While working on our upcoming International issue (hitting shelves on 21 July), we started reminiscing about the strangest thing we’ve ever brought back in our travel bag. Which leads us to today’s giveaway – a beautiful, handmade bag from local creative Caleb Pederson. We chatted to the Woodstock-based designer about his Chapel label and what gets his creative juices flowing… (scroll down to the end of the post to enter).

Where do you get your inspiration?
Need. Lack. Riding my bicycle. Listening to Arcade Fire. My friend Edroy Benjamin Paulsen, aka Boet. Living in Woodstock. My Viking forefathers in Denmark. My wife, Jessicah.

Favourite local designer?
David West

Gardening tip?
Plants from Zimbabwean rain forests should stay in Zimbabwean rain forests (ours is dying).


Dream collaboration?
Brooks Saddles

Favourite breakfast?
Karen’s yoghurt and muesli from The Kitchen in Woodstock.

What are you listening to right now?
Tegan and Sara

Favourite colour and why?
Military green – the colour we just spray-painted our car!

Tell us a little about the process of making your products?
I ride my bicycle, find materials, enjoy people and sunshine, make things I like and need.

Coming up?
Chapel is being renovated, moving into a new studio and making more full leather pieces!

Where can we find your designs?
My website, MeMeMe and The Old Biscuit Mill.

WIN! We have a stylish Chapel travel bag up for grabs. Simply tell us the strangest thing you’ve ever brought back from holiday in your suitcase in the comment section below…

This competition is now closed


  1. Avo’s – bags of them! Friends in Durban had an avo tree and these were unlike anything we got to eat at home, so we bought more luggage and packed our bags with avo’s. I’m not sure what the airport staff thought about this, but we ate avo’s daily for about a month!

  2. A parachute dress designed with many strings,so it can be tied and worn in multiple ways. I brought it back in my handlugguge and the luggage check at Heathrow asked me if I was planning to jump out the aeroplane!

  3. While living in India and holidaying in SA I bought a tiny Weber to use on my matchbox balcony and packed it full of boerewors – it was a perfect arrangement, acting like a fridge in the hold (so my precious nektar stayed frozen) and staying hidden from prying scanner-eyes at customs (the Hindus are not crazy about imported beef!). Then I threw a big boerewors party for my poor, deprived Indian friends, melting their minds with the wonder of possibly our greatest culinary contribution to the world!

  4. not all that strange, but my very favourite item in my kitchen is a wooden spoon from a road side stall in Zimbabwe. i can’t cook one single dish without it!

  5. While taking a holiday in SA last year, we ended up in the parking lot of the Suncoast Casino in Durban, where they had a ton of beach almond trees. I hadn’t had this fruit in ages and I have never seen it in the US. So, I brought some to bring back in our luggage (there weren’t that many). My husband wanted to kill me and I vowed never to bring back anything that customs could potentially have a fit over. (but I really did enjoy my almonds back at home!)

  6. A huge resin light fitting, kind of like an upside-down lamp shade from the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo. It was swirling orange and red and so heavy, but I loved it, wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it in my suitcase to take home.

  7. Postcards that are made out of wooden planks back in Taiwan! I brought a few of them to made a wind chimes and it sounds lovely as the the wind blows! I also bought a pair of geta back in Japan (traditional Japanese shoes) and boy that thing it is difficult to walk in that!

  8. On our first (of many) visits to Thailand we were still a bit green and we were somehow duped into parting good money for quite a realistic and ugly green fabric lizard stuffed with sand (yeah i know). Almost immediately afterward we couldn’t believe that we had just done that, especially since we now had to backpack with a very heavy sand lizard. But the funny thing is we still have it – and when i see it i think of traveling and of being carefree!

  9. A gecko. It must have climbed in my bag in a backpackers in thailand and was still alive when I opened my suitcase. What a surprise!

  10. I brought a 21inch Mac home to Cape Town all the way from the Washington DC Pentagon Mac store on my back wrapped in bubble wrap.

  11. A kangaroo… skin from Oz, for my dad… he LOVES animal skins… ; )not so PC but damn soft! Luckily SA customs is nothing like the Ozzie customs regarding animal products!

  12. Oh and a rain water down pipe from Japan! ha ha ha, you know those little cups on a chain that catches the water and slows it down before it hits the ground… you can see them at the old temples in Japan. Well we crossed Tokyo looking for one and eventually found a plastic one and had to haul it home! ; )

  13. I bought a hemp jersey with the dagga leaf on the tag home from New Zealand. Also lots of scallop shells I picked up on the beach.

  14. Starfishes! There were so many washed ashore on the beach at Club Med, Bali we packed them in plastic bags filled with sand to bring back. Not a pretty sight when we reached home later after a 2-hour flight!

  15. It’s not that strange, but during our holiday in Europe, my friends and I bought espresso cups from all the coffee shops we met at in every town we visited. At the end of my trip I bought 23 all together. Had to buy an extra suitcase for them ’cause I didn’t want them to chip or crack (and bubble wrap takes up A LOT of space). I use them for decoration in my house now and every time I see them, great memories pop up!! 🙂

  16. King Arthur of the Round Knights always interested me on laying my hands on a miniature Excalibur Sword fulfilled my idealistic inspirations, being in a castle in the UK with so much overwhelming memories and history my thought were restrained to Excalibur. Needless to say in found its home with me and ever since it’s been a pleasure to open the bills. An inspiration from medieval time to deal with you all know what…

  17. I did a Zanzibar trip with my then-boyfriend who had this thing for collecting vintage ashtrays. Needless he found his favourite ashtray in Stonetown, Zanzibar… It was this incredible brass ashtray that was definitely very beautiful, but it weighed more than I’d care to remember and guess who ended up carrying it all the way back to Cape town!?

  18. Freshly cut, dried, and prepared Thai herbs, fish sauce, pastes, and jasmine rice. At the end of 1994 I came back to SA with a Thai partner. I’d been away 5 years and I didn’t know if we would be able to get the ingredients he liked to cook with. So for 2 weeks, in his family village, he cut and dried herbs on the tin roof of their wooden house. Relatives and friends prepared a variety of pastes. We packed our stash in our 2 backpacks and in the electric rice pot (another thing I’d never seen here). Ofcourse, soon after arriving I discovered that Cape Town had grown up – we had The Happy Wok, Yindees, and Taste of Japan on our doorstep! Today we can get everything we need from the Thai owned grocery store a block away from home in Seapoint, or from most retailers in the weekly shopping.

  19. This goes back decades, but I took two ostrich eggs in my backpack through customs at Los Angeles airport! I had an Iranian friend in L.A., so purchased a Farsi (Persian) language book there. On my return to S.A., my hand luggage was searched, and I was viewed very suspiciously by the Customs official – at that time, Iran was viewed as a source of terrorists (this view still persists, I think). Also, in the 90’s, my husband & I returned from Italy, with a Corsa dei Fiori pasta bowl & 8 pasta plates in our hand luggage! I had fallen in love with the ducks painted on the earthy yellow plates, and the crazy thing was that the town where we purchased the plates was our third last stop before departing Italy, so backpacking proceeded with a heavy burden. to this day, I still admire and treasure these plates!

  20. I would like to enter the competition to win a bag.

    As usual, the most stunning and inspiring articles to read, lovely pictures to gaze at and a world of inspiration.

    Thank you ELLE for a consistent good read.

    Thank you

  21. I forgot to mention something in my previous post and that would be: “Not only would I LOVE to win this bag(I mean, just look at it, it’s beautiful & so unique!!), but it’ll also be awesome to use(and show off) for the next time I travel!! Obviously I won’t carry any random things in it, say, avos?? stinky cheese?? etcetera…it’s just too pretty to even think about putting any food in it that might mess up the interior?? (^_^)

  22. I forgot to mention something in my previous post and that would be: “Not only would I LOVE to win this bag(I mean, just look at it, it’s beautiful & so unique!!), but it’ll also be awesome to use(and show off) for the next time I travel!! Obviously I won’t carry any random things in it, say, avos?? stinky cheese?? etcetera…it’s just too pretty to even think about putting any food in it that might mess up the interior?? (^_^)”

  23. After living In Taiwan for a year, I returned with Christmas presents in my trusty backpack for the whole family. My Dad, who loves to cook strange and exotic dishes, was the recipient of a metre-long, totally flattened, vacuum-packed octopus. At the airport I just smiled a sweet smile at the customs officials and that was that! It was the best Christmas present ever.

  24. The food I brought back from China. Think blueberry and cucumber flavoured Lay’s, plum juice that tasted like meat, hundred year-old egg. Very interesting! My family was not too chuffed.

  25. A squashed half of a Strawberries and cream, Krispy Kreme. Whilst packing my bag to come home from London, I must have thrown my belongings on top of my delicious treat:( It was a long flight back home but the squished morsel that was left was still super delicious!:)

  26. A few years ago I brought back two fertility dolls from a backpacking trip to Zimbabwe because i was told if i have them in the house i will definetly fall pregnant.After having had two miscarriages i was sceptical. Lo and behold a few months later i was pregnant and had two boys almost exactly a year apart.Now nobody wants to take them from me before i land up with a soccer team!!

  27. On a recent trip to India during mango season.. i could not get enough of the amazing mangos all throughout India… so i decided to bring home a box!! And I walked straight through customs without any trouble! Those were the best mangos I have ever had!

  28. A ball of clay (±1kg) from a Spanish ceramicist I came across in a Spanish town called Peniscole. Carried it around for a month while touring Europe! LOL Eight years later I still have the vase I created from that ball of clay.

  29. Whilst on holiday in Sicily, I was thrilled to source a carburettor for my precious vintage 1974 Alfa Junior GT – parts were not readily available for it in SA. With the help of my boyfriend, I carried it on board the plane as hand luggage to return to Cape Town! Incredibly no-one queried it on board or going through Customs.

  30. On a recent trip to Heidelberg Germany I came across a ‘spoka’ glowing ball of soft plastic.. it turns all the colours of the rainbow at night and looks like a little white ghost in daylight.. This coming from a grown woman I just could not leave the adorable ball of comfort on the shelf !!

  31. I once brought a huge set of adult reindeer antlers all the way from oslo,norway back to south africa.they were by far the strangest thing I have ever travelled with!

  32. Well this last holiday I was unpacking my bag and I did notice a rather odd and out of place looking bag of what turned out to be mosaicing (yes, that is the correct spelling) grout!
    The grout is the sticky stuff that you squeeze between the pieces of tile that hardens up to make it look more flat.
    My aunt must have squeezed the grout into my luggage while I wasn’t looking. She was probably hoping that I would also take up her hobby.
    Well the thing that was most odd about this bag of grout was that it seemed to have taken over a vastly large part of my bag. It had exploded and my bag looked like it had been sprinkled with coke.

  33. So, we had an awsom Decemeber holiday in Mozambique – drove all the way from Hermanus to Tofo! While we were there we learned all about the cultures and enjoyed the beautiful coast and then we discovered the combo of Fanta ova (Grape) and the Mozambique Rum called Tipo Tinto …. We enjoyed it while there but I must say it’s not the best Rum in the world but still we brought back a whole 6 pack of 500ml bottles – not for the rum itself but rater for the classic plastic bottles and its funky labels.
    Found I quit weird that we try to bring back a piece of an awesom country! (:

  34. I brought back cuttle fish bone for my cockatiel and stones that I picked up from Brighton beach in the UK.

  35. This dish rack (follow this link to see a picture: http://flic.kr/p/acYk5t ) which I spotted at the Conran Shop in New York City I simply had to bring back to Cape Town. At the time I was certain it would fit into my suitcase but after carrying this around for a day in New York, after buying it early morning, I hit a couple of people with it on the subway (accidentally although they did not think so) including a stroller in Harlem which had the father force me to exit the carriage. I took it as hand luggage and luckily it just made the overhead storage. Today its a prime piece in my Cape Town kitchen.

  36. A piece of chewing gum from the Dead Sea in Israel. My son asked me to bring back stones and potshards from archeological digs en I picked up what I thought was a pebble in the Dead Sea. My son was not at all impressed!

  37. Oh my god! While living in nigeria for sometime every holiday we took we bought crazy things from abroad as we couldn’t get anything in lagos or at 50 times the price: holiday in egypt- bamboo skewers(100 of them),2 kg mangoes,chewing gum and steel pots and pans. Holiday in cape town-bought whole fruit and veg city and hid them below my lady undergarments!!so when customs opened to check for fresh food,they saw my panties and bras and were tooo embarassed to check any further 🙂
    Holiday in US-2 kgs of wringley chewing gum

    Loved it 🙂

  38. A beautiful old easel from a car boot sale in Chiswick, London. It was late in the day and nobody was paying any attention to this gorgeous easel that could have told a thousand stories so I gave in. A little like I would have had it been a puppy. It was hard to resist.

  39. i once bought a ferret at a market in Barcelona and traveled around with it, mostly in my bag.sadly Vincent escaped before we reached Venice. I like to think that he is chilling somewhere on a beautiful beach in hte south of france… maybe Nice!

  40. I love bringing home pebbles! Most of them stay in my handbag or backpack. I have one cute shaped or coloured pebble for each country/journey.

  41. I brought back a bottle of water from the Dead Sea and froze the water till my first born was baptized. We froze the other half of the bottle of water and 3 years later baptized my 2nd born. I am so glad we did that and made a special occasion of it!

  42. Hi, I would love to win this bag as it would look stunning as I am driving a scooter to work, I was an aupair in Washington a few years back and I brought back a yellow ‘tweety’ which I won at a fun fair park. I just couldnt leave it behind in the US it is almost as big as myself, it has a crown on its head. At the airport everyone looked at me but i couldnt care I just wanted to take it home with me and after a lot of begging it was booked onto the plane as hand luggage!

  43. Strange I don’t know but unusual a little difficult to travel with:

    1. A big bright red 12 cup tea pot from London – a gift for my tea mad parents.

    2. A 7kg Kilm in my hand luggage from Istanbul along with 3 beautiful hand carved wooden printing blocks

    3. The most delicious pastry from Tel Aviv (unfortunately I can’t remember what they called it) I had to bring it home to share, all toasted and cinnamon-y and a little squashed

  44. Bags of pumpkin seeds from Barra de Navidad, Mexico. They are so inexpensive here and the are delicious.

  45. these look so beautiful and pracrical to use…having 1 will be like having a really amazing accesory!!!PLEASE LET ME HAVE 1


  47. A rusty old fish hook from Santorini, I found it next to a fisherman’s chapel on a tiny beach and thought it was a great reminder of the holiday.

  48. I brought a kilo of Gamon and all bunch of olives from Spain, they are great and cheep there 🙂 (just to be clear, I wasn’t coming back to SA at the point, olives here are pretty yummy too).

  49. Every single concert ticket from every single rock concert anywhere…
    Coral from Bali…
    Pebbles from Greece…
    Need this bag for upcoming backpacking trip to Italy, so I can look stylish whilst I backpack!