Sometimes a trip is all about relaxation. While the majority of my adventures are a little too active to fall under that category, there are a precious few whose primary purpose was simply just to get away and decompress. My 2013 jitney to Brazil was just such a trip, and I’m happy to share and relive the highlights with you now.
Destination: Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and the Costa Verde)
What Brought Me There
The winter of 2013 was a rough one for my wife and I, culminating in my father-in-law’s passing away. Between the stress, loss and freezing cold, never was it more apparent that we needed a break. Fortunately, we were able to use airline miles to book flights to Rio, which was the perfect gateway for the relaxation that lay ahead.
We started with a brief two days touring the city’s main sites such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the amazing beaches, before moving on to the gorgeous, pedestrian-only island of Ilha Grande. Next it was the too-charming-for-words cultural town of Paraty, situated in a paradisaical nook of the Costa Verde coastline for a few days until the inevitable return to Rio, home and a New York winter.
What I Loved
I’m not a big fan of city living, but my time in Rio, with access to such incredible beaches, made it more appealing. But even better were the lush mountain landscapes that stretch down the coast toward Sao Paolo state, with emerald green bays, abundant waterfalls and beaches galore.
On Ilha Grande I loved the sandy streets, dining on the beach by candlelight and the shady lane through the jungle leading up to our pousada. In Paraty, the whitewashed buildings trimmed with bright colors and festive lighting made every night feel like a fiesta. The comfortable accommodations caught between the mountains and the sea was the perfect place to be for the aforementioned relaxation we had come for.
What I Would Do If I Went Back
My travels in Brazil were limited to one tiny region. That is way too little time and range for a country so richly blessed with so many natural and cultural treasures.
If I were to return, I’d love to expand my explorations, from seeing Iguazu Falls in the South, the picturesque adventure town of Bonito on the border with Bolivia, and most of all the remote Atlantic island of Fernando de Noronha.
No trip is truly complete unless you’ve got the souvenir tee to prove it. My own personal travel t-shirt collection spans back decades, with beloved (and faded) iterations brought back from Alaska, South Africa and Japan. It is with this devout sense of love for the field of souvenir t-shirts acquired on travels abroad that I’ve compiled this list of 7 must have t-shirt designs for the savvy traveler. Perhaps by the end of the list, one of these might be your own.
For each t-shirt I’ll first explain why it should be on your list of gift ideas for travelers, but also why I personally feel that they’re worthy of consideration for those who live, eat and breathe travel.
1) The Custom Airport Code Tee
If an unlikely jumble of three seemingly random letters gets your travel adrenaline pumping, then you’ll love the Custom Airport Code Tee. The process is really simple: you provide the departure and arrival codes of your choice – such as those from your favorite trip of all time – and the finished product will be a custom shirt in a travel aesthetic where you can both show off and relive that memorable trip.
I like this design because of its simplicity and the personalization factor. In just 6 letters you can tell the story of your favorite trip, and literally carry that experience around with you. Order your own Custom Airport Code Tee here.
2) The Bucket List in Progress Tee
Imagine having a souvenir t-shirt from not just one, but 18 of your favorite destinations. In effect, that’s what’s on offer with the Bucket List in Progress Tee from Custom Travel Art. Again, you can customize your own shirt by choosing 18 bucket list destinations out of a list of 42 of the world’s most amazing places. Each destination has a gorgeous hand-drawn graphic surrounded by the destination name and coordinates. Once selected, you can then have them “check off” the destinations visited in the boxes provided. That way you can both showcase your extensive travels and inspire yourself to visit the ones left unchecked.
And if bucket lists are your thing, the same graphic style is available as print or canvas, both in the form of a world map (28 destinations) or a chart (42 destinations). In either case there’s a provided space for you to mark off once you’ve been there, creating a global game that will likely keep you occupied for the rest of your natural life.
What I like about this design – again, besides the personalization factor – are the beautiful graphics and the implied statement that traveling is a never-ending activity; one in which there’s always more to see, even if you’ve been just about everywhere. To customize your own Bucket List in Progress Tee, click here.
3) The Rugged Country Code Collection Tee
Even among the ranks of dedicated travelers, it’s the adventure traveler who often owns the advantage when it comes to bragging rights. Nothing conjures more ‘street cred’ than those who’ve been way, way off the beaten path to destinations that still carry an aura of mystery. The Rugged Country Code collection pays homage to those adventure travelers, with a simple design consisting of a scratched up country code sticker such as can be found on the back of any 4 x 4 heading into the bush, along with the silhouette of the country itself.
I personally love this “rugged”, understated design because in just two letters it tells the world that you’re not just a tourist, but a traveler, adventurer and explorer. If that’s how you view yourself (& I know I do) then pick up one of these inexpensive tees, which despite the name, are ironically quite comfortable. See the entire list of available countries here.
4) The Passport Stamp Collection Tee
One of my favorite travel souvenirs is one that comes for free – a stamp in my passport! Something about that combination of bureaucracy with a touch of artistry provides a vintage travel aesthetic that’s hard to resist for any seasoned traveler. The Passport Stamp Collection Tee features 8 passport “stamps” from each continent and one region, indicating that the wearer is on a quest to stamp them all.
Sometimes the best travel tees aren’t tied to a destination at all. As a case in point, the Been There Done That Tee isn’t destination specific, but the lettering, displayed in a vintage departure board design, harkens back to the early days of travel and the travel aesthetic says more than just the obvious statement.
What I like about this design – beside the very clear message that its wearer is a traveler with some experience – is that 1950’s airport departures hall motif that truly suggests that you’ve been there, and done that. Get your Been There Done That Tee here.
6) The Wandering Senior Tee
One of the few perks of growing older, is the right to start razzing other people about how old they’re getting. The Wandering Senior Tee is a gag gift that the traveling senior can wear with pride. The witty statement that the wearer is a senior that tends to “wander off” is complemented by a packed suitcase studded with stickers from around the globe.
I love it when art and humor combine, and while I don’t yet consider myself in the wandering senior category (though I’m well on my way) I have purchased this t-shirt as a gift for a senior who has the age, travel experience and sense of humor to appreciate it. Buy one for the traveling senior in your life here.
7) The Senior Moments Tee
Continuing the theme of funny gifts for seniors, this t-shirt offers a tongue in cheek rendition of the term ‘senior moment’. With beautiful depictions of some of the world’s most famous destinations, this is a great way for a senior to display their travel experience with a touch of pride and humor.
Again, while not yet in that category myself, I would seriously respect any person of ‘a certain age’ who has both the experience and life and travel to pull a shirt like that off. See the Senior Moments Tee details here.
As was mentioned before, there are souvenir t-shirts aplenty. Hopefully this rundown has given you some inspiring ideas on how to find the right t-shirt for you or the traveler in your life.
When it comes to souvenirs, most people have an area of particular interest. Some go for the obligatory t-shirt or hat with the name of the destination emblazoned for all to see. Others collect spoons, bells, thimbles, or other such trinkets. And yet others are just content with the stamp in their passport to go along with photos as reminders of their trip. While I consider myself a connoisseur of all such areas of interest (with a particular leaning toward hat pins, local musical instruments and not just a t-shirt but the properly artistic RIGHT t-shirt) my first and often favorite keepsake is the purchased before I ever leave—the guidebook.
Yes, my personal library is dominated by travel guidebooks—my earliest accomplices in planning my travels. I’m not 100% sure why they hold such fascination for me. Perhaps it’s because of the promise they hold—that something inside will lead me to a decision that will take me thousands of miles from my home just to experience it in person. Perhaps it’s the validation that if I commit to buying the guidebook then I really must be going to that destination. Or perhaps it’s because I just like to look at pictures and gather ideas on how to make them my own.
Regardless of the underlying psychology, travel guidebooks are still a tremendous resource despite the overabundance of information available on the Web. Below are some of my favorites and why.
It’s my impression that in the clique of travel guidebooks, Lonely Planet is like the cool kid everybody wants to be like. While other (in fact almost all) guidebooks offer more in the way of color pictures of a destination, when it comes down to cold, hard facts about even the most obscure villages in the remotest parts of a little-known country, I’ve found the entries in Lonely Planet guides to be spot on. Not only are their suggestions about lodging and sights really dependable, but there are extensive maps that come in really handy. So while I’ll usually check out three or four guides from my library for a more complete picture of a given destination, it’s usually the Lonely Planet guide that I buy—especially now that you can purchase only pertinent chapters in .pdf form. It’s also worth mentioning that they offer guides covering a lot more countries than most.
If you’re more interested in learning visually than in simply reading, DK Eyewitness Guides are probably your best bet. Not only are there color photos on nearly every page, but when it comes to examining major points of interest, such as palaces, ruins or other noteworthy monuments, there are illustrated guides and cross-sections showing in great detail the buildings in question. There are also illustrated close-ups of key neighborhoods, which is some pretty useful information when on site. The write-ups of lesser towns or points of interest may be a bit limited, but the visual treat is well worth it and serves to stoke the flames of wanderlust.
When it comes to pictures, Insight Guides are my favorite. They strike a fine balance between information and visual stimulation. They also have a great free app that offers a daily travel photo of the highest caliber. When I’m looking for ideas I often look at Insight Guides.
Naturally there are many other guides—all with their own virtues. The key is in finding out which brand tells YOUthe things YOUwant to know. My suggestion is to go to your local library or bookstore and peruse your options before making a purchase. And from there it’s all bliss poring over the information that you would someday make your own. Then you too, can experience the joy of guidebooks and get a leg up on purchasing your first souvenir.
Do you have a favorite guidebook brand? Leave a comment and tell us why!