Top 4 Gift Ideas for International Travelers

Today’s post is by Melibee’s Vanessa Shaw.  Vanessa’s thoughtful gift ideas come from a true global citizen!  Warning:  You will be tempted to purchase everything on this list  (or not – you’ll understand why when you read on…)

It’s December, whoa!  How did that happen?  I only realized that its holiday shopping season when I went out and saw 9,482,858,945 other people waiting in line to pay. I’m not much of a holiday shopper.  Maybe I’m a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.  I’m not a fan of the shop-til-you drop, spend, spend, spend and give people a lot of stuff they don’t need tradition.

I love to travel.  Therefore, to increase my travel budget, I shop less.  I’ve reduced my personal belongings to the essentials.  I’ve let go of a lot of things and acquired lots of experiences. The things I do have, I’m less attached to and more willing to share.  What do I want the people in my life to buy me this December?  Not much.

Photo credit: Vanessa Shaw

I encourage you to consider these 4 Ways to give to the global citizen in your life.

1. Give Information

The globetrotter in your life probably has a hunger for acquiring language skills.  Know someone reading up on China a lot lately?  I’m sure they’re dying to learn about the 80,000 symbols in Chinese and expand their language skills beyond “Nǐ hǎo.”  Anyone planning a trip to South America? Do you know the difference between between vosotros and nosotros?

Online language learning with monthly subscriptions is a big industry now.  Popular sites include Babbel, Fluenz and my personal favorite for learning Spanish is Bueno, Entonces (Caution: lots of adult humor!).  You can also check out this free service from Livemocha.

Afar is a collaborative travel guide, awesome magazine and website.  Gift a subscription to their magazine or donate to the Afar Foundation that grants international travel scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to explore our world.

Perhaps the traveler in your life would be more interested in giving their time.  Then the Workbook for Finding and Planning a Volunteer Experience Abroad from Zahara Heckscher and Mary Wells is a great option for only $8.99.  There are a lot of ways to volunteer abroad.  This guide helps you make sure you go with a good organization and get the most out of it.

Vanessa volunteering at Christmastime with Cross-Cultural Solutions in Perú.

Did someone you know recently return home from a stint abroad?  Perhaps you want to gift the Beyond Abroad: Innovative Re-Entry Exercises crafted by the Melibee Global team (less than $29!).  This guide supports travelers in the transition back home and turning their experience abroad into successful reintegration.

When in doubt, check out these recommended books.

Oh, and how could I forget! One of my favorite cross-cultural resources – Cultural Detective.  If you want to get a bit of help in understanding any culture (whether your own, someplace you have been before, or someplace you are going to visit soon) this is an amazing online learning resource that gives great insights and education about cultures.  I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two even just by spending one hour with this tool.  It is used by business professionals around the world.  Read their blog for information on a free 3 day trial!

2. Give something Green

The more I travel, the more I realize how interconnected we are.  And it makes me think about the environment and how I can reduce my impact.  Die-hard travelers are masters at only using/packing the essentials and efficient items.  Check these out!

  • The quick-dry towel, dries quick, packs up easily and lasts forever.
  • The Versalette from {r}evolution apparel is a single clothing item with 20 different ways it can be worn. Made in the U.S., the fabric is recycled, the buttons made in New York from wood grown sustainably in Vermont and sewn with a whole lotta love in North Carolina. The founder´s main goals aren’t to make money–they want to educate shoppers to be more conscious consumers.
  • These bar shampoos, bar conditioners and toothy tabs from Lush are less taxing on the environment, produce less waste and are easier to travel with (carry-on luggage friendly!).
  • Everyone needs a re-usable bag.  I’m serious.  If you don’t have one, get one for yourself and everyone else in your life.  I personally like ChicoBags.
  • The gadget geek will appreciate this solar-powered-travel-size charging station.
  • Travel (unfortunately!) is quite taxing on the environment.  Here is one option to give back and reduce our footprint – the CarbonFund has carbon offsetting vouchers that can be gifted.

3. Give your Time

By all means, this is the best gift you can give me!  Time with the people I care about.  For the people in my life, to make the effort to spend time with me, go for a meal, or a show, you couldn’t make me happier.  If you really wanted to make me melt, then plan to go on a trip with me.  I’m a traveler who has stamped my passport on solo-trips many times.  To have a companion with whom to share the adventures?  That’s as good as it gets for me.  I guess Mariah Carey was right, all I want for Christmas is you…and a fabulous vacation. (Note: With this option you give to yourself at the same time – Bonus!).

If traveling is not in the cards for you, then give away your flight miles!  Maybe they are going to expire?  Then give them to me (errr… I mean someone in your life) – I promise, they will not go to waste!

You can always try to gift an item that inspires sharing time with friends (or making new ones!). Perhaps a new cookbook (Check out this one that is chock-full of cultural information alongside the recipes!).  A deck of cards and book of games from around the world is a perfect excuse to invite people over and make new friends.

4. Give your Thoughtfulness

Just write a card.  Don’t write an e-mail or an e-card.  Don’t buy a Hallmark card and sign your name.  Sit down with a pad of paper and write a nice note.  Put yourself out there and say some nice things.  Do all the stuff that the Dalai Lama, Gandhi and all the other wise folks have told us.  Don’t hold back, make sure the people in your life know how much you care and make the time to say it.

Photo credit:

If all I got this holiday season was a note from each person in my life with a few sweet words and quality time with them, I can’t imagine needing anything more than that.

Maybe I’m not a Scrooge after all, perhaps I’m just trying to find the heart of the matter when it comes to holiday shopping.  That’s why I work with Melibee.  We are not here to send you more of what you don’t need, bombard you with stuff you can’t benefit from or provide resources at unreachable prices.  Melibee is a community of people and we work hard to do things a bit differently.

We help keep you connected to the reasons why you travel, the lesson that we can learn from other cultures, and how we can share more.  Globetrotters, travelers, global citizens, interculturalists or however you identify yourself – I think you will agree:  travel brings us closer to knowing what really matters to each of us.  Let’s keep that in mind during December and have our actions and gift giving match that.

To those who celebrate this time of year – Happy Holidays from all of us at Melibee Global!

About the Author: Vanessa Shaw has been in the intercultural field for ten years.  In the past she has worked with international volunteer organizations and study abroad programming in higher education.  Currently she is the Community Manager for the Intercultural Communication Institute, the Melibee Global blog editor and an English teacher based out of Madrid, Spain.  Follow her updates on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog.


  1. Katy says:

    Love it! I adore Lush’s toothy tabs, and they are perfect for traveling.

    My favorite practical reusable bags are those huge blue ones from IKEA. I know they are plastic and bright and ugly, but they are more durable than any other I’ve used, I love that they have shoulder straps (so I can reach for my keys, unlock doors, etc without worrying), and they are huge and hold 3-4 grocery bags worth of stuff. I used them for laundry when I was in an apartment building, work for transporting things to workshops, for groceries, and even when moving. Plus, they are under $1.

    Okay, enough product endorsement! Thanks for the tips; I’m actually looking into some of this stuff. 🙂

    • Vanessa says:

      I’m so glad you liked the post. I hope it hits a chord with other travelers who really dont want any more “stuff”. Also, I’m really hoping that the Re-Entry workbook gets shared with all those who are coming home from a Fall semester abroad. For me coming home from 4 months abroad and diving right into the holidays with family, was overwhelming!

  2. Mattie Clark says:

    I LOVE this, Vanessa!!! What wonderful suggestions for nomads or those of us who are uncomfortable with holiday materialism. I hope Santa brings me Melibee’s Re-Entry Exercises!

  3. Love your 4 points! Living as an expat far away from home, I found that my friends like to get little things from my home country. So I always keep things stored to be prepared for Chinese new year, Depavali, or other open house events when I get invited.

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