Here at Tripping Over the World, we tend for many reasons to acquire souvenirs sparingly. But over the years we’ve inadvertently gathered a collection of momentos that have turned out to be treasures, literally: IMG_5615

I’m talking about money from foreign countries.

IMG_5782Like many travelers, I often have a little bit of cash at the end of a trip. Sometimes I’ll spend it on croissants or a magnet or something, but I inevitably still have coins or even bills after trips. I usually keep the bills with the intention of spending them during a future trip, which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.

The picture at the top of this post shows a 20 złoty note from Poland. The image to the left shows three forint bills from Hungary. I picked up all of this money while traveling last year.

The pictures below show pounds from Scotland and dirhams from Morocco.

And here’s my ever-growing pile of change, which includes coins from Europe, England, Egypt, Germany (before the euro), Mexico, Brazil, and probably a few others:

IMG_8596

There are, occasionally, opportunities for travelers to donate leftover money to good causes, and I’ve availed myself of them from time to time.

But that’s not always an option, and in any case it’s kind of cool to look back on time spent in other countries by looking at those countries’ cash. For one thing, nations use their money to represent their history; usually one of the first things I do at the end of a day while traveling is google the person on the money I pulled out of an ATM. And I’ve learned about an array of historical figures that way.

More importantly, currency is a representation of values. (U.S. currency, which is something of a design aberration these days, says a lot about how America sees itself in the world.) Colorful or plain, historical figures or living monarchs, animals or places — these are all values-based choices countries make when designing their currency and you can learn a lot by studying it.

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Editor in Chief of Tripping Over the World. Also, reporter at BuzzFeed News.

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