More than just souvenirs: freshman Santosh Sahoo shares his hotel key card collection


Courtesy of Santosh Sahoo

Freshman Santosh Sahoo fans out his five year hotel key card collection. Sahoo refers to them as pearls of memories stashed in his tool box. “As I gaze through the cards, memories come back and catch me staring,” Sahoo said.

By Makinsey Drake, Parkway West High School

From the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., freshman Santosh Sahoo has a collection of 25 hotel room key cards he has gathered since 2016. Combining his passion for travel with his appreciation of memories, Sahoo has configured a nostalgic collection that he enjoys looking back on, envisioning specific characteristics of the trip at-hand.

“When I look at the four Mickey-faced cards, I get reminded of DisneyWorld. The rides, boats and water ride all come back. When I look at the Wyndham Hotel, I mentally start playing on the white-sand beach at Clearwater Beach, Tampa,” Sahoo said. 

Captivated by visions of the past, Sahoo’s inspiration to collect key cards came from his first card, “Wingate by Wyndham,” from Niagara Falls, N.Y.

“[The card] made me content every time I looked at it. It splashes river water on me, as I remember the famous, mighty Niagara Falls. It’s almost like time-traveling,” Sahoo said. “I want to pursue every single card I will ever have, so I got inspired to make a little extra room in my pocket for a few new cards.”

As a constant traveler, Sahoo credits his hotel cards for his vivid evocations. 

“I’ve been to so many places, but I remember each one of them because of my precious hotel cards. Right after I take my last pictures with the hotel room at the close of a vacation, I take note to carefully bundle the cards, before they get discarded to the evil trash can,” Sahoo said. “Without storing hotel cards, my vacation memories seem bland, and in the end, hotel cards give a much more different appeal than any photo can. And like that, they end up in a small bundle, inside my toolbox, preserved in time. While others might easily discard them, or forget hotel cards, I go out of my way to walk past the recycle bin and keep these simple hotel cards and memories intact forever.”

When traveling, Sahoo treasures the food and the views the most. 

“I love food, especially pancake breakfasts, Indian-style lunch and a big old pizza for dinner. My appetite takes me from Asia to North America to maple syrup within 24 hours,” Sahoo said. “As for the views, in almost every single vacation, there is some sort of scenery. Branson had Moonshine Beach, Niagara Falls is pretty obvious and Denver didn’t have anything else but views. My eyes feast on the environment and stay stuck in time, gazing endlessly at the majestic mountains, rivers and canyons.” 

[The card] made me content every time I looked at it. It splashes river water on me, as I remember the famous, mighty Niagara Falls. It’s almost like time-traveling.”

— Santosh Sahoo

Of his 25 cards, Sahoo has four designated favorites, all from the same trip. 

“My favorite cards are the cards from [Orlando, Fla.]. Not only did the hotel make me inherit a king’s crown for a week, but it also made me feel cozy. I recall going to ask for some water bottles and confronting a donut shop, travel center, an interestingly shaped bathroom bowl and a souvenir shop,” Sahoo said. “Most importantly, it reminded me of Mickey’s 90th Birthday I saw celebrated at Cinderella’s castle. From safaris to wave pools, these four cards still jump with joy and preserve every ounce of memory I have.”

As Sahoo’s journey’s end, before they turn to memories among the others, he gets slightly emotional.

“In only a span of three days, I built a strong connection with the hotel room. It’s not only the bed and TV I remember, but also the joy of the beach, or the amusement park, or the mountains,” Sahoo said.

Sahoo will continue to add to his collection once he resumes travel. 

“My collections will remain for a long time, as long as I can keep it to be specific. Maybe greying with age, those cards will be stashed away for my future generations to see and savor. The pictures on those cards are more than pictures, and nothing can change that, not even age [and] time,” Sahoo said. “I will be able to relive those memories when I’m feeling bored, or can’t really travel that much anymore. They will be showpieces on my shelf, bundled like a gift.”

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on February 11, 2021.