A Radical, New Approach to Holiday Gift Giving

Unique Christmas gift travel

The holiday season is approaching.

Most people are actively creating their holiday wish list, or avidly searching for gift ideas for their partner, children, parents, siblings, friends, etc.

Something unique.

Something that confirms to the recipient that you know and love them.

Something meaningful and memorable.

If you do a Google Search of “best Christmas gifts for… dads or travelers” you’ll get article after article with a list of a dozen products to buy with corresponding links to different websites.

But are tangible gifts the best idea?

When I was in a six-year relationship, I loved that at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions, instead of material objects like jewelry, shoes, decor, etc. we’d gift each other experiences instead.

Something we could do and enjoy together.

Something where we could explore, laugh, and play.

Something where we could co-create memories.

While buying tickets to a big event or a getaway might only last a couple of days or a week, the memories will last longer than any mug or pair of shoes.

And that is more sustainable than a material gift where the packaging will get thrown out immediately, and, eventually… so will most gifts.

I often feel like we’re so encouraged to buy, buy, buy… spend, spend, spend… that we are just one new pair of shoes, a bigger house, etc. away from feeling like the best version of ourselves. But, that’s bullshit. It never ends.

In a country where the average American debt per household is $139,500, it’s as if knowing you are enough, and not buying into this notion of materialism to validate your existence (literally) is the most radical idea you can have.

If you need material objects to make you feel adequate, you will never feel that you are enough.

This is a struggle for me. I’m guilty of buying another cute tee that’s “so versatile, I can dress it up or down”, another pair of workout pants, and $100 face serums. And I think it’s going to make me happier?

No, it won’t.

Real, authentic, lasting happiness does not come from a store.

Happiness comes from within.

How each of us cultivates happiness will look different to each person. True.

However, I can almost guarantee the freedom you will feel, the experiences you have, the lessons you learn, the new or revolutionary ideas you have while traveling is a pretty good place to start.

So if you’re craving something more… profound this holiday season, here are a few alternatives to the traditional gift.

Gift a Trip or Take a Trip

The best gift for travelers isn’t a new passport holder or new suitcase… it’s a trip!

Instead of getting wrapped up in the mindless desire to consume at the holidays, think different.

Think big, truly unique and memorable.

Investing in a trip is something that you and your partner, friend, family member, etc. can co-create lasting memories. We’re talking about quality over quantity here.

What more memorable surprise gift is there than opening up a beautifully wrapped package to discover plane tickets and hotel accommodations to some exotic destination?!

If you’re not into the surprise thing, you could instead co-decide to ditch the traditional Christmas celebration and spend Christmas to New Years away instead.

Picture spending a week lounging on the Caribbean beaches then exploring the jungle in Belize while everyone else is shoveling snow?

Or perhaps spend the money on flights and hotel to Europe to experience a European Christmas market for yourself.

Bonus: buy only one gift in the country that will act as a magical souvenir and something to open on Christmas morning.

Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

If you’re one of the many American households in debt and can’t (or shouldn’t) afford a vacation this year, then…


Skip the gifts or trips all together and put that in your savings and invest in yourself. Or limit yourself to a reasonable budget.

If you’re stressed about money, the best gift you can get yourself or partner is putting that money towards paying off debt or into your savings for a just in case.

Let me ask you a simple question…

Can you remember every gift you’ve gotten? From your family, your partner, etc.?

If the answer is yes, you remember (practically) every gift from every year then by all means, buy more things.

But if the answer is no, reconsider your buying behavior this holiday.

Have a discussion with your people and ask the hard questions. Are we buying gifts for the right reasons, or are we doing it because “we’re supposed to”?

Do we really need to mad dash to the mall to buy a dozen gifts for everyone? Is that the meaning of Christmas?

No. I don’t think so.

Christmas is about connection.

Christmas is about traditions.

I do not believe that Christmas is about showering your children, siblings, parents, best friend, or partner with a thousand dollars worth of gifts in the form of 20+ things they can open.

I mean, think about all the waste! Gift wrap, product packaging, etc.

Take a moment and think about your favorite memories from Christmas.

Seriously, pause reading, and reflect on Christmas past…

Write them down…

Go ahead…

I bet most of your favorite Christmas memories have nothing to do with the actual gifts, and more to do with the act of gifting and with feeling of being together, spending time together, doing something nice for each other, right?

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are:

Watching a mouse version cartoon of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas with my siblings for the past 20+ years. We’ve had to continue buying this in DVD, Blu-Ray, Amazon Prime Video as technology changes!

Sneaking out to the living room at 4 am with my older brother, to sit and talk about our deepest thoughts in front of the un-lit tree before the craziness of Christmas Day morning.

Making overnight french toast with my mom Christmas Eve to enjoy on Christmas morning. Extra boysenberry syrup.

Watching my dad gift my mom a trip to Egypt and Greece, a lifelong dream of hers. She cried. We cried.

My parents buying me a Burberry bag before studying abroad in Paris. You know, so I could be as chic as the Parisians.

More than a tree, a pot-roast dinner, and presents, Christmas is about giving presence; to our loved ones, to our neighbors, to those in need.

Let’s shift our focus on quality over quantity! Starting with Christmas.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

What have been your favorite gifts to give and receive? Do you buy more experience based gifts already? If not, are you thinking about trying that?

Next: What a Solo Day Exploring Boston Massachusetts Can Teach You


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