My family just had our early Christmas party.
I would be out of the country for a month-long trip to Indonesia, so I gave my gifts to everyone a few days before Christmas. My gifts are pretty predictable. When my eldest nephew traced the outline of his gift, he knew right away it would be a book and uttered, almost haplessly, “Book again?!”
But just an hour ago, he said he and Miguel, his younger brother, finished all the books I had given them earlier this year. I do not support violence-inducing and sexist toys such as toy guns and all-pink dolls (though Barbie just changed its branding). No matter what others say (kids do not understand issues such as brutality and sexism!), I prefer toys that promote fun and combine imagination such as Lego (Lego that transforms into little cars) and coloring books (well, almost) for adults.
For my siblings and in-laws, I bought something naughty and nice. It was a fun night of good food and laughter, a monthly get-together, especially since I just got back from my vagabonding ways and recreated the food I have tasted elsewhere and placed them on our table.
In our family, I’m the only one who is bitten by the wanderlust bug. And if you ask me if it is hard to look for gifts for a traveler, you are dead wrong. Travelers must be the easiest to please. Just give them something that feeds their wanderlust, and they are already the happiest creatures on earth.
As a traveler, here are some things I gifted myself, something I would love to receive. For me, these are some of the perfect companions on the road, and your wanderlust friend, lover, or sibling might like them, too. If you happen to be a wanderlust, I know what you have in mind, you would not wait for someone to buy them for you because you can buy them for yourself. That is, if you have not bought them yet.
1. Travel the world with a map tote
Most of us are incapable of traveling the whole world, but we can always dream and work our ass off for that dream to come true. In the meantime, why not gift someone or yourself with a map tote? The romantic wanderlust would surely love this. I own a big one and use it for day trips somewhere down south. Since it’s foldable and for longer trips, you can use it as your day bag and fold it (it comes with a pouch) when it is time to move to another place. Carrying a world map tote is like carrying your dream in fashionably bold way.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? I got mine for Php300. I found slightly smaller ones for Php100 each in Carbon, the biggest market in Cebu, so these bags must be available in Chinatown and downtowns.
2. Warm up with a thermos
A dear woman gifted me two thermoses two Christmases ago, and I lost them both.
Guess where? Yes, on the bus. I would often leave the city at the crack of dawn with sikwate or coffee in the thermos and sip it slowly on the seat across the driver’s to fight the chilly dusk.
Since then, I have been on a look out for the perfect thermos. My definition of perfect is just something romantic to look at really. Some months ago, I found a travel-themed thermos with a question itched on the body: where you wanna go? with details such as cactus and Eiffel tower around.
So when I feel like having a date with myself, I pack a cup, some healthy snacks, a book, snorkeling gear, blanket, and thermos filled with hot coffee and go to the nearest beach. I find it romantic for a couple to have coffee while waiting for the sun to rise too. Dates do not have to be expensive.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? I got mine at P180.00 somewhere downtown. Tip: check places where the mass go like Novo or Unitop.
3. A snorkeling gear for the sea creatures
I know some travelers who do not know how to swim yet love chilling by the sea. But some travelers like me travel with a snorkeling/diving mask around. If you know someone who loves swimming and does not own a snorkeling gear yet, this is the perfect gift.
It is more practical to have one, rentals start at Php150, and if you go swimming every other week, then that can cost money in the long run. It is a great way to know the sea better too. This year’s project was to visit small islands (you can check my year-end entry on beaches on my blog), and I never went anywhere without it because some beaches I checked did not have resorts at all.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? Depending on the type, it can be expensive. Mine is a diving mask, so it cost me Php1000. A diver friend gave his old fins, so a pair did not cost me a cent. But the snorkeling gear (mask and fins) is around Php1,000. Masks start at Php250.
4. Write your journey in a journal
Sometimes a journey happens so fast that you forget some of the details. And when you start reminiscing your trips, you keep asking yourself, what did I do again? with that dumb and empty look on your face. Believe me, it happened to me. A lot.
Keeping a travel journal makes you slow down, contemplate, ponder on the things you have seen, listened to, touched, tasted. It makes you see details that you would normally overlook. And when someone asked you about your trip, you can tell a story with a lot of details.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? I just got yet another travel journal over the weekend for Php80, another lovely find in Carbon. Hot these days are Surat travel journals. I do not mind receiving yet another travel journal.
5. Duo gadgets for the road: Powerbank and external hard drive
Having a powerbank is to stay connected you might say, i.e., Facebook, IG, and Twitter. Or, it can be for something else. Your phone or your tablet, and I guess I do not have to tell you this, is not only for social media. A powerbank offers great support when you run out of battery while on the road. This, I learned when I backpacked to five countries and experienced bus-riding for 20 hours. With VIP buses around mainland Asia (I know, that sounded so elitist, but most locals use it), I could do some writing on my pad or jot down notes on the phone. If you know someone who is trigger-happy (in shooting photos, that is), an external hard drive is a must.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? I bought (and lost) my powerbank (it can fully charge three phones) online for Php900. A one-terrabyte external hard drive is priced at Php3,000. Tip: Buy the one with a sturdy cable.
5. Go somewhere you have never explored by reading books about the place
It would be odd to name my blog Backpacking with a Book without mentioning books here. You must have travel guides in mind like Lonely Planet or popular reads like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. No. Travel literature is a place worth exploring. What I have in mind are in-depth narratives on places by noteworthy travel writers such as the romanticist and sentimentalist Pico Iyer (he wrote about the Philippines!) and the adventure rock star Paul Theroux (find his essay on Palawan on the New York Times). Or if you know someone who loves the combination of the lyrical and the quotable, Rebecca Solnitt and Andre Aciman are love. Their books can be found in bookstores.
QUESTION: Is it expensive? Their books are priced around Php600. You can take your chance in secondhand bookstores like BookSale for cheaper finds.
It is a season of gift-giving, but gifts can be something that does not cost money but costs a lot of creativity. I’m thinking of sincere letters, personalized cards, or something creative you crafted with your own hands.
And what is the gift I give to myself? Go somewhere I have never been to. Indonesia, for example.
• Jona Branzuela Bering is a writer and photographer from Cebu, Philippines. When she is not traveling, she gardens, teaches, and becomes the slave of four cats. Follow her travels on Instagram @backpackingwithabook or on her blog Backpacking with a Book. E-mail: email@example.com