I don't really collect anything, and that seems stupid since I travel (relatively) often. I started collecting key chains, decorative plates and mugs a long time ago, but after a while I realized the plates were completely and utterly useless and took up a lot of space. And key chains are just tacky, especially since most of them are made in China, so what's the point of buying key chains from a bunch of different countries if they were all made in the same factory in Chairman Mao's land. And mugs? Well, they are pretty and very useful since you can never have too many mugs at home, but I always find a way to break my mugs. And I figured that given my clumsiness, plastic glasses are a safer bet.
I used to like collecting shirts too, especially the ones from Hard Rock Café. They are expensive, pretentious and are made from a very low quality fabric, but somehow I thought they are a quintessential symbol of a well-travelled person and I must buy one in every country. I even had friends who would order Hard Rock Café shirts when I went travelling, which was really weird considering they didn't go to the country, so why should they pretend to have been there?
Everything changed when I went to this shopping mall in Jakarta, and saw a stall selling bootleg Hard Rock Café shirts from every country in the world (even those that didn't have one). They also had Starbucks shirts, Planet Hollywood, United Colors of Benetton etc, from every frikkin country, each one sold for not even 10 ringgit. That actually got me thinking, I went to all these countries and overpaid for my original Hard Rock Café t-shirts, while other smarter people had been buying all of them here for a fraction of the price. And once worn, who could tell the difference anyway? No one's gonna check the label. Besides, the fabrics used were pretty much of the same quality (for real). So why did I bother collecting these stupid shirts?
So I stopped. And that's one of the best decisions I've made in my life.
Souvenirs are just for bragging, period. You buy a mug from Paris to use at home, so that when people come over they'll see it and say "You've been to Paris?" and you are able to say yes and continue gloating by recounting your travel. If someone gives you a souvenir from Argentina, you're still able to say "My parents/brother/best friend went there and bought this for me" and for some reason you are entitled to a certain amount of gloating.
I've even stopped taking a lot of photos. I've come to a point in my life where I don't think I need to prove to people I've done something or I've been somewhere. If I say I went to Portugal, and they're like "pictures, or it didn't happen", I couldn't care less. Why do I need to prove to someone that I've been to a country? If I lied, then I lied. It's not a crime unless it's perjury. The reason why I don't like taking photos anymore is because they are always deceiving. The best views I've seen are not always the most photogenic. So when I tell people about this scenery, they'd be like "Did you take photos?". When I show the photos to them, they'd be like, "Yeah, it's kinda nice." It's not the reaction that I wanted, because somehow when I was there, I felt a lot more, but the feeling and the ambiance didn't translate well into photography. And you'll be stuck with the image on the photo for the rest of your life, and that's extremely disappointing.
But there's still on thing I collect though. TV and movie memorabilia. I like collecting movie posters, anything with quotes from my favourite movie or series, Coca-cola glasses from the 70's, and t-shirts worn by actors in movies or series. I lost a lot of my posters when I moved last year, and I've broken almost all of my precious Coca-cola glasses since I'm maladroit and they are so frikkin fragile, which is a lethal combination. But the t-shirts I still keep. I have this one shirt from Fox River Penitentiary with Michael Scofield prison number. I also have a New York Herald Tribune t-shirt, like the one worn by Jean Seberg in Godard's A Bout de Souffle (not the same fit, of course).
And now I'm looking for Sheldon Cooper's Green Lantern shirt, very nerdy but very cool. Geeks are the new jocks anyway. I'm broke, so I don't think I'll buy it anytime soon, but I'll get my hands on it in the near future.