Have you been on any adventures recently?
Maybe you went on an amazing trip over the summer and want to memorialize it in some way. Or perhaps you have a shoebox stored in the top of your closet filled with items collected from a life-changing journey taken years ago that you don’t want to let go of but just can’t figure out what to do with.
I love collecting found objects throughout my journeys—markers of where I have been and what I’ve experienced no matter how small. Since I now carry a camera around in my pocket everywhere I go thanks to my smartphone, I’ve also come to enjoy taking photos of my destinations and sharing them over social media along the way.
While this might make me seem like quite the responsible traveler by documenting my experiences throughout my trip—whether through pictures or found objects—the trouble comes when I return home. Over the past few years I’ve traveled to four countries on three separate trips, taken hundreds of photos, and undoubtedly added weight to my luggage from the various mementos found along the way.
However, other than putting some prints in frames and adding stones and shells I’ve collected to my rock jar (free souvenirs!), I’ve done nothing with my pictures or mementos.
Sure, I intend to create a photo book someday (but only when there’s a good sale) and I do find a bit of enjoyment out of discovering ticket stubs from Ireland in my coat pocket when winter rolls around (I once unintentionally carried around a dried olive leaf from the Roman Forum in my outer purse pocket for five years). But I don’t want to leave my memories filed away forever (whether on a computer, in a shoebox, or in various coat pockets keeping used Kleenex and—fingers crossed—twenty dollar bills company).
That’s why I’ve finally decided to make shadow boxes for each journey—small enough to be a simple project, flexible enough to display both images and found objects, and easy to display on bookshelves or walls that I pass each day, reminding me of meaningful journeys gone by.
I look forward to someday having a wall filled with travel shadow boxes, from pilgrimages to Ireland to family vacations to Disney World and everything in between. First, however, I had to start with just one, so I decided to make one for my husband, Kyle, commemorating his recent pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Here are the elements I used to create the shadow box and the supplies used to put it together so that you can make your own, too:
1. mementos from the journey
Maps, postcards, ticket stubs, seashells, pressed flowers, medallions, a journal entry—use whatever caught your eye along the way and represents something meaningful to you. For a well-rounded shadow box, try to have a good selection of both flat and three-dimensional objects. You can also create new mementos for your journey to add to the shadow box by writing down an inspirational quote or poem or lyrics to a favorite song that became meaningful to you during your trip.
2. photos from the journey
That’s right, time to print those babies out! I like to use the minisquares from Social Print Studio because the white boxes around the images make them feel like a true travel snapshot (plus the smaller size is perfect for a smaller shadow box, especially if you want to include a few photos). You could also use postcards from your journey or images from books or magazines—I won’t tell!
3. a shadow box
A given, of course. If you’re handy, you might like the idea of building your own. Me? I prefer the 9×9″ RIBBA frame from Ikea. The depth is perfect for filling the bottom of the box with found objects, plus at $9.99 you cant go wrong. Don’t have an Ikea near you? There’s sure to be a good collection of shadow boxes at your local craft store, too.
4. adhesive materials
If I’m gluing things permanently, I like rubber cement for easy cleanup. But if there’s something you’d like to be able to remove from time to time (like Kyle’s Camino passport in the picture above), simply roll up some painter’s tape and stick it on the back. For more decorative adhesives that will be visible in the shadow box, pick up some washi tape from your local craft store. Pro-tip: be sure to lay out everything before you glue anything down so you can be certain that everything fits and is in the right place!
Paint, pens, markers, glitter, embroidery floss—you name it! Keep these tools on hand during the process to add the perfect finishing touch.
Which journey would you choose to commemorate in shadow box form? Which pictures and mementos would make the shadow box meaningful to you and help remind you of the significance of your journey?