Experiences Over Things
I’ve always had a knack for making birthdays and holidays special. Even when getting caught up in the materialistic, consumer culture of America, I still tried to put my own special twist on it.
On literally the day my daughter was born we had a “zero birthday” party for her. I had planned it all in advance. Had a cake frozen (since we didn’t know the exact date she’d be born), party favors and a candle in the shape of the number zero.
When the big day came, I set the cake out on the counter to thaw before we went to the hospital. About nine hours later, with a small cluster of relatives gathered, we celebrated her actual day of birth with a birthday party.
Fast forward to her second birthday when I instituted the concept of “milestone” gifts. Each year I gave her one gift or designed the party theme around her most significant milestone accomplishment of that year.
Those started to fall away in her late teens. Then when she was eighteen, I started a new program. I told her that I would no longer be giving her “things” and that I was going to start breaking my long standing rule against combining her December birthday with Christmas and start giving her just a single combined gift.
For her eighteenth birthday, her gift was a trip to Peru. (The destination was her choice.) We traveled together and had a fabulous time.
I’ve written extensively here about some of the experiences over things we did on that trip including dozens of travel firsts, a memorable visit to Machu Picchu, and a tour of the Panama Canal and old city Panama City.
Upon graduation from high school, her graduation present was another trip. This time to the four corners states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. (Again, the destination was largely her choice.)
More experiences over things. This trip brought an amazing hot air balloon ride at sunrise over Arches National Park and the Utah desert. It also brought us to the Four Corners, Shiprock, parts of Monument Valley, exploring dinosaur fossils and ancient petroglyphs, and miles of hiking through remote parts of the Utah desert.
Her 19th birthday meant another trip and another battery of incredible memories, this time to the islands of Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados. While the destination was mostly my doing, she was hardly complaining as we went snorkeling with sea turtles and over WWII shipwrecks, hiking through rainforests, drinking coffee on the coffee plantation where the beans were grown, taking stand-up paddleboarding lessons on one of the most incredible beaches in the world, swimming under a tropical waterfall, or touring a sugar plantation and rum distillery.
This year she will be 20 and our trip is to the West Indies island of Martiniqué. In January, when most of our friends and relatives will be barricaded indoors and huddled against the cold of winter, I’ll drag her out snorkeling in tropical waters. We’ll dine on French food and wine and explore the volcano which created this beautiful tropical island.
Giving these gifts to my daughter has been a gift to me as well. Not only have I gone on each of these trips with her and gotten some incredible travel experiences, but I’ve gotten to spend tons of quality time with my favorite person in the whole world!
That is the greatest gift of all.
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