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A souvenir can be so much more than a simple keepsake. Capture precious moments and shared histories in vivid detail forever with an experience where memories and mementos intertwine. Sights, smells and feelings will come to life all over again.

Words: Ellen Millard

If you’ve ever slipped a seashell into your pocket while wandering down a beach, then you’ll know all too well the allure of souvenirs. Capturing a moment otherwise lost to time, such keepsakes anchor us to destinations we want to remember forever – places where we feel happy, free or at peace in the company of loved ones.

Modern travellers aren’t alone in storing memories of their journeys in objects; the earliest pilgrims collected soil from holy sites so they could savour their trip long after it had ended. It’s only natural to want to do this – science shows that memories are stored in the same way as sensory experiences. Just as the smell of grass might conjure a happy day in the park, souvenirs also trigger memories of meaningful events and the people we enjoyed them with. The best ones of all are those intertwined with life-affirming experiences.

A simple bead, for example, might take you back to Kenya’s Angama Mara. Perched on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, the safari lodge is immersed in the Maasai Mara’s panoramic plains, which are dotted with galloping antelope, zebra and the elusive Big Five. The people who give the landscape its name can ground you in this otherworldly escape through Angama Mara’s resident studio, where eight local women practise the Maasai craft of beading. They will share this ancient skill with you or make a jewellery piece for your collection. A symbol of beauty, the vibrant beads will conjure up the picturesque reserve and the friendly people long after you leave.

Embracing your inner creative can help to broaden your horizons. In the Mallorcan town of Deià there’s a thriving artistic community who are inspired by the rugged Tramuntana Mountains that descend into secret coves and slices of sandy beach. La Residencia, A Belmond Hotel invite local artists to guide you and your family on a morning walk around the beach cove of Cala Deià and teach you how to capture the magical light of the sunrise on the Mediterranean Sea. The strong bonds you create with each other and also with the scenery will be forever immortalised in your masterpieces.

Learning from professionals can uncover new challenges and make you more appreciative of the skills involved. Véronique Vandernoot is the artist ambassador for Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth and has spent 25 years capturing the island’s vibrant culture through her ceramic tile work, which you’ll spot at the entrances to every beach. From the cerulean blue of the ocean to the verdant fronds of towering palm trees, the colours of St Barths call to her. Her vast knowledge of the island helps her to capture each destination in intricate detail, and you can see her at work in her studio at Les Petits Carreaux in Gustavia. Collect a piece of ceramic as nn everlasting reminder of the laidback thrum of island life and the steady rhythm of sun, sea, surf and imagination.

 

Other experts around the world bring craft and local culture together, creating insightful ways to remember special experiences. Capella Hanoi has the inside track on the hidden gems in Vietnam’s capital, among them Sông Cái Distillery, where the nation’s first small-batch gin is produced. Made using 16 indigenous botanicals gathered from the mountains, this spirit is a complex concoction evocative of the country’s biodiverse landscape. Discover for yourself on a private tour and tasting experience led by founder Daniel Nguyen. Prepare to be inspired by his passion for the craft as you distil your very own gin to take home – the perfect tipple with which to raise a toast to treasured time spent together.

Elsewhere, the simple pleasure of a photo is enough to recall cherished memories. For families who want to spend less time taking selfies and more time living in the present, your happiest moment can be recorded for you with the Memory Maker service at Florida’s Walt Disney World®Resort. From the magic of Cinderella’s Castle to your child’s first encounter with Mickey Mouse, the Disney PhotoPass Photographers will be there for every important moment. At the end of your trip, you can find unlimited downloads of all your videos and pictures on your Disney account – your most magical experiences, frozen in time.

Strong memories such as these can be hard to draw from that seashell in your pocket – so next time you’re planning to pick up a souvenir on your travels, broaden your horizons and embark on an experience that comes with a treasure you will never forget.

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