Give experiences, not things. A mantra that comes to mind when I think of the Sorensens—my father’s side of the family.
I think of my Uncle Howard and Aunt Lisa, who take their now grown children to dinner and the symphony on their birthdays. I think of my Aunt Georgia, who took her grandson camping for his birthday. And I think of my grandpa and grandma, who drove their oldest eight children (they had eleven) to San Blas, Mexico for Christmas in the 1960s when my dad was fifteen years old.
Here’s my grandpa in Mexico (aka El Capitan):
On Christmas morning the Sorensen kids woke up to find stockings with a few simple treats in them. Then my grandparents told the kids to load up in the camper—they were driving three days to San Blas, Mexico for Christmas.
When they reached San Blas, my grandparents stayed in a hotel and the kids slept in the camper. They had a canoe they took out into the bay to catch fish and they went on the La Tovara jungle cruise, which is still running to this day.
It was a Christmas with no toys, but an experience they would never forget.
So, my parents carried on the tradition. My mom and dad travelled down the west coast of Mexico two Christmas’s in a row when they were first married.
The first Christmas, they drove down the Baja Peninsula and then took a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland where they continued on to San Blas.
The second Christmas they stayed on the peninsula and spent their time fishing from a raft.
Then, the tradition continued with their five daughters.
We went to Mexico for Christmas a handful of times in my childhood. We drove to La Playa Amor and camped on the beach for two weeks. Mom gave us a little travel bag full of coloring books and games for the three day drive down and then a chocolate orange on Christmas. No present shopping frenzy for her.
That’s not to say the trip didn’t take some time and planning. And it’s not to say they saved on money. A two week trip to Mexico does take a lot of effort and cash. But the time and money was spent on something that brought us closer as a family. It opened our eyes to a new culture and way of living. And it took our focus away from all of our things during the holidays.
Giving things has its place too. Some years when we had extra space we took clothes and toys for some orphanages and passed them out in the small towns. That was always a highlight of the trip–being Santa Claus for a day. Or giving a bike as a gift can produce many future experiences as you ride together. But giving things is usually what our default is when it comes to birthdays, Christmas, Easter, anniversaries, etc. and it doesn’t have to be.
So, now we’re headed back to Mexico once more! This time my husband and kids will experience La Playa Amor for the first time. No worrying about gifts and shopping at all this year. Just a plane ticket and some sunscreen.
I really love Mexico and Mexicans because of the time we spent there. And I hope this becomes a tradition for my family—traveling for Christmas. Because to me, giving an experience will always be more meaningful than giving things.