Alternate Title “Stuff I’d Want”
“I have to find something, I have to find something! But what, what do they need? What do they want? What am I doing right now?”
Oh poop. It’s Christmas again.
I felt compelled to write this article because every year, many of us find ourselves surprised that 365 days have passed us by again. That we are now compelled to purchase a token of our love and appreciation for our friends and family.
If you want to read an article that dives deeper into gift-giving expectations, check out her post here. I am in alignment with most of it I’d say, and it may also help you through the season. Plus she’s another Minnesota blogger, so you know it’s sound advice.
What We’ll Accomplish In This Blog
- Define a ‘Great Gift’
- How To Make Hard Shopping, Less Hard
- What To Stay Away From
- What to ask for yourself
- Ten great ideas that should cover just about all your adventurous friends
What is a ‘Great Gift’?
But here’s a good rule for you. It’s a great gift if you shared it not because you had to, but because you wanted to.
That makes all the difference. “It’s the thought that counts,” never rang more true. I look at the word ‘thought’ in that sentence and prefer to replace it with ‘intent’. Now we’re on to something.
This is also what makes it so hard. I think most of us start out believing we can come up with the perfect idea. Something that really ties it all together. A most meaningful item or a most epic experience.
Somewhere amidst all of that, we get lost. And they end up with Chili’s gift cards. And the nearest one is thirty miles away. Not good.
My _____________ is so hard to shop for!
I hear you. Welcome to the club. I started one a long time ago.
Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Here is a broken down, three step, impossible-to-fail process that I use to get myself going.
- Get in The Zone
- Pull the trigger
Get In The Zone
This starts the moment you realize a gift deadline is coming up. The earlier you can get in The Zone, the easier this whole process is. The Zone is where the ideas live. The Zone is the headspace that allows you to pick up on context clues you otherwise would not.
I found The Zone earlier this fall for my brother and sister-in-law, at a fall dinner in their new apartment. A group of us were sitting around on the floor, when someone asked, “When are you getting a piano?”
“We’d like to have one. Just with the new baby and brand new place and jobs, it’s not in the cards right now.”
With both their birthdays close to each other and shortly before Christmas…it was like being served a heaping plate of The Zone. I had all the information I needed. They wanted a piano. They wouldn’t be getting one soon. I had the time before they got one for themselves. It’s a bigger ticket item so I knew no one else would be getting them one. And I’d get to cover three gifts at once.
The best way to successfully find The Zone is to listen. Everyone likes talking about themselves, so if you listen, they’ll tell you what they want. Anytime they mention a hobby or something they found interesting or something they straight up like. Clues my friends.
Once you’re on the trail, ask questions. Think of Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Sometimes How. My superpower is that I’m generally interested in new things and I attempt to ask intelligent questions. Dig deeper. Learn something. You will get ideas this way. And maybe learn something about those closest to you.
A note on talking about intent. The rest of this blog really does focus on physical items. Stuff you can order on Amazon and wrap in a box. The Zone does not always come in a box.
Think about your skill set. Are you a good cook? A great babysitter for your nieces/nephews? Can you draw? Put your skills together and get creative. Offering to make a full meal or drawing up a keepsake are solid ideas. Digress away…
Once you’ve got your idea, prepare for hours of Google research. In this case, I reached out to the instigator of the conversation. He happened to be a pianist and music teacher so his word was gold. Make it a team effort and reach out to anyone that can help you.
The recommendation gave me a starting point, and a dollar amount. I had previously, in my brain, set a dollar amount I’d be willing to spend. It came in under budget, and a couple hours of Youtubing later it was being shipped.
You can see that in each section, how important ‘thought’ and ‘intent’ are. My intention was to give them a quality instrument that they would enjoy playing for themselves and guests. I had to think about all the various aspects, about what questions were the right questions for this specific gift. For a digital keyboard, what style of keys will feel more like a real piano. Can it connect to external audio sources, and is that something my brother would want? What level of instrumentalist is he and what would serve him best now and in the future. No planned obsolescence here.
Pull The Trigger
I struggle with decision fatigue.
“Is this the right one? Oh I know I planned to spend this much money but, but should I? Am I getting the best deal? Can I do better? Do they even want this?”
I may not be able to give myself the permission I need, but I will give it to you. If you’ve moved through the last two steps with the right attitude and intent, you can feel good pulling the trigger.
What To Stay Away From
Obviously this entire article is subjective, but this section might just be the most.
In trying to put this concept into words, stay away from presents that define a person. Go for something that enhances or encourages them.
Like this. I was once given a GoPro. They knew me as a photographer, and wanted to get me something related to my passion.
Now had they gone balls to the wall and gotten me a camera body or specific lens, it might not have worked. What if it wasn’t compatible? What if it was something I wouldn’t have used? What if it’d been the wrong brand?
However, the GoPro is a small piece of the larger puzzle. I can take it anywhere, and it compliments what I already want to do. It was a huge win.
So when I think about things like jackets, tents, sleeping bags, you could be treading into deep water. What if you get the wrong style, the wrong fit, the wrong weight or quality level? Whelp…your gift idea sits on a shelf and ten years down the line gets donated to Goodwill. Not a bad place to end up, just a very slow timeline.
That’s why, unless you really know someone, you go the accessory route. Socks might be safer than hiking boots. A wool blanket over a sleeping bag. You catch my drift?
What About You?
Sometimes you might be asked to provide a list to someone. We did that as kids and well, the tradition stuck.
These days I really don’t need much, not in the traditional sense of gift giving. That’s why this year I filled a whole handwritten printer sheet with ridiculousness. Tesla truck. A house. A $12k Nikon lens.
Know that not everything was that outlandish. I took time to provide ideas that weren’t simple store bought gifts. Even the outlandish ones came with a hint of informing them what I’m interested in. I consider them guiding lights and hey, if I can help relieve the stress of others then by all means I’ll do what I can.
If you haven’t come up with something brilliant yet on your own, here is a list of ten great ideas that should have you covered for just about any of your adventurous friends. Everything on this list is thoughtful, high quality, and takes the pressure off your brain. I believe in quality over quantity so you may find prices higher on items you would regularly buy, but they should last longer also. There is also a range from low to high, you have options!
Truth in advertising, there are affiliate links that if you purchase through them, you will be helping to support me and the continued writing of this blog.
These are in no particular order.
#1 Headlamp –
I am a sucker for flashlights, let me just get that out of the way. The headlamp is the single most useful version that I have ever had. My first headlamp cost $40, and as a 20 year old making $6/hr, that seemed like a lot. I still have it, thirteen years later. Only thing is I’m just as cheap as I was then and the elastic band eventually wore out, I ended up buying a cheaper headlamp which while good, I miss using the old one more. Mine was a Petzl. For a more traditional flashlight, this Surefire was awesome. It’s super tiny and I could carry it with me every day. Sadly, I either had it stolen in Africa or lost in Germany, I really can’t be sure.
#2 EDC Knife –
A knife is one of those polarizing pieces of gear that you either tend to drool over, or jump away from. If you want to know the story of how I got into carrying one, just shoot me a message and I’ll tell you. What I can say, is since I have chosen to keep one in my pockets at all times, I have proven to be prepared for just about anything. As a quick example, over the last ten years my main job has been as a wedding photographer. I can’t tell you how many suit butt-flaps I’ve opened, dress tags I’ve cut off, cakes cut…ok not that one. All because I was the only person with something sharp on them. I recently heard tell of a wedding where no one had a scissors (or knife) so they took to using a LIGHTER to cut something from the bride’s dress. A lighter people. Once you get one, you will find uses for it all the time.
#3 GoPro Hero 8 –
I have to have some type of camera option on this list. My experience comes from the olden times when they did not have screens built in and it had to be surrounded by an exterior case. Battery life was never good…and I still like them. The benefits of having one are many, and the output has just gotten better and better. Anytime you don’t pull out your phone for a shot because if you do…you lose everything? They’re small, they’re light, they fit in tight places. I’ve mounted them to the hood of my car and the champagne bottle on the head table. For new perspectives and footage you will hopefully watch again and again, it’s a good idea. Two ways to get them are to follow this link to a brand new one on Amazon. Alternatively, if you have an old or any other old digital camera, send it in to them and get $100 off a brand new one. One word of advice after reading 20+ reviews. The new camera likely ships without a NECESSARY firmware update. Every reviewer who had done the update, loved the camera. All those who hadn’t…well they were pretty frustrated.
#4 Wool Blanket –
Minnesotans make cool stuff, did you know that? As part of this hipster movement (is there a movement? Am I a hipster? What am I?) I see photos of pretty people sitting on gorgeous blankets in knock-your-socks-off locations all the time. I do a lot of driving and part of my kit is to have blankets in the car for car camping and general what have you. So I was influenced to get a really cool one. I also had purchased a yak wool blanket in Nepal years ago, so I remembered how nice wool was. That travel blanket was one of the best things I had with me on that three month trip, so I knew I had to get another. Here in Minnesota, our version of the yak wool is the Faribault Woolen Mill in, you guessed it, Faribault, MN. They’re blankets are awesome, I received mine for Christmas last year. I’ve since taken it to Norway, Seattle, Cleveland, and all around the Midwest. Great as an accent at home, or a tool on the road, definitely a solid option that will last you a long time. These are not cheap blankets and the pricing does reflect that. However I’ll preach quality over quantity 99% of the time.
#5 Mini Booze –
This one is straight up just for fun. If you like to throw ‘em back while in new places, I’m a fan of the little guys. While I am not suggesting it, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t sipped one or two on a discount airline over the Atlantic. Be careful if you’re watching emotional movies, a small bottle or two of scotch might heighten your emotions during ‘Winnie The Pooh’.
#6 Socks & Underwear –
I thought Christmas was supposed to be about getting things you want, not things you need? Well what I’ve found as I’ve gotten older is that the things I want actually are socks and underwear. If they’re the right ones. Our Christmas tradition ever since watching the ‘Mr. Bean’ Christmas episode has been to get a pair of Christmas Socks. We even carried it down to the Bahamas when we got our parents out of the country for the first time together and shared it with a whole extended family. Last year I upped the ante and said I really only wanted Smartwool socks. Since then they have been my go-to’s. Now they’re basically the only ones I wear. Same can be said with my ExOfficio underwear. There are many competitors, but I haven’t felt the need to try them all out. I do also own some Duluth Trading Company. I won’t get too deep into underwear usage but suffice it to say, you could do much much worse than these.
#7 Adventure Photo Book –
Offer to put together a photo book for them from a trip together – If you’ve already gone on a trip with someone, this gift-giving season is the perfect excuse to take some time and put all those pictures together. Even as a photographer I take a fair amount of pictures on my phone…and they never see the light of day again. Even if you don’t want to get too deeply into designing, there are programs that will take your images and design it for you. Unless I’m your intended recipient (read: ridiculously picky) then just having an album vs. no album will be wonderful. Just make sure to keep size in consideration, the resolution of your camera affects how large you can print and retain a high quality image. So far I’ve only put together a couple and have yet to find the perfect one. I would stay away from Zno.
#8 Gift Cards That Matter –
I’m not a huge fan of gift cards, it seems like a cop out. However, the year I received a gift card for AirBNB I was actually very excited. It was like an excuse to stay indoors somewhere and not in my car! I used mine in Bergen and it was totally worth it. Other travel centric ideas would be Uber or Lyft. Part of many travels is getting to the airport and you don’t always have someone to take you. Take some of their burden off by making sure they can get there…or just take them there yourself! Just don’t end up like me asking your college roommate that over slept and missing your flight.
#9 Titanium Anything –
Do you know anyone that’s trying to cut weight? I don’t mean that they’re getting in to wrestling, I mean trying to lighten the weight they carry on a trail. This likely is more of a want than need item, but it’s not completely superficial. My experience with my titanium spork has been nothing short of wonderful. I haven’t broken a spork in peanut butter in years, and eating a Frosty in the car is much more enjoyable than it used to be with those plastic spoons they give you.
#10 Journal –
I am about to write a whole post about slowing down on your next adventure and this is a great way to do it. By taking a journal and being intentional about logging your thoughts, you are adding a whole new level to your trip. You can use any old notebook you have lying around and it would work fine, but these are built to be handy. I recommend the Cahier line, as they’re small enough for a pocket but large enough you can get some details down. Also it’s one of the cheaper options on this list so you can get a couple, a ton, anything. Pro Tip: Write a special note inside that they can carry around with them. I had a friend make a leather notebook cover and emboss a symbol into it (overachiever), but one of the best parts was her fantastic handwritten letter on the first page. Because of the uniqueness it took me a while to find the right trip for it, but I enjoyed it touring around Norway and having that personal touch with me everywhere.
Bonus: Wall Art
Think The Spur Trail Prints!!!
This is the option for those who like to live vicariously through others. One phrase I hear over and over again, is that I need to keep sharing images because my friends, “live vicariously through me.”
That means a lot. I started traveling as an escape from home. It turned into a desire to share the world with everyone.
That has been a struggle to pull off. This thing that I’m so passionate about, but struggling to keep focused on and put forth in an inspiring way so that others might also seek their own adventures. Not just think about it.
Enter, The Spur Trail.
My core goal, is to find adventure off the beaten path. Adventure is an intentionally loose term. It does not have to be a solo circumnavigation around the globe. It can simply be walking to the grocery store instead of driving. Getting out of your normal where you can feel a bit uncomfortable and grow. Do something new. Talk to a stranger.
In order to focus more solely on this ideal, I’m making some changes in my life. Historically I’ve been fluid and flexible as far as employment goes, working seasonally and moving around the state to be available for others.
However, if you head to The Spur Trail Prints you will find a page dedicated to work that I’ve shot in recent times. I’m turning to focusing on these adventures and following through on the work I’ve done.
Taking pictures is easy. Processing and sharing them is the hard part.
These images represent inspired travels. Both far off and local destinations. They are an opportunity to own a piece of inspiration for yourself, and to promote further work.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this blog, well you are a certified ALL-STAR. I’ll have someone in a high-up position mail you a certification. I would love to know what wonderful ways you’ve found for gifting in the holidays, or any way you share your love for others.