Ever since I was a kid, my family hasn’t been able to find a Christmas tree topper that we loved. Some years, we used an angel wearing a red satin gown. Other times, a gold-trimmed velveteen Victorian bow. Occasionally, we even pulled out my parents’ old psychedelic glittery spire. But this year — the first Christmas that I’ve had enough space in my apartment to put up a tree and been in town the entire month to enjoy it — I found the perfect topper: My 10″-tall travel mascot.
This little stuffed leopard — who is as curious as I am — has been exploring the world with me ever since I left Boston in 2009 on a cross-country road trip to San Francisco. He trekked to Nashville to watch wood-block posters get hand printed at Hatch Show Print and tromped to Tokyo’s Tsujiki Fish Market at 4 a.m. to witness the daily tuna auction.
And now he feels right at home hugging the tippy top of my 7-foot Christmas tree. Below his heart-paw feet are 21 ornaments from places that I’ve traveled to as a reporter: Rochester, New York. Stowe, Vermont. Munich, Germany. Beijing, China… Back when I launched my journalism career as a college student, I set out to buy a Christmas ornament — or a substitute, like New Orleans Mardi Gras beads that could double as ultra-festive garland — from every city that I traveled to for a reporting assignment or an industry convention. That way, when I’m a senior citizen gazing upon my Christmas tree, I’ll see all the places that journalism has taken me.
Here’s a slideshow of the travel mascot’s worldwide romps and of the ornaments I managed to collect from one-third of my journalism trips (which often were too busy for souvenir shopping — even for key chains at the airport).
May the joy of Christmas travel with you throughout the year!