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these are a few of your favorite things

for some, a well-selected snow globe has all the charm of a Faberge egg. For others, a gleaming collectible spoon tops a trip to Tiffany's. Well maybe not, but you get the idea....We asked our readers to tell us which souvenirs capture their fancy when they're on the road. Responses ranged from travel perennials such as pins and matchbooks to, well, dirt. The unifying themes? A powerful sense of the value of place and experience and a lot of chutzpah. Read on.


Taxi Taxi! Taxi!

Nishi and Vikram Widge's 5-year-old son, Mrinal, is very particular about souvenirs, as his mother writes:

"His father travels a lot and usually gets him toys or clothes, but once, just before a trip to Turkey, when my husband asked our son what he wanted, 3-and-a-half-year-old Mrinal piped up and said, 'Get me a picture of a Turkey taxi.'

So there was my husband, in Istanbul, walking around with a camera in hand, trying to get a decent shot of a Turkish taxi. The photograph, on his return, was so well received that it started a tradition.

Our little transport enthusiast now has a collection of pictures of cabs, brought back mostly by Dad (some by Mom and some collected by our son after he received a camera on his 5th birthday) from Vienna, London, Bratislava, Babina (a small town in India), Athens, Harare, New Delhi, Nairobi, Barbados, Amsterdam, Marrakesh, and of course, Istanbul."


Dirt-cheap souvenirs

Barbara O'Cain, a lawyer for an international construction and engineering company, began collecting dirt when a friend asked for a "dirt-cheap" souvenir from Mexico.

"It was only when I got to the little Mexican airport to depart that I remembered I had not bought anything -- and there was no gift shop to be seen. So at the last minute, I scooped up a handful of Mexican sand to bring my friend. The 'gift' was a hit, and I have been collecting soil ever since!

Now I collect soils from all my travels. ... I have collected about 50 little containers.

I scooped up some dirt from the front steps of the White House and immediately was descended upon by doubtful security guards.... There are soils from the Eiffel tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Vatican and Roman Colosseum, Irish castles and London's Buckingham palace. Getting the dirt through customs can be challenging, regularly bringing some interesting delays and comments. I always declare my souvenirs, and occasionally I am stopped and checked."


Phonecard and Money Take the money and run

Robert Levy of Atlanta, Georgia has been collecting phone cards and currency since he began backpacking in 1993. So far, he's hit Asia, Europe and Australia.

"I first thought of collecting currency at a restaurant in Istanbul called 'The Pudding Shop' (a famous scene from 'Midnight Express' takes place in this restaurant). The pay counter had dozens of bills from all over the world under its glass. I was impressed.... I thought of phone card collecting when I read an article about ... people who collect phone cards! ... These are great for backpackers because they are small and light. I carry my collection in my mess kit!"


Pin Pin pals

Bob Hemsath has collected so many pins, he decided to put them on the Web, with a welcome consequence -- people started donating items to his collection.

"Though I have accumulated many souvenir pins from other persons, the majority have been picked up by me during visits to other cities. I have over 2400 pins now ... and will be adding about 60 more I just brought home from a trip to Arizona. There is 'virtually' (no pun intended) a souvenir pin from every state, many countries, and hundreds of tourist destinations...."


A blizzard of snow globes

Bruce Pilgrim began collecting snow globes after a co-worker brought him one as a souvenir from the Smoky Mountains. After that, other co-workers began contributing and from there, the collection just ... well ... snowballed.

"At last count, there were more than 100 of them, with new ones appearing whenever someone returns from a business trip. The only ... rules are that they must be cheap (under $5) and made of plastic -- not glass. If they don't have enough water in them, that's a bonus.

Visitors to my office are usually amused, often delighted, and occasionally dismayed by the collection. If they are engineers, they immediately start designing elaborate display cases with built-in shaking mechanisms. A lot of them volunteer to scout for more snow globes, and so it continues...."


Snowglobe More snow-to-go

Pam Faw of CNN's very own Headline News also freeloads snow globes from co-workers. She says she receives snow globes at such a rapid clip that she once came back from a few days off to find five of them on her desk.

"I've had the collection less than a year and it's up to 34 globes. They are all of the plastic, tacky variety -- nothing else is permitted to be part of the collection. The best thing about this collection is I've never paid a penny for any of the globes."


On the rocks

Max, from Australia, did not give his last name ... perhaps to keep international authorities off his trail.

"When I travel overseas I bring back pieces of things or rocks. For instance, I have a piece of the base of the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Statue of Liberty (and) Alcatraz, to mention a few. It's my way of having a bit of the whole world right here in my living room."


Matches A striking collection

Roxanne Gardner of Carbondale, Illinois has collected matchbooks for more than 15 years from restaurants, clubs and weddings.

"My matchbook collection includes travels to Jamaica, Cancun, metropolitan Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, and many other major cities. I have these souvenirs placed in my home in a decorative basket and on a matchbook collector's stand my sister gave me last Christmas."


A souvenir only a mother could love

During a trip to Dover, England as a child, Elisabethe Phipps and her brother picked up, as a Mother's Day gift, a truly 'unique' souvenir that became a family heirloom.

"Tucked back behind some grimy snowglobes and dusty little figurines of Beefeaters, we found the Holy Grail of souvenirs. Try to picture a five-inch tall gong ... not just any gong, but a brass-plated one hanging in a faux-white limestone arch flanked by a three-inch tall standing grizzly bear holding the mallet and a deer with twisted antlers.

Mother's Day arrived. Mom opened the skillfully wrapped delight ... and immediately proclaimed her joy at the monstrosity.

During our travels and later return to the States, my mother always insisted on hand-carrying the gong. I have never been sure why! A few years ago, I asked her.... Knowing she no longer had to protect a 7-year-old's pride, she admitted it was the UGLIEST thing she had ever seen. (She said) keeping it handy and gazing upon it often helped her keep life's little turmoils in perspective."

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