5 Ways to Turn Presents into Presence

Give Presence this Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a merry but stressful time. Life pulls us in many directions: parties, shopping, family commitments, and end-of-the-year deadlines. What if, instead of focusing so much on buying stuff, we focused more on being present for ourselves and our loved ones? Instead of spending hours creating wish lists, we spent those hours creating meaningful experiences?

A study from San Francisco State University found that people who spent money on experiences over material items overall felt happier, more fulfilled, and that their money was better spent. Consider how you can turn your presents into presence this year.

We’re grateful for the meaningful experiences we’ve collected over the past year and challenge you to create your own this holiday season. A big trip isn’t the only solution. Here are some other ideas to get you started:

1. Rediscover your hometown.

Traveling is a state of mind – the willingness to experience a place with a sense of discovery and appreciation. Take a little time to explore somewhere nearby or new: a park or different neighborhood. Or revisit somewhere you love but haven’t visited in a while. Support a new local business and restaurant and take time to savor what you have in your own backyard.

2. Eat a globally inspired meal.

Food offers a telling glimpse into a culture’s history, beliefs, and environment. Sign you and a friend up for a cooking class or prepare recipes from a new cookbook together. If you’re not a whiz in the kitchen, try international snack foods or sampling exotic cuisine from a nearby restaurant.

3. Watch a foreign film, documentary, or period piece.

Movies can transport us to different times and lands, all from the comfort of your own house. Watch a movie about a place you dream of visiting or binge on a foreign television series (we hear there are lots of good K-dramas on Netflix). If subtitles aren’t your thing, there are still a lot of documentaries and movies in English or that take place in English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

4. Make a gift instead of buying one.

You can be creative here. If you’re crafty, you could make a piece of art or something to wear. Bring a loved one out on a scavenger hunt or make them home-cooked treats. Alternatively, coupons for thoughtful gestures like chores, back rubs, or quality time with someone is always appreciated and something you can do together.

5. Create a music playlist.

Music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including regions responsible for emotions, and creativity. A pretty powerful gift! Get your friend pumped for an upcoming adventure – or previous one – by compiling a collection of related songs or albums. Or, create one inspired by a mood or wish. If you’re not sure where to start, share one of our original Spotify playlists, that include our favorite “15 French Love Songs” or  “Music Inspired by the Northern Lights.”


What ideas do you have for giving presence? Share your tips for other travelers below.


Lara Dalinsky

Lara DalinskyLara was infected with the travel bug at an early age. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, for her husband’s job and hopes to explore much of Asia while there. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR,is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography, and of course, travels as much as possible. like and share: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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