Many families with young children don’t have the opportunity to travel abroad for a number of reasons ranging from cost to timing. Elin Aram created A Box From as a way to introduce people to a country’s culture through its souvenirs. A Box From is a carefully curated box of souvenirs that Aram feels is representative of the city. “The things I put in the box is based on my highly subjective view of the city,” she says. “There could be cute toys in there for sure, but also design objects or food ingredients.”
While A Box From is not necessarily geared toward children, Aram admits she loved getting exotic souvenirs as a kid and still does.
Souvenirs are a great way for children to learn about culture in a very real way because it’s tangible and relatable. Recently, Heather Barnard, also known as Middle East TravelingMom, took her kids to the Grand Bazaar in Instabul, Turkey, to choose souvenirs. It’s also a great teachable moment, especially when your family travels to countries where souvenirs are a big part of the tourism economy and to remember to pay a fair price.
“I think any kid or grown-up gets excited about a mysterious box from a faraway place in the mail,” she adds. “I loved getting exotic souvenirs as a gift as a kid (and still do) and that is what keeps me going. And of course to get people interested in places they might never go to.”
Aram chooses the cities that aren’t always top of mind as vacation destinations but also places she’s personally visited so she can get a better understanding of the people and culture. “I try to pick underestimated places,” she says. “Exciting cities that people rarely visit. I usually go there and befriend locals. They take me to the best markets and tell me stories about the city. The things I put in the box are based on that [experience].”
Her current box is from Tehran where you’ll find a map of the city (in Farsi) as well as handmade baskets, saffron, nabat and two glasses for tea. Nabat, we learn, is crystallized sugar that one uses to stir your tea. You can combine the nabat with a couple of fresh dates and walnuts as is common in Iran.
Seoul is up next. The box contains noodles, notepads, brown rice tea and a collagen face mask, among other items.
Each box includes a note which details the contents in a writing style that is almost poetic. Even without visiting the city, you feel an immediate connection. Aram’s style pulls you in, makes you want to learn more about the city, its people and its culture through your senses: touch, sight, smell and taste.
Aram is planning to release one more city this year and while she’s mum on the city she shared with us that it will be from somewhere in the eastern part of Europe.
Her goal with A Box From is to grow the business organically and slowly roll out new boxes from more cities and to reach out to more people through real-life stories. “I would also like to create movies from every city to really capture its spirit,” she says.