct aperitif is made of sherry infused with herbs and quinine. In its heyday, 80 years ago, the pre-dinner drink did double duty as an antimalaria treatment throughout southern Europe. Carmen’s winery doesn’t make it anymore, but the historic Valdespino bodega in Jerez does. Their version is warm and spicy with a walnut-y bite. It’s a bittersweet taste of a bygone era, one that—trust me on this—is worth smuggling home in your suitcase. —Talia Baiocchi



How much you spend depends on how much extra baggage you’re willing to schlep. Here, a cheat sheet to the island’s best wood carving.

To Buy a Wall Panel

The town of Kemenuh, one of the island’s longtime wood-working hubs, is full of galleries. Seek out the shops around Butterfly Park, which specialize in beautiful carved wall hangings.

Native suar, a dark, caramel-brown wood with a pronounced grain that makes it resistant to cracking

Around $100 for a 12-inch circular wall piece

To Buy a Statue

In the village of Mas, wood carvers remix traditions: You’ll see Buddhas with modern expressions and animals in yoga poses. Many studios are in private homes, but the statues are sold at local shops.

Hibiscus wood: It has an ivory-like sheen and is malleable enough to allow for more elaborate designs.

From $200 to $1,000 depending on the size of your statue.

To Buy a Door

There are no doors as spectacular as those from Bali. In the Southern village of Sukawati, the Galih Ukir workshop employs 30 full-time craftsmen, who use chisels to create their detailed patterns.

Teak. It’s durable and water- resistant enough to be used outside.

At least five grand for something intricate —Sarah Purkrabek



Nearly 50 different tribes weave their own variant of Morocco’s classic keepsake, the Berber rug. This one, from the city of Beni Mellal, is our favorite.

It all starts with place. “Every knot, stitch, and tassel of a Moroccan rug holds the stories of the village where it was made,” explains Mostafa RaissEl-Fenni, the third generation in a family of rug dealers and owner of Sahara Import in Oakland, California. “This is how strongly Moroccans feel about their rugs: When one is old or torn, we cut it and use it for a doormat or something. We just keep recycling the piece until it’s gone.” Boucherouite-style rugs, the “rag rugs” of Morocco (the word comes from a Moroccan-Arabic phrase for torn, repurposed clothing), are the ultimate expression of this spirit of creative reuse. Artists weave colorful scraps of wool, nylon, and cotton clothing into extravagant, whimsical patterns. Once considered fit only for local homes—a practical, affordable solution to the problem of chilly floors—the rugs are now popping up in homes and galleries (and on design blogs) around the world. For the real deal, head to the city of Beni Mellal, halfway between Marrakech and Fez, where the style was born. Buying tip: Look for loops of yarn and fabric strips that are wild and appear to be sprouting (as opposed to flat, with a machine-woven feel). This is a sign of authenticity.


Beni Ouarain
Weavers from a High Atlas tribe give their namesake wool rug geometric designs and abstract shapes that tell the story of their ancestry. Find yours in the souks of Fez.
Buying tip: Flip the rug over to inspect the reverse side— irregular knotting is a sign of a genuine Beni Ouarain.

Intricate in design, kilims are flat-woven and easy to roll up for transport. For the best, go to Khemisset in the northwest, or Taznakht in the south.
Buying tip: Test one by holding it in two hands and gently pulling. If the rug does not stretch easily, it’s a keeper.

Cactus Silk
In the northwestern city of Tifelt, weavers turn agave cactus fibers—brightly dyed with pomegranate skin, henna leaves, tea, tobacco, and saffron flowers—into minimalist designs.
Buying tip: A true cactus silk rug is nonflammable. If the seller freaks out when you hold a flame near it, move on. —Kyana Moghadam



Bringing home rare vintage wheels from Europe is easier than you might think. Car collector Jamie Lincoln Kitman explains how to do it.

I’m nuts about old European cars. All cars, really. I own more than 20. (I know...I’m obsessed.) But especially old European ones: Land Rovers from the 1960s. The iconic Citroën DS. And a personal obsession, the 1988 Peugeot 205 GTi. This souped-up hatchback from France was so much cooler—and brawnier—than the kinds sold in the U.S., like VW’s comparatively tame Rabbit. I admired it so much for so long, I finally decided to buy it.

Why? There’s the obvious thrill of having the only one on the block. Cars like this just don’t make their way to the States very often, and if they do, you’ll pay a serious upcharge to buy one here. Luckily, we’re on the favorable end of the euro exchange rate right now and, due to relaxed restrictions on older cars, classics are relatively easy to bring back from the Continent. But the biggest reason to go car shopping in Europe is that it’s fun. You can try your luck anywhere, but I like to focus my searches in Italy: A lot of auto-obsessives live there, skilled mechanics and metalworkers are plentiful and affordable, and in most parts of the country cars benefit from the absence of salted roads.

While you can do the entire job from your couch—find a car online and have it inspected, insured, and shipped with a few calls and clicks—it’s so much more thrilling to make a road trip of it. Experience your new-but-old European car in its native habitat of winding country roads and Vespa-thronged intersections and you’ll bring those memories all the way home to your driveway.

Find the Right Ride
The U.S. government has created an exemption from emissions and safety compliance for cars that are at least 25 years old. This policy change opened up a world of possibilities, so dream big. Browse classic car magazines such as Hemmings Motor News or binge on old Godard and Fellini films until you’re fixated on something.

Simplify Your Search
When you know what you want, browse dealer sites. I like Italy’s Subito.it and Kijiji.it. If you’ve been itching to go to, say, Tuscany, you could narrow your online search to that region. Or open up your range to the whole country, find the car you want, buy it, and then drive it to wherever your dream destination happens to be.

Once You Find the Car
Track down a car club in the area where you’ll be buying and ask them for recommendations of local inspectors who can certify that the car of your dreams isn’t a total lemon. Once the car passes inspection, you can go ahead and wire money to the seller. Then purchase a simple insurance plan for your road trip.

Bring It Back
You’ll owe a duty of 3 percent of the car’s value. Shipping will cost about $2,000, depending on where you ship from. Many U.S. companies—Penbroke, for one—sort out all details with local shipping agents. Just make sure your shipper handles the paperwork on both sides of the Atlantic, which will ensure your car has a smooth journey home.



Artist Lisa Congdon just can’t stop buying this vintage Norwegian kitchenware.

“I remember spotting a green bowl with a lotus leaf pattern in an antique store and literally running to it. I didn’t know it was a Cathrineholm—I just knew it looked cool. That was 18 years ago, when I was just getting into art. As it turned out, my own style wound up being heavily influenced by mid-century Scandinavian pieces like this.

“From that day on, every time I saw a similar piece at a thrift store or flea market I would buy it. I didn’t learn how much they were worth until much later. The Cathrineholm brand was made for only a few years in the late 1950s and ’60s, out of enameled stainless steel, at a Norwegian ironworks factory. Some colors, like red, are especially hard to find. That thrill of finding those rarest pieces is part of what makes collecting them so fun.” —as told to Sarah Purkrabek


To score vintage Cathrineholm on your next trip to Oslo, take a deep dive into Vestkanttorvet, a massive Saturday flea market in the borough of Frogner in the West End of the city. The city’s vintage shops—try Maritabutikken in Grünerløkka—are also good places to stumble on rare pieces you would never find sold on Etsy.

Japan, Kenya, Tanzania, Cuba


Buy these games in their home country and you’ll get a keepsake with character, and a surefire icebreaker for making friends along the way.


Japan’s version of the ancient cup-and-ball game has become a full-on phenomenon, with the YouTube channels to prove it. SpinGear’s two Tokyo stores stock every imaginable color and pattern.


Hand-carved bao boards (a spin on mancala) are easy to find in the markets of Kenya and Tanzania—but local players are hard to beat. Maybe suggest a round of bao la kujifunza—“bao for beginners.”

Cuban Dominoes

On streets in Havana, games of partner dominoes rage. Players move with mechanical precision, playing a winning move with a triumphant thwack. —Lisa Trottier

New Mexico


If you bring home one ceramic creation from the American Southwest, Shiprock Santa Fe Gallery owner Jed Foutz says make it an Acoma pot.

“Of any Southwestern tribe, the Acoma craft the most stunning and sophisticated pottery. My family has been trading with them since 1870. Prized for their sense of balance and bold designs, each pot takes two to three solid weeks of work when made the traditional way, as the renowned Cerno and Lewis families still do. In Acoma Pueblo, which sits on a scenic bluff an hour west of Albuquerque, artists roll clay into ropes, wind them into the shape they want, and fire it up. The natural clay they use is so durable, it allows them to make thin, delicate walls. To get those superfine lines, they apply paint, made from plants and minerals, with a yucca tip. On the surface, you see the crosshatches, representative of a sacred connection to Earth. Then you look more closely and see another layer of lines you didn’t realize was there. At Sky City Cultural Center, you can watch the process in person. It’s incredible seeing how masterfully artists apply the lines. The staff can also connect you with families who allow visits and sell their work. Another solid place to buy is Santa Fe’s yearly Indian Market, the world’s largest show of Native American artists. Be prepared to spend at least $1,500 for an Acoma pot made without cutting corners. But I’m a traditionalist: The story is what you’re paying for.” —as told to Andrew Richdale