A few years ago I started collecting a little vial of sand/stones from each place I visited. This not only allows you to play amateur geologist (it's actually pretty interesting to compare sand from different places), it completely abates that must-find-a-souvenir-however-tacky notion that can accompany travelling.
Having tried other vessels in the past, the ones I've come to like best are these little corked glass vials (they're cheap too -- Dollarama -- six for $1.25). I stick a circular label on the bottom and that's it. Souvenir, done.
Here are the ones I've collected during my travels this past year.
|Carcross Desert, Yukon|
|rock glacier in Kluane National Park, Yukon|
|Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Indonesia|
|stupa ruins, Inn Thein, Inle Lake, Myanmar|
|volcanic sulphur, Mt. Sibayak, Berastagi, Indonesia|
So despite occasionally feeling awkward collecting sand as tourists look on, it's totally worth it to have nice little vials that bring back memories of the places you filled them. Bottled memories -- kinda like:
|pensieve (any excuse for a Harry Potter reference) (source)|