When thinking about packing for a trip, do not forget about those items you should bring along without the intention of returning home with them still tucked away in your bags. Remember the treasures that you will live as small drops, the traces of your presence left along your way. I am not referring to snacks that you will consume during your journey, but rather gifts that you will bestow upon your hosts and other people you will meet along your journey.

The Rules Of Gift Giving

Yes, there are rules and customs for gift giving depending upon who you are in relationship to the person you intend to give a gift and where you are doing the gift giving. Pay attention to the culture of the people where you are giving a gift because things like wrapping, color, content, time and manner of the gift giving may all play a significant role.

Many of us were taught from a young age that when you arrive at someone’s home to never do so empty-handed. I have not always been successful at heeding this warning, but I do my best.

I do my best to follow a few simple guidelines when visiting places in which I may encounter other people along the way. Many such people will be intentional (like those who volunteer to host my stay as a house guest) while fewer will be unintentional strangers who I may bump into without ever catching their names. Whichever category my future gift recipients may be in, my simple guidelines remain the same:

  • Be Thoughtful – No matter the occasion, or whether you’re traveling at all, thoughtfulness makes the best gift. The act of giving a gift is already a thoughtful proposition, but the content of the gift will also convey thoughtfulness. For example, if your know that your intended recipient enjoys a coffee, bring a half pound of coffee beans from a roaster local to your hometown.
  • Be Simple – Do not get over the top or extravagant. This means your should probably steer clear of purchasing something more kin to a wedding gift i.e. do not show up at your college roommate’s home with a brand new shiny chrome Kitchen Aid mixer. I would put that type of gift under the heading of “are you slightly ill or have you just lost your mind?” However, simple need not always mean packable. Maybe you order seasonal fruit from Harry & David’s to arrive just ahead of your arrival.
  • Be Functional – I strive to be a practical gift giver so I like the idea of consumable commodities. Tea and coffee always come to mind. Also, stickers and magnets are great ways to send a message and not collect dust. A friend of mine always travels with stickers from work (think of the save Mother Earth variety) in her bag to hand out to people that she meets at music festivals and concerts.

  • Be Relevant – Bring a little bit of travel into the lives of the people who will be your intended and unintended recipients. You can easily do this by bringing something from home. Do you live in peanut farm country? Bring small solo portion sacks of peanuts. Do you live in the mountains? Go to your home town’s visitor’s center and pick up a few bumper stickers depicting the mountainous landmark. Do you live in NY? Bring “I heart NYC magnets.” I have a stash of “I heart NC” stickers in my personal arsenal.

The Warmth of Gift Receiving

Have you ever had friends or family visit you from out of town and then they give you a gift? It’s absolutely delightful. No matter the cost or how useful the gift, it just feels so good that your guest has been thoughtful enough to bring you a little something to say “thank you.” The guests that I have received gifts from have ranged from my own house guests, visitors who book their own hotels, and even visitors of friends who know that they will run into me at some point.

Regardless of the giver, it makes my heart warm with such appreciation that someone thought of me and brought a gift from home.

No time or space for a gift? Give the amazing gift of your time and company. Take your host out to dinner or coffee during your stay or offer to cook breakfast.

The Pleasure of Gift Giving

Gift giving is an odd gesture that seems to release the endorphins of the gift giver just as much as the gift receiver. It is one of the few practices that literally goes both ways.

If you can do nothing else, just say “thank you.”


  1. So true! Unfortunately, people usually give the gift they would like to receive. I totally agree with your rules of gift giving.I think, we should use them when choosing a present.Keep up the great work Rachel!

  2. Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. The theme of the article is very unique. Its true that the price of the gift doesn’t matter, what matters is the intention behind it.

    Gonna recommend this article to my friends too 🙂

  3. Rachael, excellent thoughts on the “lost are of gift giving”. That would be funny if a friend came and gave a Kitchen Aid mixer or a microwave oven. Your idea of stickers or small items from a popular attraction near your home is a great idea. Can’t wait to find out your next travel junkie idea.

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