You might already know this about me, but I like to collect bookmarks when I travel. It’s a really fun and inexpensive (usually) way to collect some sort of memento for the places I’ve visited, plus they’re practical in that they don’t take up much room and I get a fair amount of use out of them. What more can I ask for?!
My favorites are when I can get bookmarks made out of different textiles (you’ll see what I mean below), but sometimes I just have to go with a classic leather or paper bookmark. At this point I’ve got a pretty good collection going, plus it’s been supplemented by some awesome bookmarks that my family have gifted me from their own travels.
Let’s start by doing these in reverse chronological order. So the most recent ones that I’ve personally acquired on my travels are first. Be prepared: this post is going to get a little long, but I think it’s pretty great!
I actually accumulated several bookmarks when I was in Hawaii last summer. Unfortunately wood bookmarks are usually too thick to really use in books, plus they slide out of my books pretty easily, so I knew I wouldn’t get much use out of the koa wood bookmark when I purchased it, but I thought it was a really pretty bookmark, and I loved that it was made out of a wood native to Hawaii.
I then picked up the two paper ones from Haleakala even though I generally avoid those because I like getting a postcard or something stamped with the national park postcard stamps (if you haven’t heard about this program, check it out here. I think it’s kind of neat, and I always try to get a stamp at the various parks I go to, though I started collecting the stamps before I knew about the passports). Unfortunately they’re laminated, so the stamp didn’t take and I had to get a postcard for it anyways, but I’m keeping the bookmarks.
The final one I got on my trip to Hawaii is the painted one made of tapa, which is a cloth made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree. It’s another bookmark made of a unique material, plus it looks awesome and I can get more use out of it than the koa wood one.
I also have a couple of New York bookmarks. The 9/11 Museum, in addition to being an amazing museum, also has some really neat souvenir items for purchase. I’m not the biggest fan of metal bookmarks (again, they slide out of books too easily for my taste), but I thought this one was too cool to pass up. And I thought it was neat to get a bookmark from the top of One World Observatory, which is why I decided to add that paper bookmark to my collection. Though looking at these now, I really need to see what other fun bookmarks they have in New York (though I’ve got so many NYC Christmas ornaments that I’m not entirely sure I need to expand into bookmarks).
The Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods bookmarks are from a trip that my husband and I took to San Francisco and Napa a couple of years ago. Again, metal bookmarks aren’t my favorite, but I like getting something nicer than just a paper bookmark when I can, and I thought these were pretty neat. And I think the Niagara Falls bookmark is pretty awesome, too. We were there shortly before we went to San Francisco.
This last wood bookmark is from my first trip to Chicago. We didn’t spend a ton of time sightseeing since my husband’s family lives there, so I didn’t get much of a chance to look for something labeled Chicago, but it doesn’t even matter that much because I got this at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, which is one of the coolest places to go to in Chicago. I highly recommend it if you’re in the area.
And the Ireland one is from an amazing trip I took to Ireland a few years ago. I got some really neat souvenirs there and this bookmark kind of pales in comparison to them, but I’m still glad I have something for my collection. Plus I like that it has the colors of the flag of Ireland on it and a cute little shamrock.
Ok, the next batch of bookmarks is from my study abroad experience. I’ll start with the ones from German language countries, since I studied in Germany.
The Ampelmann bookmark is by far my favorite bookmark in my entire collection. There’s something about the cute little Ampelmann, which appears on the pedestrian stop and go signs in East Berlin, that is so out of place in the former Soviet bloc that it’s awesome, plus it’s by far the best stop and go sign I’ve ever seen. And how cute is it that it flashes between saying “weiter lesen” (keep reading) and “Pause machen” (take a break) with the little footprints across the crosswalk? I actually think I lost the original one I got in Berlin, and I was so disappointed that I went on the Ampelmann Store website and ordered several more so I can’t lose it again.
I also have a really neat one of some of the Mauerkunst, or art on the Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery is one of my favorite things in Berlin, and I highly recommend checking it out. And I have another little Ampelmann bookmark that I got before I found the one that switches back and forth.
I didn’t find any super awesome bookmarks in Austria, which I visited with my mom, though I do really like the one showing the Hundertwasserhaus (or Krawinahaus) in different seasons. It’s such a bizarre and awesome structure. And I really liked the Gustav Klimt Museum, so I got a bookmark there as well.
As for the rest of my travels, this woven one from Turkey is possibly my second favorite bookmark in my collection. I thought it was a really unique texture and they had so many amazing patterns and colors to pick from, it was hard to narrow it down! In addition to Istanbul being one of my favorite places I’ve visited, this one is also pretty special because it’s one of the first gifts my husband gave to me when we were dating.
As I type this up, I realize I’m very picky in my bookmarks, because I also don’t tend to like the ones that are supposed to clip around a page. I just don’t like bothering with the extra step of having to clip it in instead of just sticking it in my book. But I loved the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, so I got this bookmark anyways. Something with a tulip on it would have been really cool, but I don’t remember seeing many bookmarks in Amsterdam.
The wood one from Prague is one of the more unique bookmarks in my collection. I don’t remember what wood it’s made from, but I think the patterns and image of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn are pretty cool. Plus it’s a really thin bookmark, so I can definitely use it more easily than some of the other wood ones.
The two paper ones from Paris are some of my favorites. I liked that the one with the Eiffel Tower was more iconic, but the art deco one was too pretty to pass up, so I got both of them in a little gift shop near the Louvre.
I’m not sure if you can see it, but there’s a little Viking ship debossed on the blue leather bookmark. I got that one first on my trip to Norway with my dad because I thought it was better than the average bookmark, but literally an hour later I found the amazing moose one, which says Norge on the back. I would have skipped the Viking one if I’d found the moose one first, but I get more use out of the Viking one, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
The Stockholm one hasn’t held up the best, but it’s the Stockholm City Hall. My dad and I were in the city for less than a day, so it was pretty much the only bookmark I saw on that trip, and I wanted to make sure I had a souvenir from Sweden.
The last batch of bookmarks I collected on my own are from my travels before my study abroad days.
The leather one is made from Florentine leather that I got on my first trip to Italy as part of a class I took in college. It’s so gorgeous, and it was the first bookmark I collected myself that was made of a textile that had relevance to the area I was visiting.
The silver one is from my first trip to Germany when I was in high school. I think it’s the coat of arms of Munich, which is where we spent most of that trip. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I had a similar one from Cologne that I got when I studied abroad, but I’m not seeing it in my bookmark drawer…
The leather one is from Cambridge, which is where I did a three-week camp when I was in high school. It was my very first trip on my own and my first trip abroad, and I think it’s the first bookmark I collected on my own, too. I’ve had it since I was 15.
The We Can Do It bookmark is from the National Archives. I got it on my second trip to DC, when I went for a week with my family after I graduated from high school. I also got the two bookmarks with quotes on them during that trip, I think from the Library of Congress.
Ok, I have a few more I want to mention. My family knows I collect bookmarks, so my sister has gotten me a ton on her travels, plus my sister-in-law just brought one back from her trip to Israel. Hers is the really colorful one on the end, and I’m not sure if you can tell, but it’s got gold embossing on it. She did a good job picking one out for me!
My sister has done a good job throughout the years, too. She just went to China for work, and brought me back the gorgeous leaf one with the panda and flowers on it. Isn’t it beautiful? And the gold metal one she also brought me from China is really cute.
She was in New Zealand right after Christmas and brought me this really cool one made out of shell. I’m not sure how much it comes across in the picture, but it’s mesmerizing in person.
And she was in North Carolina not too long ago and got me one from Biltmore. Our whole family had visited Charlotte when I was in middle school for my uncle’s wedding, and we took a day trip out to Biltmore. We still talk about it and play cards using decks we got at the estate! So it’s neat to have a bookmark from there now, too.
She also got me a few bookmarks on a road trip she took from San Diego up into Canada and then back to North Dakota several years ago. I love the one from Banff with the little maple leaf dangling from it, and we think the bear one is from her stop at Crater Lake in Oregon, though it’s been a few years and it’s not labeled, so we’re not positive. And the paper one of Wizard Island in Crater Lake was part of a post card she sent me from that trip. It was specifically designed to be folded off and used as a bookmark, which is pretty cool.
The two from Iceland are from her spring break trip there her senior year. I don’t remember if I was supposed to pick just one, but I appropriated both because I couldn’t pick between them.
And the lace one is another one of my earliest textile bookmarks. She got it for me in Brussels when she did a People to People trip in middle school, and I still get a lot of use out of that bookmark.
I also have a bookmark that my uncle gave me years and years ago. I want to say he was stationed in Sardinia (definitely someplace in Italy) and must have gone on a trip to Egypt at some point, because he sent back some cool hieroglyphic bookmarks printed on papyrus to me and my cousins. It’s possibly one of the oldest bookmarks in my collection!
I also have a few non-travel bookmarks I wanted to give a shout out to.
My mother-in-law very thoughtfully had the charm one in the middle made with mine and my husband’s names on it and the day we got engaged, and my co-worker had the other metal one made for me as a wedding gift. Aren’t they both amazing bookmarks? They’re definitely highlights in my collection.
And last but not least, the paper one that says “Read” in numerous languages is another candidate as possibly my oldest bookmark. Did your school library always have a stack of bookmarks on the checkout desk? Mine did, and they had all kinds, but I remember liking this one so much because I was fascinated by the different languages, so I got a stack of them. It’s always been one of my favorite bookmarks, and to this day I still have a couple of them floating around!
Looking through them all, I realize that I didn’t grab bookmarks everywhere I went. For instance, I went back to Rome when I was in college and didn’t get a bookmark on that trip, and I didn’t get one when I interned in Washington, DC, for a summer. Plus I should really have one from Regensburg, which is where I studied. But I’ve done a pretty good job collecting them as I go, especially once I decided that was the thing I most wanted to collect on my travels (that and postcards, which I hang up in my office at work—the Christmas ornaments are a more recent development).
Anyways, let me know in the comment which of my bookmarks is your favorite, and what your own favorite bookmark is! I’m also hoping to go on another trip later this year, so leave suggestions on where I should collect my next bookmark from!