4 Free Gifts to Give a Traveler

Things this post is not:

  1. A list of versatile clothing, water purifiers, safety gadgets and other travel gear that every traveler supposedly dreams about.
  2. A list of travel apps, iPad cases, e-readers and other techie items that come with a pro and con list about why you should choose one brand or item over another.
  3. A list of magazines you should subscribe to (no need to do that for me; I already have my favorites).

No, this post isn’t about those kinds of gifts. In fact, despite what you may be thinking, shopping for the travelers in your life doesn’t have to be laborious, difficult or expensive. And, the easiest and least expensive gifts you can give them are also the most meaningful.

What are these gifts? Let me share:


Travelers like to talk about the places they’ve been and the places they hope to go. As a traveler, I can tell you that usually only other travelers really care about what we have to say, and I can appreciate that. I wouldn’t be able to offer much to a car enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.

Instead of asking a generic question about someone’s travels and then zoning out, invest a small amount of attention in what is being said. Let the traveler share some of his photos with you. Ask questions. Care. You might even find your interest piqued.


If you don’t like to travel, that’s okay, but it’s important that travelers are given the space they need to explore, ask, make mistakes and learn. They may feel the need to take off for the weekend or stray from a predetermined plan. Sometimes travelers need to travel alone. It’s nothing against you but simply a need that travelers have to push their comfort levels. Give your traveler space to be and grow, and your time together will be more meaningful.


Travelers can’t seem to harvest enough time to go all of the places they want to go. When your traveler has off from work, offer to take care of his house so he can take advantage of that free time to travel. If you are in a position to grant gifts to employees, consider giving the gift of time instead of a physical present. An extra day (or even half of a day) is much more valuable than another mug filled with chocolate-dipped pretzels.


You don’t have to care about how many countries a person has been to or what a person does on the road, but traveling is not always easy. We have to deal with jet lag, negotiate local customs, spend hours sitting in airports, eat strange food, sleep in strange beds and always be attentive to the things going on around us. I’m not saying that traveling isn’t fantastic, because it is (if it wasn’t, I’d find a different hobby), but it can be stressful, expensive and exhausting. Tell the traveler in your life that you appreciate how he handles all of the aspects of travel (instead of just telling him that he’s the luckiest person in the world). Doing so shows that you realize just how much baggage (literally and figuratively) he hauls with him every time he books another trip.

13 Responses to “4 Free Gifts to Give a Traveler”

  1. Steve

    Like that picture….I’m ready to take that bike and head up into the hills 🙂

  2. Laura

    I love this! I’m glad it’s not just another list of gadgets. The “Attention” idea really resonates with me since lately I have been having a lot of trouble relating my travel experiences to friends who just don’t seem to care. One of my goals for next year is to work on my “storytelling” so that I can try to relate the joy I get out of travel to folks that might not get to experience it for themselves (really one of my blogging goals). I think your wishlist is spot on!

    • JoAnna

      I like the idea of learning how to tell a story better. I’m never quite sure how to answer the question, “How was your trip?” If I could figure out how to grab people with that answer, I might have better luck in keeping their attention!

  3. Kirsty

    Very true travellers need the space to go explore i have read a lot of posts about families falling out with travellers because they don’t understand why they want to pack up and go explore, thankfully our parents understood 🙂

    • JoAnna

      It’s so great when those who mean the most to you support your decision to travel. I’m glad your parents understood and respected your decision to travel.

  4. joshywashington

    Best list ever.

    I have been bombarded this year with “what do you want?” and besides a wad of hundreds what I want is this list. I don’t need any more gadgets, no more clothes, no apps, or CD’s…just some time, maybe a pot of tea to share or a stoked fire. I want space, room to move and I want time with those I love to simply be.

    Happy Holidays JoAnna

    • JoAnna

      You can share those Benjamins with me, @joshywashington!

    • JoAnna

      Think we can convince someone to add an additional 24 hours to every day in 2011?

  5. Gray

    Amen to all of this! Seriously. If I (a person without children or any desire to have them) have to listen to my friends go on and on and on about their kids, the least they can do is listen to me wax poetic about my latest trip. That’s what being a friend is all about.

  6. Pola

    Joanna, what a wonderful piece. Yes, yes, yes and yes, agreed on all counts.

  7. Tom Bartel

    I so like it when some thought, rather than some market research goes into a post. Thanks for this.

    • JoAnna

      Absolutely. As a traveler, I know this is what I’d like!


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