Travel is all about making memories for me. Wherever I go, I try to soak up the culture and then take something unique back from the place with me to remember it later. I want to share with you a few of the treasures I've found along the way in my special “Treasures from the Road” series that I will present every Sunday.

For my first treasure hunt, I thought of the holidays, given that it's that time of the year. I don't have a perfect designer Christmas tree. Instead, it is covered with ornaments that my family and I have collected during our travels around the world. What a great way to help preserve memories of those excursions. Let me share a few.

Old World Christmas Treasure

This tiny wooden nativity is one of our family favorites. It's less than 2 inches square and I don't recall it costing much. My husband and I picked it up at the Christmas market in Trier, Germany in 1984.

Nativity ornament

Nativity ornament from Germany. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Our son was not quite a year old and it was our first Christmas as a family. Every time I put it on the tree, it takes me back to those cobblestone streets in the pedestrian zone of Trier. Trier is a Roman city on the Mosel River in the Eiffel region of Germany, just a few kilometers from the Luxembourg border. The town is so “typically” Germany that it could be right out of a storybook.

Old West Christmas Treasure

The western boot is a reminder of a long weekend I spent at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona a couple of years back. It was an incredible experience and I've enjoyed writing about it on many occasions. Not only is Tanque Verde a beautiful, serene ranch at the foothills of Tucson's rugged mountains with miles of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, and even a spa, the people at the ranch are amazingly hospitable and welcoming.

Western boot ornament

Western boot ornament. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I met some incredible fellow journalists that weekend, rode a horse for the first time in years, ate pancakes out in the desert for breakfast over a campfire, and enjoyed music and dinner under the cottonwoods.

London Christmas Treasures

The elaborate Santa in the sleigh brings back lovely memories of an early December trip I made to London. I spent a few days at the Capital Hotel in London, only a block from Harrods Department Store. I was amazed by the size and scope of Harrods. It was a shopper's paradise.

Santa ornament

Santa ornament. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I had the best time buying Christmas ornaments for my entire family (at least until I converted the British pounds to US dollars and realized how much I'd spent). I fell in love with London after only a couple of days. I hope to share Christmas in England with my husband one of these days soon.

A South-of-the-Border Christmas Ornament

Then there are those quirky ornaments, that you have to laugh at when you put them on the tree, like this fish ornament (and there's pink coral painted on the other side). The painted ceramic ball came from a small shop in San Jose del Cabo, Baja Mexico.

Fish ornament

Mexican Fish Ornament. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

My husband and I were there with all of his brothers and sisters and their spouses in October a few years ago. We spent a week at my brother-in-law's home in Cabo Pulmo, about 70 miles north of Cabo. It was a trip that we all hold very special. We had never vacationed together before and haven't since. It was a week I laugh about as I hang the ornament on the tree. I'm ready for a return visit and some more of that fresh seafood and great tequila.

Another ceramic ball ornament, this one in shades of red with shimmery gold paint, also came from Mexico. I picked it up at a little tourist shop in Tulum after visiting the Mayan ruins.

Red ornament

Red Mexican Ornament. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I treasure the time I spent on the cliff, overlooking the ocean and the centuries-old ruins positioned austerely overlooking the beach. I felt the footsteps of a thousand years before me as I wandered through the ruins. I couldn't bring that home with me, but each year as I decorate my tree, my mind steps back to that harsh rocky land on the Yucatan peninsula.

No matter where you travel, take time to find something special you can bring home to help you remember your trip.

Christmas tree

Christmas tree. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I pick up that Santa ornament from Harrods, close my eyes, and I can feel the cold wind on my face as I hurried into the department store off the busy street. I can smell the baked goods and the cheese from the enormous food department. I can hear the lilting British accents scurrying past as the people shop for the holidays and I hear those familiar carols as I wander through the brightly-colored aisles “across the pond” searching out just the right ornaments. All of that flows back each holiday season. I look forward to collecting more ornaments in my future travels.

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