This Holiday Season, Buy Experiences, Not Things

by Gigi Griffis

A couple years ago, there was a whole spate of articles on why experiences make us happier than things. The articles reminded us that experiences last longer, form our identities, and are often designed to connect us with others. They reminded us that shiny new objects don’t always live up to the hype, but weekends in Paris, cooking classes, writing workshops, and zipline adventures generally do.

I haven’t seen those articles this season, but I still believe the research behind them. It still jives not only with my experience of life, but with my goals about the kind of life I want to live.

And so today I’m writing one of those “here’s what to get for your friends this holiday season!” posts. But nothing on this list will be a thing. A possession. An object. They’re all experiences (or purchases that facilitate experiences).

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a commission if you buy through my site (thank you). And they’re all things I’d recommend with or without that commission.

1. Courses with MasterClass.

(CURRENTLY ON SALE THROUGH DEC 26: Buy one class or season pass and get one free! I bought mine through this special and enlisted a friend to pay for half, so we basically both got ours for half off.)

I just purchased MasterClass for myself and so far I’m a fan of Dan Brown’s class on thriller writing (I actually didn’t realize just how lovely he is! I’ve been pleasantly surprised at every turn.)

They also offer courses on cooking (with Gordon Ramsay, among others), music (Christina Aguilera, anyone?), comedy, and even activism (Jane Goodall to the rescue). Plus, there are at least five other writing courses in addition to Dan Brown’s (I plan on trying them all in the next year).

An annual pass gives the person you’re gifting to access to all the courses for a whole year for $180 while a single course can be purchased for $90.

Learning to make pasta in Rome.

2. Walking Tours With Walks of Italy.

My first Walks of Italy tour was a food tour in Rome, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Since then, the company has expanded throughout Italy and into New York and Paris and they offer not only food tours (which are fantastic) but all sorts of other walking adventures, from the catacombs in Paris to private tours in Rome’s Coliseum to crime tours with an ex-cop in NYC.

If you know anyone heading to those cities, a tour could be a lovely gift.

3. Tours in Cities Around the World With Urban Adventures.

Speaking of tours, if you want to gift a tour but your friend isn’t in one of Walks of Italy’s destinations, Urban Adventures has about a gazillion cities they cover. We did their food tour in Prague and it was most definitely the best thing we did during our time there.

Food touring in Prague with Urban Adventures.

4. In-Person Cooking Classes.

So, I already mentioned MasterClass, which has pastry and home cooking and knife skills lessons out the wazoo, looks like. But even better (in my mind) is in person cooking classes.

In fact, my cooking classes have been some of my favorite memories from the past few years of travel. Classes I’ve particularly loved included:

:: Learning to make homemade pasta with an Italian mama in Rome

:: French cooking classes in Rennes

:: Learning to make burek and other Bosnian specialties near Mostar

Breakfast to kick off our cooking class in Rennes, France.

You can, of course, also always treat friends and family to a home-cooked meal, a night out at a restaurant, tickets to a Broadway show, a weekend away, a night at the symphony, and so many other experiential things, many of which you can do together.

If you’re looking for inspiration this holiday, look toward experiences and classes and retreats and getaways. And skip the scented candles and plastic tubes of lotion and baskets we all end up re-gifting anyway.

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