Insights from the Pavement: Give the Gift of Nothing


It’s true that not all of the things we buy are for ourselves.  On the road we often buy gifts and souvenirs for others.  But in cases like these, do you think that your loved ones would appreciate a trinket that doesn’t symbolize anything they know, or something that you made along the way?

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I won’t go down the road of begrudging those who buy souvenirs for their loved ones back home – I, myself, find it almost impossible to travel and not see things in terms of how much my friends and relatives would enjoy them.  But I will say that these things become very cumbersome over the course of a trek.

Not only do these items take up space – which adds up quickly when we carry all our belongings with us – they also make our luggage heavier.  They cost money which we could ultimately be using to help ensure we are covered in the event of an emergency.  And honestly, do we really need more “stuff?”

Over the past decade, I’ve managed to create a world of media throughout my travels.  And if I have learned anything, it’s that a lot of reward can come from very little.  And almost always, the most creative gifts are already being made by those of us in the photographing, blogging, video-making world.  These digital items weigh nothing, cost nothing and are fun to make for our loved ones back home.  They are also environmentally friendly, they don’t use dyes, bleaches or costly materials.  And they even symbolize a perspective that no one else in the world will ever be able to capture or recreate.

But the best part about about giving the gift that can’t even be touched is that when we return home, we get to spend time communicating these wonderful memories to our loved ones.  After we have created these media, we then get to sit down with those who inspired their creation and relive the experience as many times as we want.

If you write on your journeys, write a poem that was inspired by your latest experience.  If you like to make videos for your website, why not film yourself at a new location and talk directly to those you’re thinking about?  If you have an eye for photography, snap a shot with you in front of that amazing place that made you wish your loved ones were there with you?  And if you want to print it up later, you can always send it off as a postcard.

I have created a dozen ebooks, hundreds of videos and more than 75,000 images in my time abroad.  And I am continually sharing them with my friends and family – many times posting them up on my social networks with notes to those who I was thinking about when I created them.  And these have gotten me more heart-felt responses from the recipients than any key chain or refrigerator magnet ever could.  And what’s more, I have a new experience to share with my loved ones because I created that moment with that very intention.

These items are intangible.  You can touch them.  They have no monetary value.  And they exist only in cyberspace as ones and zeros.  But they will create a greater impact than any commercial item that money can buy.  And they will forever stand as a frozen piece of time that can be enjoyed over and over.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t support the local economies by buying locally made goods.  But the next time you’re in the tourist shop, just think of what your friends and family might like to have from your time abroad.

Like this photo from this journal? Check out the album HERE.

My new book, Insights from the Pavement, is a collection of 101 Travel Oms just like this one. Look for it to be released soon.

Join the conversation, tell me what you think about this idea. Leave your comments below.

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Thanks for your comments! For photos and more, go to cyleodonnell.com

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