Why you should care
By gifting an experience, you not only create a (hopefully heartwarming) memory, but also stop more stuff going to the trash heap.
“Riding the handmade wooden board I made makes me feel like I’ve earned my place in the sea,” says Cape Town surfer Matthew Kramer. “I know what’s inside this thing — just how much effort, love and attention to detail is ingrained in its makeup. And I’m going make sure it stays with me as long as possible.”
What do you give the Homo sapiens who have everything? It’s an age-old question that leads to Americans spending $16 billion on gifts that end up in the garbage every festive season. Gift experiences aren’t just great for the trash heap; they’re also far more rewarding to give and to receive. Take it from veteran psychologist Dr. Julie Morison of HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, who says that “experiential gifts are leaps and bounds more memorable” than materialistic ones.
While physical gifts can be thoughtful, Morison says, memories — which experiences create in spades — are more highly valued. If possible, she suggests, try to give shared experiences (with you or someone else). Those lasting impressions of that cool thing you did together are something that can never be taken away.
On that note, here are five wild gift experiences that everyone on your holiday gift list will love to remember for years to come.
Build a Wooden Surfboard in Cape Town, South Africa
Junior’s been begging for a surfboard ever since he moved to Cali for college. But for about the same price as a regular board, he can build his own on a five-day course in a ramshackle shed on the southern tip of Africa. There are loads of reasons to make a surfboard out of wood, says instructor Patrick Burnett. “It’s beautiful, sustainable, buoyant and flexible,” and thanks to the wonders of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer numerical control (CNC), when cut, it can also be turned into high-performance boards that are a pleasure to surf on. More important, adds Morison, it’ll give Junior “a sense of pride” to make something useful. He’ll feel good about himself every time he paddles past someone on a regular board.
Over the course of the evening, you’ll taste between four and seven wines that have been expertly paired with two different critters.
Take a Chainsaw Carving Class in Allyn, Washington
Deep down, everyone — even Uncle Burt — harbors an inner artist just waiting to leap out of the shadows. Sometimes all it takes is the slightest nudge … from a chap wielding a 20-inch chainsaw. The not-so-gentle art of chainsaw carving was born in the Pacific Northwest and chief instructor George Kenny is an Oregon State Champion. The beginners’ course will take Burt through chainsaw safety (no need to go full Van Gogh just yet), picking the right piece of wood and planning and executing his piece. At the end of the three-day course, Burt will get to take home his growling bear/leaping salmon/howling wolf — a timber reminder of the many ways he’s grown since taking the course.
Go on an Archeology Dig in Battambang, Cambodia
Time to call a spade a trowel: Doreen’s a fossil herself, so she’ll feel right at home taking part in this bona fide archeological project in Battambang, Cambodia. Over the course of seven or 14 days on-site, she’ll help scientists gain an understanding of how regular citizens living under the Angkor kings of the 9th to 15th centuries dealt with the social, political and climatic challenges of their times. Perks include working alongside researchers to survey potential sites, document excavations and recover scientific remains. An experience like this, Morison says, encourages personal growth as participants “explore something outside of their immediate environment and broaden their sense of the world.”
Host a Bug and Wine Pairing Evening for Your Nearest and Dearest
Instead of forking out more than 80 bucks on a copper Tamagoyaki pan for Cousin Chloe and God knows how much on a leather-bound copy of Larousse Gastronomique for Uncle Peter, why not kill two birds with one stone, i.e., an unforgettable foodie experience? Sure, eating bugs is good for both your body and the planet, but it becomes a whole lot easier once you’re aware that the earthy, “old library books” flavor of termites is best complemented by a fine pinot noir. Over the course of the evening, you’ll taste between four and seven wines that have been expertly paired with two different critters. In addition to equipping you with vital lifeskills for the future, the evening will, Morison notes, “forge lasting social and memorial connections.”
In addition to Bug and Wine Pairings, Eat Bugs Events is the place to go for all things entomophagy. Based in Los Angeles, they can also come to you.
Swim With Something Scary Somewhere Cool
Fancy a spot of camping among polar bears? A dip with a whale shark perhaps? How about doing the butterfly through crocodile-infested waters? Or tracking a wild cheetah on foot? It’s no coincidence that OZY’s pages are chockablock with awesome ways to get up close and personal with dangerous beasts. It is “invigorating” to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, Morison says, and conquering your fear alongside someone else creates a “bond that is not easily erased.”
Now try throwing that on the trash heap.