My 2011 Holiday Gift Guide of Pleasurable Experiences

Stuff is cheap, in the long run. At the end of our days, we’re not likely to remember the things we acquired as much as the moments we experienced.

This holiday season, reconsider the packaged goods you’re intending to buy for the people you love. Instead, design an experience for them they’ll never forget.

oysters and champagne

Here’s my take on a holiday gift guide for that special someone on your list:

  1. Push the couches together and make a love nest that you both climb into. Put food on a tray between you, find a romantic movie on Netflix, and fall asleep in each other’s arms.
  2. Cook a meal together using only ingredients you bought that day from the farmers’ market. Make something you’ve never made before. Do the work together, then enjoy the fruits of your labor together. Leave the dishes for tomorrow.
  3. Take a drive in the rain. Bring sandwiches. Park in an empty parking lot and turn off the windshield wipers. Turn the radio off and then your cell phones. Share your lunch and your secrets.
  4. Build furniture. Lay out the materials, gather the appropriate tools, and take turns reading the instructions. Divide and conquer. Question each other’s accuracy. Laugh when you get it wrong. Enjoy starting over because it means you’ll have more time working on something together.
  5. Play startup entrepreneur and design an app together. Bring paper, pencils and sticky notes. Start with a problem you both always face, then sketch your way out of it. Encourage each other’s crazy ideas and explore new territory. Bonus points if you build a prototype. Figure out a business model and mock-pitch it to your friends.
  6. Be their career coach for the day. Act professionally, greeting each other with a handshake. Find out what they really want to be doing and what they feel is missing. Listen closely. Ask the tough questions and offer thoughtful solutions. Brainstorm new directions and ways to get there. Write down next steps. Plan to meet again.
  7. Go to a dimly lit local jazz club with people you’ve never heard of playing soothing melodies. Wear blazers. Drink whiskey. Put on your introspective faces and sway with the music. Snap your fingers at the end of each song. Make fun of the people sitting next to you who are clearly on an uncomfortable date in the quietest voice you can muster. Buy the musicians a drink when their set ends.
  8. Find an underground supper club. Be the last to arrive so everyone is already mingling. Make conversation with the host. Sit across from strangers. Talk about things you’d never talk about with people you know. Pay attention to the description of each dish and savor every bite, trying to taste each ingredient. Compliment the chef. Ask a ton of questions. Stick around until they kick you out.
  9. Go someplace you can really see the stars. Stare up at the sky together and marvel at all its wonder. Guess the constellations. Make up names for ones you don’t know. Talk about life on other planets. Wander through the galaxy in your minds and promise to experience space travel in your lifetime.
  10. Get up from the dinner table and dance in the living room. Pause the passing of time and hold each other close. Half listen to the lyrics and half feel the music and wholly move in unison. Smile wide. Imagine what the other is thinking. Don’t talk. Lean back and let the other hold you up. Pretend the song will never end.

Eliminate the baggage and make your future. Save your money and save each other. From me to you, happy holidays.

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