Experiences Not Things: As a runner, I'll never be disappointed with gifts that help take me to my next race and new adventures.
Experiences Not Things: As a runner, I’ll never be disappointed with gifts that help take me to my next race and new adventures.

When family members requested my Christmas Wish List this past month, I had a very difficult time coming up with items. I’ve spent much of 2016 decluttering – scanning and shredding old paperwork, cleaning out the closets and donating unused items, and reducing the general amount of clutter around me. I also dedicated much of my personal time and budget to travel and exploring the world around me; something I’ve referred to as Experiences, Not Things.

Life is more than the amount of things we can accumulate. Sometimes being able to experience life is more important than driving the latest model vehicle or having a new Amazon box show up at your door each day. By dedicating myself to #ExperiencesNotThings, I’ve been able to explore five new National Parks this Fall, check off several more states visited and see some amazing landmarks in the West.

So what do you get a frequent traveler or someone enjoys new experiences? I often buy what I need, when I need it, so I don’t necessarily¬†need anything new. Here are a few items I ended up with on my Christmas Wish List this year.

National Parks Annual Pass

national park annual passOur National Parks often are hidden gems across the country. The NPS turned 100 years old in 2016 and I was able to explore many of them in the West, encountering many more foreign tourists than domestic visitors. Help a traveler out and purchase a National Park Interagency Annual Pass for $80. This card covers admission to Parks across the country and is good for 12 months from purchase. In case the person on your list already has an Annual Pass, get them a certificate good for the purchase price so they can renew when the current pass expires.

Subscriptions or Digital

Frequent travelers often appreciate subscriptions to digital media – books, audio, apps or downloads – to pass the time on planes or on the road. Consider an Audible or iTunes gift card. There can be a negative stigma around giving a gift card, but if it’s specific to a service or item your recipient already uses, it’s a welcomed gift that will be put to good use.


Peanut Butter by the Pallet. Image: Alibaba
Peanut Butter by the Pallet. Image: Alibaba

This sounds lame at first, but again, buy a frequent traveler something you know they’ll use and they might have to purchase otherwise. There will always be a need to stock the pantry. Maybe it’s a favorite breakfast item, a good coffee blend, jars of peanut butter, or a stock of good beef jerky. If nothing else, a Starbucks gift card will be like you buying your friend/family a few cups of coffee when they need it most. Tell me it’s not a little entertaining when someone opens a box with ridiculous amounts of their favorite snacks.

Travel Voucher

If there’s a person on your list who is always on the go, they’d be lying if they said a travel voucher isn’t appreciated. Find out what mode of transportation – airline, metro, public transportation, rental car company – they use most and purchase a gift card to get them closer to their next personal trip.

Gear or Clothing

This one can be tricky, so pay close attention. If I need something, I likely already bought it for myself. But you can find things that suit your recipient’s style or hobbies. As a runner, I always appreciate new athletic socks and hand warmers. As a traveler, a good mobile charger for devices always comes in handy. If in doubt, go to a specialty store in your area, respective to your recipient’s interests, and the employees should have suggestions for general gifts. If in doubt, a gift card to those specialty stores is always welcome – because your recipient likely spends money there anyway.

Donation in Honor/Memorial

09-05-12-heifer-intl-logo11Finally, if the person on your gift list truly has everything they need and really values experiences over things, consider giving to a charity or foundation in their honor or in memory of someone who was important to the recipient. This is an honest and sincere way to recognize someone and shows you care. Two groups that top my giving list are Heifer International and Feeding America. If you’re aware of an organization of special importance to your recipient, be sure to donate there.

TLDR: If someone on your gift list this Holiday season is difficult to buy for, purchases everything they need, or is a frequent traveler, consider giving Experiences Not Things. This often includes certificates for trips/travel or consumable items they’d purchase throughout the year. Don’t cringe at the thought of gift cards. Make them specific to experiences or specialty locations. Add a special touch with a handwritten note card.

After all, this is the season to cherish family, friends and those surrounding us, not competing to see how much stuff we can accumulate and transport back home with us.

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