In a highly materialistic society I have the unpopular opinion of holding neither gifts nor clothing in high regard. This being said I cannot honestly say that neither are unimportant nor meaningless to me. However, I prefer both of these items to be linked to memories and meaning.
The best gifts are ones that give adventure. Travel, experiences, wildlife, cognitive stimulation, touch, smell, community, taste, food, culture, companionship, friendship, newness and evil eye bracelet. A gift to Hawaii to swim with dolphins and a dress commemorating the colors, feelings and love of the time spent there. Those are the gifts and clothes that mean the most to me. A shirt with an owl on it from the shopping district in Brazil where we tried on different things, ate food, and watched amazing street performers. Wearing that shirt takes me back to my time within the culture and loving the food, people and family within the far away country. I think of the laughs and conversations, traditional dinner of couscous and sausage at the family table of my host family where I gained four sisters and the conversations we had at that table. They tried to teach me Brazilian Portuguese and fed me my favorite drink, freshly made guava juice wherein you put whole guavas in the blender with just water. The pants that I bought when going on an adventure through the city by myself, the store and the woman working who knew my exact size by looking at me and I had my first full conversation in Portuguese. Those pants take me back to those streets with the colorful flags, the cars with boomboxes strapped to the top spouting loud music and political endorsements because it was voting season. I think of the other sisters that I gained while I was there from the organization that I worked with for my visa and those at the school. I remember how they smell, the kids that I worked with, the way they loved my hair and how excited they were to pull out traditional foods from their lunch in the middle of class to give to me when they heard that I hadn’t eaten it before. I still have my work shirt from that school which takes me back to the absolute love that everyone showed me, the studios where I taught dance and the paper cranes I filled my friends office with when I didn’t have class to teach. I think of my first day when the principal wanted me to give her an on-the-spot dance demonstration to show her what I had, and thankfully my friend/translator talked her out of it before I even knew what she was saying. That shirt reminds me of the neighborhood that I lived in, right next to the military base where gaggles of men would jog by every morning, and the park between my house and the school where a young boy tried to mug me with a knife. The garden my home had, cold showers, lack of ability to flush toilet paper and the smells that made. I think of the pet tortoises in the yard, and the dog named Princess. So many memories are held within the clothing, some were gifts and some I bought. These items fill me and wrap me in deep happiness, something that others could not do no matter how beautiful they could possibly be.
While jewelry can be beautiful, expensive, sparkly and fun it is no match to a trip. Sometimes something as trivial as money can be a fantastic gift if it is going toward a specific travel goal. I have had monetary help to go many places and it is so much more memorable than anything that could have been bought with the individual money. Not only do I like the gift of travel, and I like to give the gift of travel, but I also like to encourage people to join me in travel. I encourage others to explore, be bold, do things on their own, try new cuisines and cultures. It is so easy to get caught up in life and never go anywhere or do anything special or interesting. Work takes over and nothing further seems possible or worth the effort on so little time and energy. By planning trips for other people I love not only expanding my own horizons and understandings of the world but watching others do that as well. It is a priceless feeling to know that I gave someone the gift of intense feelings and memories. What better of a gift is there than ocean air against your face on a boat finding manatees, ray sharks or manatees? A tropical jungle full of new noises and fruits with different tastes? No gift is better than feelings, and no clothes are better than memories.