I want to share a glimpse of the globe-trotting adventures with my oldest daughter today. For the past 10 years, I have been teaching many amazing and bright young minds all over the world. Therefore, I am always looking for ways to encourage a love of reading and learning. That is why books are the best travel souvenir you can possibly bring home after one of your travel adventures!
I used to think the sign of a good vacation is a tan or a selfie in front of a historical monument. I would always grab a shot glass or refrigerator magnet. The trinkets never take up much space in your suitcase. My photos that are posted online were a way to receive positive affirmation. All that changed when my daughter was born.
The magnets can also remind you of your glory days every time you go to get a beverage. But I dreamed of the day when my souvenirs could be so much more than refrigerator magnets that I inevitably lost or broke before the end of the trip.
Life as an International Teacher
For my first overseas teaching assignment, I was in Central Asia in a country called Turkmenistan in 2008. Every time I traveled on our school holidays, 90% of my flights took me through Istanbul, Turkey. I would religiously go to in the Turkish Air lounge. Let’s be honest, Burger King and Starbucks too… all of you expats can relate.
On my way, I would always stop in the D&R bookstore to get to ANY reading material I could find in English. In a country like Turkmenistan, ANYTHING in my mother tongue was pure gold. I would get enough reading for my trip. However, I would always stock up on duty-free magazines and books on my return flight. Then I could pass them out like candy at Christmastime to all the other expats.
My suitcase was NEVER too full for a book.
Until I got pregnant with my daughter in 2010, I had never seriously thought about my souvenir choices. The week before I left my home of 2 years in Turkmenistan, I found out I was 3 months pregnant. I would be moving to Cairo, Egypt in the fall for my next teaching post, and needless to say, my world had shifted.
I was headed back home to San Diego, California for the summer. On my way home, I took a two-week holiday in Turkey, Italy, and Morocco. As I meandered through the streets of Rome, I was relishing in my strawberry gelato. (Yes, I remember those tiny details… again, TURKMENISTAN for two years.) I walked into a bookstore that had the cutest version of “The Three Little Pigs”, “Tre Porcellini”.
It was small, light, and I felt proud of my wonderful and worldly choice of a souvenir for my unborn child. In Fez, I once again found myself in a wonderful little book shop in the maze of the city Medina.
This time I found a book about a pig. Living in a Muslim country, I had gone without a lot of pork the last couple years. It was called “Ti-cochon beut jouer”. Little did I know that 5 years later, I would be living in West Africa. I had no more excuses for my accent when I was reading that story to my now 4- year old.
The Movement of Book Souvenirs Spread
After that particular trip, I went home with my modest collection of books, and the story really began. I talked about my new-found books with a few of my family members. This prompted them to show me a few books they had collected from other countries.
It was absolutely lovely to bond over international experiences with my grandparents. We reminisced about our travels in a new and exciting way. Even though we weren’t able to actually read most of the texts, it was the beginning of something special.
Before I moved to Egypt, I met up with my husband in Istanbul. I bought a FIFA basketball World Championship book from the tournament we attended. When I arrived at my new school in Cairo, I talked to a few friends about my love for books from all the places I traveled. They too got caught in the enthusiasm.
On our first holiday break in October, colleagues brought me back book souvenirs in Thai, Arabic, French, and German. My new favorite was my book about seals in Arabic from Abu Dhabi.
Books were My Calm in the Storm
The months slipped away, and all too quickly for a scared rookie mama, my daughter was born in January, 2011. The Egyptian Revolution occurred January 21st when she was just 3 weeks old. So the first books that we read to her had the background noise of gunfire. The tanks drove by and molotov cocktails were exploding, meanwhile, I tried to drown out the noise with books.
I read the books in English from my library first. Then I would pour over the characters from all over the world. I would use imaginary tales of what they were saying in all the amazing languages. This strategy did wonders for tuning out some of the overwhelming chaos outside my apartment window.
Books as Therapy
I was eventually evacuated with my daughter from Cairo in February. I returned to San Diego while I waited for my husband to finish his deployment. This was again a divine appointment. I met up with the ever-inspiring and book-revolutionary friend over at Book Oblivion.
She challenged my whole mindset towards my reading goals. She further inspired me to keep going on my journey to help my daughter fall in love with language through a good book. In turn, it helped in my process to get over the trauma I had experienced in Cairo.
Fast forward the next four years of living in Ukraine, Latvia, and Mauritania with many gypsy adventures in between. It is a non-negotiable stop to find new books as I walk through an old town, or into cobblestone mom and pop shops. In my conversations with other travelers, I try to inspire them to do the same.
I have so many more wonderful books in my daughter’s collection thanks to friends and family who always find joy in getting her a book from their travels.
I am brought to tears when I open up a book from someone who finds this unique souvenir important enough to spend a few minutes shopping for my own little global citizen.
We laugh and butcher how to pronounce the beloved Russian character “Cheburashka”. The Polish adventures of “TinTin”, the little Spanish bird in “Eres mi Mama” sound… well interesting. Our go-to animal voice exaggeration character is always the wolf in the German Little Red Riding Hood “Rotkappchen”. Thanks to living overseas as well as many awesome free online language learning resources, our language skills to read more of our book souvenirs is improving daily!
I am homesick more often than I care to admit. However, I feel infinitely better knowing I can treasure watching my daughter travel to all of these wonderful memories through her books.
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