It’s holiday time and most of us are busy avoiding stores because no one wants to fight the crowds to save a few bucks.
Here are my picks for gifts for travelers (and non-travelers who just like great gifts) on your holiday shopping list this year. (You can also check out last year’s list for more options.)
Birds in Hats Calendar
My friend Alice Tams is an illustrator living in Taipei and she designed this fun calendar for 2018 (and a new one every year). I bought one last month for my mom and she loved it. You can choose between the desk calendar or the wall calendar. Either way, you end up with a colorful and fun choice.
This year’s calendar theme is literary birds in hats. Who doesn’t love birds on a calendar? And these birds are wearing hats!
Alice also sells pins and patches through her website, so you have a little added variety.
I also suggest following her on Instagram because she posts photos of her work as well as some fun travel stuff.
Because we can’t all afford those fancy noise-cancelling headphones. I used to have those cheap foam ear plugs, but they never fit properly and kept falling out. They were awful for long flights.
To save my hearing, I got a pair of reusable ear plugs and sort of screw in. They go deeper into the ear to block the noise. The only downside is that they stick out a bit, which can make it more difficult to sleep.
When I visited my friend in Boston, he introduced me to one of the best breweries around. Trillium Brewery makes the most amazing beers. They’re not like Dogfish Head with some of the experimental flavors, but they make delicious beer.
The worst beer I had was just disappointing because all the others I had were so good. It was still much better than most other beers around.
I really enjoyed their double dry hopped beers. The cloudy IPAs have so much flavor without any of that soapy hops taste. These are IPAs for people who normally don’t like IPAs.
Even better, especially for winter, is the PM Dawn. This is a stout with cold brew coffee that has a wonderful aroma and smooth taste. It does not drink like a 9% beer either, so be careful. My other favorite is the Pot & Kettle series–I’ve had vanilla and chocolate versions of this oatmeal porter. It has a more roasty flavor than PM Dawn which gets its bitterness from the coffee. The vanilla is heavy, yet smooth and delightfully aromatic. The chocolate is even better and more decadent.
Unfortunately, they do not ship to customers. So, unless you’re in the Boston area or have a friend there, you’re out of luck.
I was given a power bank by the company chairman at my previous job. I thought it was worthless (alright, it was worth about $10 at the time). I had never run out of power at any time, and if I had, I likely wouldn’t have cared.
But I did find uses for it while traveling. When I was in Myanmar, I had a local SIM and I was taking and uploading photos and chatting with friends through all my apps. This really drained the battery. Considering how often I had a bicycle or e-bike break down, I needed that phone to work.
I also used it the power bank a bit in Seoul my second time around. I had Maps.Me running constantly to navigate the streets.
It was also helpful when traveling with other people whose cell phone batteries drained faster than mine. If I didn’t need it, I could pass it off to a friend. I could also use it to recharge the pocket Wi-Fi I rented in Tokyo while I was out wandering all day.
While I may have an older and cheaper power bank, I can see the benefit of buying a better one. The best part about the one I have is that it’s small enough to easily fit in my pocket.
Adding to the Traveler Imagination
There are tons of non-travel-related gifts you can give. And some of them can ignite a traveler’s imagination.
You can never go wrong with books. Between two friends, I got 12 books for my birthday this year, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do now. In the middle of all that reading, I’ll likely reread Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities because it’s a fascinating book.
Aside from books, another useful gift would be a bike light. I have a small lightweight bike light that I travel with. It’s helpful in less developed countries if the power goes out and for walking around at night (I needed it in the evenings in Bagan). The bike light is much smaller and lighter than carrying around a flashlight.
I’ve also found that most bike rentals don’t include lights, which is unsafe for those of us who want to ride when it’s a little darker.
Taipei Travel Guide
Get ready for a trip to Taipei with the best travel guide around. And if you do buy a copy, please leave a review on Amazon.