The halls are decked, the mistletoe hung, and “Jingle Bells” is wafting from every shop’s speakers to remind you that gift-giving season has arrived. But what to get for those friends and relatives whose closets are already stuffed with the artefacts of holidays past?

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking in terms of doing, rather than having. The perfect postmodern present, after all, is less about material and more about memories, less price-oriented than participatory. Giving an experience as a gift – a trip, a class, a special night on the town – shows not only that you’re in tune to the recipient’s interests, but, often, that you also want to share in those interests and spend time together doing something extraordinary.

If you’re worried about not having anything physical to give on the big day, consider making a card or – better yet – get them something small that represents or complements the experience. Taking your parents on safari? Give them a stuffed toy elephant. Gifting your best friend climbing lessons? Wrap up a carabiner. Their confusion will make the surprise that much better when you explain what the real gift is.

And if the idea well is momentarily dry, we’ve compiled a list of experience gifts sure to knock their stockings right off the mantlepiece…

Geothermal Cooking

Preparing food over the steaming fumarole vents of an active volcano might sound like a crazy cooking show dare, but for many communities around the world living in volcanic regions, it’s just another day in the kitchen. Combine a volcano tour in Japan, New Zealand or Italy with a chance to cook food the traditional way.,
[Photo: Hedwig Storch/Wikimedia Commons]


For the loved one who’d prefer to surf an active volcano than cook in one, there’s that, too. Boarding down Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro is supposed to be a lot like snowboarding – only much warmer and with amazing views of a lush volcanic landscape.
[Photo: Nicaplease/Wikimedia Commons]

Zombie Survival Experience

Nothing says “you mean the world to me” like letting a loved one go head-to-head with the living dead. Various creative entrepreneurs across the UK, US and Australia offer zombie survival experiences that give participants “weapons” and training before dumping them into the thick of the undead.,

Night At The Museum

Spend a night exploring the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, the actual institution from the hit Ben Stiller film series? Yes, please! The museum offers sleepovers for kids (science shows, a torch-lit tour of the dinosaur gallery) but also adults, too (live music, 3-course dinner, monster movie marathon), because you’re never too old to geek out about sleeping under a 30-metre blue whale.
[Photo © AMNH\D. Finnin]

DJ-ing 101

This year, give the gift of spinning, scratching and mixing along with some of the industry’s biggest mix-masters and deejays-to-be – the perfect present for that friend who spends every party tweaking the playlist ad nauseam.

Swimming With Whale Sharks

The world’s largest fish are gentle giants, and swimming with them is an inspiring (and safe) once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some of the best, most surefire encounters are to be had in Australia’s Ningaloo Reef or off the coast of Mexico, where visitors can help researchers promote habitat conservation and sustainable tourism.,,

Parkouring Lessons

For the now grown-up kid who always dreamt of becoming Spider-Man (or -Woman). A sport that builds strength, agility, flexibility and other Spidey skills by traversing obstacle courses with jumps, vaults, sprints – even somersaults and dives – parkouring is safely taught at training centres around the world.,
[Photo: Thor/Flickr]

Immersive Theatre

Don’t just take a friend to a show – let them become the show. A steady trend in classic stage cities like New York and London, immersive theatre puts the audience directly into the action, such that each theatre-goer comes away with a unique experience. Sleep No More, Punchdrunk theatre company’s famous un-staging of Macbeth in the Big Apple, is a good place to start.
[Photo: Loren Wohl Photography]

Foraging And Wild Cooking

Help your favourite home cook level up their game with ultra-local ingredients they foraged and prepared themselves. Courses can be as elementary as mushroom hunting or as complex as building your own earth oven in the middle of the woods.,

Fighter Pilot For A Day

Racetrack shmacetrack, the recipient of this experience won’t just be flying around curves as they accompany an ex-military pilot on a day of learning about aerobatic figures or in-air combat manoeuvres. Any gift that involves a parachute is sure to be a winner.

Custom Wine-Blending Workshop

Wandering through the vineyards of Bordeaux, Napa or Barossa Valley and sampling their legendary vintages is the stuff oenophiles cross oceans for. Add an enlightening workshop session on creating unique wine blends, plus a chance to concoct their own cuvée, and they might just swim there on their own.,

Language Immersion Holiday

If a friend or family member is struggling to learn a second language in between exhausting hours at the office, then sending them off to learn Italian on the Amalfi Coast, German in the Austrian Alps or Spanish in the heart of Buenos Aires would kill two birds with one stone – and earn you major brownie points.

Dining Above The Lion City

Haute cuisine, for sure. Surprise your romantic partner with a 4-course, butler-serviced meal in the Singapore Flyer, the 2nd largest observation wheel in the world.


Article by Jessica Keller

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