Grace Lower | Feb 23, 2021
The holidays are here, and once again, my evenings are spent hunched over my laptop, clicking between my gift list, my budget spreadsheet, and roughly 40 different browser tabs.
Holiday shopping has never come naturally to me, and I tend to put enormous pressure on myself to find that perfect gift. As celebrations draw closer, gift-giving begins feeling less like an expression of generosity and more like a full-time job.
Online retailers like Amazon make it simple to shop with the swipe of a screen, but it’s that same convenience that makes gift-buying so overwhelming. Searching for a scarf once meant stopping into a few stores; it now means sifting through thousands of search results. With so much time, energy, and creativity required, the joy of gift-giving can be eclipsed by a logistical — and budgetary — nightmare.
After another fruitless evening online, it occurred to me: in a holiday season that is increasingly centered on things, why not give the gift of travel?
Like a Christmas sweater or a new pair of shoes, travel can come in a variety of styles. You might spring for something grand, like surprising your partner with a trip to Europe, or you could stick with something budget-savvy, like creating a group vacation fund with a few close friends. No matter your preference or financial limitations, the gift of travel is bound to bring holiday cheer.
Best of all, travel is a gift that will last well beyond the holiday season. While the idea of “spending money on experiences, not things” is hardly new, plenty of research and reporting supports that adage. For most people, a physical gift can bring temporary joy, but an engaging experience can be treasured for far longer.
By giving travel instead of a trinket, you are offering something that can be anticipated in the present, enjoyed in the moment, and remembered fondly in the future. And unlike a standard-issue stocking-stuffer, travel plans offer multiple gifts in one:
Let’s face it: everyone is busy. Work obligations, jam-packed schedules, and prior commitments can get in the way of even the tightest relationships. Why wait for the next holiday season before getting back together with your friends or family? When you give someone the gift of travel, you are offering a chance to step away from the daily grind and spend time with the person — or people — who matter most.
While glamorous or exotic travel is a hit on social media, you and your loved ones don’t have to travel far to create amazing memories. Why not chip in on a weekend getaway to the mountains, or book a group Airbnb in a neighboring city? Or spend an afternoon as a tourist in your own town, by visiting a popular museum or attraction. Ultimately the destination is up to you: what matters is connecting with the people you adore.
In addition to fostering relationships, travel gives groups the chance to try something new together. Learning is an exciting process, but it is also a vulnerable one. Whether you and your loved ones are hitting the ski slopes, admiring art, or sampling street-food, there’s always something new to discover — not just about your destination, but about your travel companions as well. It could be that your cousin is an accomplished athlete, or that your long-time roommate has an incredible gift for haggling. When you’re on the road, even the people you know best can surprise you.
Of course, any adventure can come with risks. If necessary, purchase a solid medical travel insurance plan to ensure you and your loved ones can focus on the fun of a new discovery, rather than worrying about what-ifs. Breaking free from your comfort zone is an essential part of travel, and a little bit of courage can lead to lifelong memories.
With the rise of the smartphone, it is easier than ever to find effortless entertainment. But there’s a great big world just beyond your screen … why not invite your family and friends to join the adventure? The gift of travel demands an increased sense of mindfulness, especially when you and your loved ones are visiting a new destination. When you’re out exploring the physical world, you are forced to put the digital world — with its emails, texts, and push notifications — on hold. Surprising your loved ones with train tickets or a multi-stop road trip can help everyone disconnect from various trackers and apps, and reconnect with the present.
Travel is one of the best ways to get to know someone, no matter how close your relationship may be. Long hours on the road are the perfect environment for thoughtful conversations. Overcoming obstacles like delayed busses or long lines can help you and your companions practice flexibility. Getting to know a community that’s unlike your own, or exploring a destination that’s far from home, can prompt rich discussion on traditions, values, and culture. What differentiates travel from all other gifts is its ability to foster new ideas while re-establishing relationships.
The holiday season is a time to reflect on the passing year and celebrate the friends and family who matter most. And while travel can’t exactly come wrapped with a bow, its ability to bring people together makes it a gift worth giving.
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.