From an entire wheel of cheese to a small supply of coca tea (shhh), these are the things we just couldn’t pass up.
The pieces we carry home are nearly as priceless as the trips we take. We asked writers, designers, and travelers to share memories about the objects that tie them to their travels in What We Bring Home. We also asked AFAR staffers about the craziest/largest/most potentially illegal thing they’ve brought back from a trip. Here’s what they had to say.
A NEW WAY TO REFLECT
“I bought a hand-carved, hand-painted mirror in Montañita, Ecuador. It survived the 20-plus-hour ride back to Lima and a flight to Spain in one piece—that is, until my sister sat on it!” —Alex Palomino, associate photo editor
THE BIG CHEESE
“An entire wheel of Pecorino from Italy. The cheese was too good to pass up!” —Katie Galeotti, marketing and special projects director
A LEAP OF FAITH
“A gorgeous mahogany and brass box from Zanzibar, which I carried from the artisan’s studio to my hotel (it’s large), then from the hotel to DHL in the rain. DHL doesn’t insure from Zanzibar so I took a leap of faith and shipped it without insurance. Now I have a gorgeous, damaged mahogany and brass box sitting in my Brooklyn living room. The labor, the story, and the fact that it cost more to ship than to buy makes the story that much better.” —Barry Brown, executive director, Caribbean
“Apparently, coca tea is illegal in the U.S. because of the tiny amounts of cocaine that the coca leaves contain. But on a trip back from Peru, I just placed it in my checked luggage. Why? Because they don’t have this in the U.S. Though I’m not sure I should be mentioning this at all . . . ” —Name withheld to protect the innocent
“A rather large, beautiful piece of driftwood. I looked it bit odd carrying a piece of wood on the plane, and it took up most of the carry-on space above our seats. My son and I came upon it on the beach in Cabo, where he had been belatedly baptized (at age 6). It was also the site of my my wedding years prior. It’s a special place for us that holds beautiful memories. The wood sits on its own shelf in our mountain cabin in Canada now, and it brings a smile every time we visit. ‘From Cabo to Cali to Canada’ is what we always say when talking about it.” —Onnalee MacDonald, West Coast sales director
A BIT OF ZEN
“We bought a bronze Buddha statue in India. It was crazy because it took up half a backpack and was very heavy. But it was hollow, so we could at least fill it with our dirty laundry to save space. We also bought these camel bells.” —Jeremy Saum, executive editor
ONE HELL OF A STORY
“At the end of my semester in Australia, I was six months shy of the U.S. legal drinking age and had half a bottle of absinthe, which I’d heard was illegal back home. Determined to be a small-time smuggler, I rinsed out a Listerine bottle and filled three-quarters of it with the green fairy. My logic was that absinthe can pass for Listerine at a glance, but no one travels with a full bottle of mouthwash; I had to make it look like I’d ‘used’ some. I then rubbed the outside with IcyHot so the minty scent would help mask the anise-heavy liquor from the sniffer dogs I was sure to encounter during my layover in New Zealand.
“The success: I made it home with my lightly hallucinogenic booze in hand and was able to share it with my roommates at the perfect party moment.
“The facepalm: Turned out absinthe was totally legal in the U.S. and had been for a while. They sell half a dozen varieties at Bevmo.” —Nicole Antonio, editorial production coordinator