5 Tips to Create a Zen Room Using Travel Souvenirs

Last May, I graduated with my Masters of Public Health in Health Behavior. Despite graduating from one of the top programs in the country and working for the Centers for Disease Control before that, I was having a really tough time securing a full-time position that I was passionate about. Fortunately, I was able to get temporary research positions that kept me afloat (thank God for the low cost of living in the South!). I spent a couple of months subleasing rooms in friends’ apartment. As grateful as I was, it’s nothing like having your own space. 

By this point, I had decided I was no longer going to wait around for a job to contact me to make moves. I figured if I make the decision of where I would be and put that energy into the universe, everything would fall into place. So I decided to stay in NC since I had already built a network, made many friends, and had worked here. At the end of September 2015, I was still in a rough transition place in my life but chose to make the big move into my current apartment. Because things were tough for me, I wanted to decorate my new room in an intentional way that promoted self-care and reminded me of the thing I love the most: traveling. Over the years, I’ve collected so many different souvenirs and mementos and wanted to showcase as many of them as possible.

Thankfully, I just landed an amazing job as a project manager at a major cancer research center. I think this was in part due to the self-care I practiced during my job search and I know that the calming and inspirational environment of my room had something to do with that. So, given my story, I want to share with you a few tips on how to turn your bedroom into a zen room using your travel souvenirs!

1.     Pick a Color Scheme & a Focal Item

Reflecting on when I am most at peace, I automatically think about being in nature. I went on Pinterest to look up peaceful color schemes and found the perfect one!

Ahhh! How peaceful is this?!

Once I chose a color scheme, I found my focal point item:  a 22×32 watercolor World map by Michael Tompsett. When I came across it, I instantly fell in love

2.     Get Creative with Shelf Placement

This shelf is special because it represents some of my favorite places from my first trip to Europe. Items include:

  • Eiffel Tour figurine from Paris

  • Carpe Diem plague & the Roman Chariot Race figurine from Rome

The other items were there to complement those main pieces.

  • Green vase from a thrift shop

  • Bird (my spirit animal) from Homegoods

  • Candle holders from Michaels Craft Store

Placement Technique: Layer the height of the items on the shelves to make it visually interesting and balanced.

This is my self-care shelf. It is placed centrally above my dresser and I meditate on it daily.

  • DIY Burlap Frame w/ Bible Verse. I bought a burlap frame from Michaels, attached a broken necklace I wasn’t ready to give up, and included my favorite bible verse (Jeremiah 29: 11-14 For surely I know the plans i have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope…)

  • Gold elephant. I purchased this while on a trip in Bangkok. Elephants represent strength and protection (a good reminder to have during life transitions)

  • “You’re One of a Kind” Card. My friend got me this beautiful card when I was accepted into graduate school

  • Frames. I bought these from a thrift shop

  • Vintage perfume bottle. This was a gift from a friend

3.     Make a Mini Gallery Wall

I have a habit of saving everything from my travels. And I’m talking everything:  receipts, boarding passes, maps, tickets, even tissues (I will explain this soon)! I like saving them because they can transport me back to my adventures. In my new apartment, I wanted to highlight my favorite travel memories so I decided to frame a few souvenirs and create a gallery wall. I framed various international coins, transportation passes, a South African Rand note (South Africa was the first international country I traveled to), maps, and tickets. All of my frames were bought from thrift shops and cost between 0.25¢ – $1. I spray-painted some of them gold as an extra touch.

4.     Utilize Windowsill Space

I collect seashells from all over the world. It’s the best free souvenir! I have great natural lighting in my room and there is nothing more peaceful than the sun shining down on these beautiful pieces of natural art.

Bonus Tip #1: I use one of my larger sea shells as a soap holder.

5.     Have Fun with Your End Tables Décor

I absolutely adore the decor on this end table! Items include:

  • Hand-crafted Jewels Boat. My Austrian friend made this for me for my 25th birthday

  • Travel-themed Decorative Boxes. I purchased these boxes from Michaels and placed travel mementos in them

  • Framed Message. I found this frame in the $1 section at Michaels. When I was visiting Valencia, the first place I ate was at a local cafe. The cafe had tissues with different encouraging messages in Spanish. I kept a few and framed my favorite one: He sido afortunado en la vida nada me fue fácíl (I’ve been lucky in life; nothing was easy for me)

Bonus tip #2: Never ever buy anything for full price at Michaels (unless it’s the $1 section!). If you sign up for their email listserv, you will receive daily coupons. And every time you shop with them, they give you a 40% off coupon on your receipt.

There you have it, five ways to create a peaceful retreat in your bedroom using travel souvenirs! What are some of the ways you display your travel souvenirs? Share your jewels in the comments section!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something. I don’t promote items I don’t like, therefore if I am recommending a product/service it is because I truly like it and believe my readers will benefit from it. 


Jewels Rhode

Frequent Flyer. Chief Enjoyment Officer. Helping you make your travel dreams a reality!