Opinion: Give me Money to Travel Instead of Gifts This Year

by Nate Van Haute
Giving or contributing to travel experiences make unforgettable, irreplaceable memories like these

“I don’t know, cash I guess?”

This was the most common answer I’d give when my mom would ask me what I wanted for Christmas. Sure, gift cards were nice. But what I really wanted was money so that I could keep saving up for a trip abroad. When I started meeting fellow travellers through Operation Groundswell, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were tons of other people my age that craved experiences more than anything else.

Why is it that my generation longs more for experiences rather than traditional gifts? Well, let’s be honest, social media has definitely something to do with it. For the first time ever, we can see in real-time what people are up to. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, but it’s important to make the distinction between FOMO and competition. I never really felt the desire to compete with my friends. Instead, I feared that I wouldn’t have something that made me unique. I craved something that made me, ME. Traveling abroad was just that. 

After long hours in the library studying for exams and writing essays, I craved something new and exciting. Something meaningful to look forward to! More than anything, I was eager to experience life outside of the United States and life beyond school and experiences lived vicariously through others. I would watch videos on youtube or the latest Anthony Bourdain episode but knew deep down that I was missing out on the REAL thing. Tired of watching and waiting, I wanted to have my own experiences and to tell my own story. This is something I have always wanted more than socks and sweaters, tech and toys.

My OG team taking a break mid-hike

The memories of hiking up volcanoes, staying with local families, making some of the most special friends I have, and learning about the process of making coffee from the farmers themselves are just a few of those I’ve gathered on my travels through Guatemala. Ultimately, I just can’t put a number value on the memories made during an experience. A new iPhone or the latest gaming system is awesome for a few days, but eventually, the “newness” wears off. There’s no expiry on memories and experiences.

Often people will ask, “how the heck did you know that?”, which leads me to tell them a random story from my time in Guatemala. I finally have my own stories to tell, experiences to share and people to inspire. Travel is the gift that keeps on giving!

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to order to try something new. Giving people the gift of new experiences and the opportunity to gather more stories is an easy way to encourage someone to try something new. So this year, if you’re in the market for a gift for a burnt out student with a little bit of wanderlust and a lot of ambition to embrace the world, think about how far a little contribution to a travel fund might go. You never know how much of an impact you can have on someone’s dream of adventure, and it really will be a gift that is with them forever!

Feeling pretty grateful for the opportunity and the people I shared the adventure with