Much as I would’ve loved to build a beautiful collection of hand-selected imports on my journey, it was an impossible and impractical fantasy. Nomadic living is just not conducive to souvenir collecting.
In the two years I lived out of my luggage, I rarely picked up any of the goodies I discovered in markets, back alleys or shop windows; I just couldn’t justify carrying the extra weight from country to country, nor did I have any excess room in my bag for carved giraffes from Nairobi or colorful glass lanterns from Marrakech.
Now that I’ve traded my suitcase for an apartment, I’m always searching for reproductions of patterns, colors & knick-knacks I remember from the road. I may not be a full-time nomad, but I still want the thrill of my adventures to be forever a part of my daily life.
Since I wasn’t quite ready to max out my credit cards on exotic imports from World Market, I had to find a creative and less expensive way to ensure my space reflects the traveler I will always be — even when I’m in between trips.
Fortunately there’s one souvenir I happen to have thousands and thousands and thousands of… photographs!
I turned to the Internet for suggestions on how to think outside the picture frame — and I found a surprise: Shutterfly, the company I have long used to print my photos, has an extensive Home Decor selection. I can upload my best travel shots and turn them into all sorts of functional but beautiful home accents.
I experimented with different photos from Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Laos, England, Fiji, New Zealand – the whole wide world, basically – for hours and hours. What I thought would be a quick project wasn’t at all – I had so many photos and there were so many different products to choose from… I really fell down the Shutterfly rabbit hole for a while.
Surprisingly, I found that not all great photos translate to great home decor, so it took some poking around to get the perfect look.
Eventually I decided to stick with the Moroccan theme I’ve been trying to thread through the apartment, choosing to create coasters and plates featuring patterns and subjects from my trip to Morocco with Intrepid Travel last year.
Much of the projects on Shutterfly.com offer themed templates to choose from, incorporating holidays, monograms or even just pretty borders. For all my projects, I skipped the templates and just used the naked photos. I thought they were colorful enough to stand on their own.
Once I’d designed the coasters and plates, I moved on to a new country – Turkey – and a new product – throw pillows ($39.99 each). A product which my Fella has declared I need more of “like I need a hole in the head.” So, I have a few more than I need…
But, I reasoned, I don’t have ANY with my own photographs – so here’s to justifying that 13th throw for the couch!
As with the plates, I didn’t use any of the ready-made templates on Shutterfly.com, though there are quite a few cute themes to choose from. Instead I opted to splash the whole photo on the front of the pillow and let the scene speak for itself. What do you think?
There’s just something surreal about catching a glimpse of my pillow on the couch and remember that I actually took that photo myself. I was standing in the perfect spot in Cappadocia when the sun was rising and dozens of hot air balloons were taking flight.
I’m transported to that perfect moment almost anytime I sit on the couch, and I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and flip through a photo album for it to happen.
Thanks to Shutterfly for hooking me up with these awesome DIY coasters, plates and pillow. My apartment feels more like home than it ever has before. And there are so many more options to choose from for my next project – cups, placemats, table runners, blankets, ornaments, wall decals… and they make great personalized holiday gifts, too.
Can you guess what I’m getting my family members for Christmas? YES! Custom Shutterfly blankets featuring my acting head shots… the perfect gift. (Gift certificates are available for those who might not be so thrilled with your face on a mug or blanket.)