ATLANTA — Any destination worth its salt ends with a gift shop, but what’s with some of the more bizarre tchotchkes for sale?
That’s what travel writer Doug Lansky explores in his latest book, Crap Souvenirs (Perigee Trade Paperback, $10.95).
Lansky, a Stockholm-based travel writer, takes a look at some of the zanier souvenirs for sale at both off the beaten path destinations and major world attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Vatican City and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Some of the 150 mementos featured in the book include a Pope John Paul II bottle opener, a Mount Rushmore lamp and plush pillows from the Eiffel Tower.
“What we really bring back from a trip are experiences,” Lansky said. “For many, there’s a desire to represent that with something physical.”
“Combine that with our love of shopping and lapses in judgement (and maybe a few too many margaritas) and there are the main ingredients of your kitsch souvenir recipe,” Lansky added. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they sell many of these at the airport where we are often walking around with loose foreign change we can’t redeem without losing most of it in exchange commissions.”
Lansky’s portfolio includes “Signspotting: Lost & Loster in Translation,” which collects some of the world’s more random signs, and “The Titanic Awards: Celebrating the Worst of Travel,” which highlights awful travel experiences. His latest book, released Oct. 2, started with a website dedicated to collecting images of random souvenirs.
Lansky’s interest in “kitsch-tacular” souvenirs began when he and his wife “would play a game when waiting for a plane.”
“We’d wander into the gift shop and see who could spot the most kitsch item,” Lansky recalled. “We don’t have much space where we live and often we had maxed out our carry-on, so buying wasn’t an option. But it was a good laugh.
“Then we realized we could just snap a photo,” Lansky added. “When our friends seemed to enjoy the photos just as much, I thought there might be a bit more to it.”
A bit more turned into a website and now a book.
So, does Lansky believe there are any souvenirs worth collecting?
“I suppose that depends how much space you have in your home and how much you love to collect kitsch,” he said. “Some of the classic collections (snow globes, spoons, pins, etc.) are likely quite valuable. Then again, you can sell just about anything on eBay.”
For more information, visit crapsouvenirs.com.