No matter where we travel to, there are things we take with us—or things we bring home to remember a place.

Imani Bashir is a writer, world traveler, and mom who has lived on four continents. She is currently based in China.

I never collected things when I was young; I didn’t see the point in holding on to stuff that I couldn’t use. But when I began traveling the world, I realized the value of keeping precious objects in order to remember a place. Memories of a trip can last in our minds, but mementos— these items we can see and touch—make it easier to recall a journey. Mementos are invaluable and subjective, as travel is simply about life unfolding around you and your interpretation of what you experience. The objects that speak to you are often tied beautifully to a special moment like human connection, natural beauty or just passing time in a train station. What matters is the feeling that the object evokes.

photo by Omar Elsharawy

“Cairo holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I met my husband—it’s also where my son took his first steps.”

As I collected more stamps in my passport, I realized there was something else I could collect. My love for currency started when I moved to Egypt. I met my now-husband, who kept a huge coffee jar filled with coins and bills, in Cairo. The Egyptian pound is so much more colorful and vibrant than the U.S. dollar. The first ones I held were so beautiful that I didn’t want them leaving my possession.

photo by Linus Nilsson
photo by Aron Van de Pol

The money I have kept evokes feelings of nostalgia and reminds me of distinct experiences. Buying fruits and vegetables from street vendors in Bangkok, counting change in Szczecin, Poland (where my son was born), finding pence leftover from purchasing an Oyster Card in London—all of these moments have contributed to my currency collection.

“I first lived abroad in Egypt. The currency reminds me of how quickly I learned to speak conversationally in Arabic in order to shop at the outdoor street markets.”

photo by Imani Bashir

Currency is like a language. It’s something that can tie us together, no matter where we are in the world or what beliefs we hold. It can be handled and exchanged and requires little to no additional words. It serves to provide us with all of our basic needs but also delves into our histories, geographies, and native tongues, something I hope my toddler will appreciate one day.

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