Bon voyage gift for young woman making a life change?
June 4, 2010 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Gift ideas for a mid-20s woman embarking on an adventure to India, and moving from the east coast of the US to the west coast after her return from India? Would like to mark the occasion and tell her how awesome it is that she's fearlessly following her own path.

I have a friend who's nearly 20 years younger than me and who I would like to wish bon voyage with a meaningful gift. We're not terribly close, but I've been her theater director for a few years, and she recently told me she sees me as a role model. I want to encourage her on her chosen path, and I'm totally stuck. I've seen this question but think mine is more tailored to my giftee. A journal would be perfectly fine, but ideally I'd find something less obvious.

Circumstances: After a final breakup with the off-and-on boyfriend/best friend she thought was the love of her life, she has quit her job and will be moving from the US east coast to the US west coast. Before she makes that trek, though, she's going to India for a month on a (non-religious) medical mission trip. She'll be giving vaccinations and living with a local family in urban slums.

After returning to the US she'll be moving to Portland OR just because she wants a fresh start. No job there lined up, no friends there.

What she's like: She's a painter and collage maker. She shops in thrift stores and cuts her own hair. She's very religious but never evangelizes. She has a huge, innocent but donkey-like laugh, which everyone gets to hear all the time. She's a gifted and whimsical performer. She makes her own dandelion wine and prefers not to eat out because "I can make it better at home." She bikes everywhere but does own a car. She doesn't pay attention to pop culture at all. She reads, of course, but I have no idea what. She just got rid of most of her stuff to pay for her trip. She has a ton of endearingly weird behaviors and is extremely likeable, despite my possibly making her sound like a joyless prig.

Any gift ideas? I'd love to wish her bon voyage--on her trip and in her life--with something that encourages her to stay weird, keep choosing her own path even if people around her "settle down," or (maybe) that she can find huge, meaningful, romantic love in her life despite what's recently happened to her.
posted by ImproviseOrDie to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A copy of Eat, Pray Love (and the sequel) to read on the plane? Her life sounds fairly similar to that story.

Can you find some information online about theater groups in the city she's headed to and get her a pair of tickets or season passes? Enclose a note challenging her to find a companion in time to use the tickets - would that help her to go out a meet people?
posted by CathyG at 8:46 AM on June 4, 2010

A journal
posted by k8t at 8:47 AM on June 4, 2010

Best answer: A kindle, or other e-reader. They've got that whole real-life Hitchhiker's Guide thing going for them.

Quote from Amazon forum about using it outside the US.

Yes, you can download books from your computer outside the USA, using the Kindle USB connection, assuming you have qualified for the "one clik" credit card account. You cannot access Whispernet outside of the USA. To add reading material not sold at the Amazon Kindle store, you would have to have it emailed to your Kindle account [and have it converted to Kindle friendly format, if necessary], so you could download it from your computer.

I'm not sure about newspaper subscriptions, but you could send an email to customer service, asking about that

So it might be she wants to load it up before she leaves or look into internet cafes and the like.

Or a gift certificate to an art supplies place on the West Coast.

Can you find some information online about theater groups in the city she's headed to and get her a pair of tickets or season passes? Enclose a note challenging her to find a companion in time to use the tickets - would that help her to go out a meet people?

Expanding on this... Research Portland and make her a welcome packet with a bunch of artist collectives and other group activities? Buy her a membership to some sort of museum out there?
posted by edbles at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2010

In this situation where she will be moving / travelling alot and can't be lugging around tons of stuff, I think the most touching gift at this time would be a heartfelt letter you write and if you want to give more at this time, perhaps a small mp3 player (like a 1gb one) preloaded with songs that remind you of her or that you think she will find comforting and home-y while in another country. A book of poems (either a compillation you think she'd liek or a book from one poet) or a book of shorter stories would be cool too. I tend to hang on to and revisit books that i can re-read in bits and pieces. My thought here is that you want a book with maximum re-read ability since in India she might not have great access to leisure reading material.

Keep in touch wiht her and when she settled in Portland, maybe send her a funky couch pillow or quilt or something aesthetically pleasing and useful.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2010

A really nice journal, and write a personal note to her on the inside cover. "Dear ___, I think it's awesome that you're fearlessly following her own path. Don't ever change and think of me when you're famous. Signed, ImproviseOrDie" ... only, well, better.
posted by Xany at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2010

First thing that comes to my mind is a travel journal and a Polaroid camera, like Fuji instax.
posted by dustoff at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2010

Something tiny and sweet like this wishbone necklace sounds lovely and appropriate to convey your wishes for her.
posted by judith at 9:28 AM on June 4, 2010

Please don't give her anything that she will feel obligated to carry. It astonished me that when I was moving thousands of miles away, overseas, that I was suddenly handed book after book, when everything was already packed, and accepting the gifts meant an additional expense and hassle. Journals are super personal things, and if she doesn't like the one you chose for her then she can't just put it away and regift it or use it later.

"tiny and sweet" is an excellent idea. an american express gift card. cash. take her out for a lovely western meal and tell her what you just said above. when I was moving abroad I valued time with friends I wasn't likely to see in some time more than any gift.
posted by micawber at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2010

Best answer: Bike maps of Portland. Gift certificate to a bike shop there - maybe enough to get her bike tuned up (if she kept hers) or to get her started on buying one (if she sold hers).
posted by dywypi at 10:31 AM on June 4, 2010

First thing that comes to my mind is a travel journal and a Polaroid camera, like Fuji instax.

I have an Instax. It's a hit for social-snaps at parties, but takes really shitty photos in all other situations. Plus it's made of the cheapest plastic I've ever seen on a camera, and is horrendously bulky. I couldn't think of a worse camera to take on a trip.

I would recommend getting her a good digital camera. Currently the best compact camera on the market is the Canon S90 (street price now as low as $300). If that's too expensive for you, you can't really go wrong with the Canon A-series cameras which are at most $150.
posted by randomstriker at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2010

Since she'll be going to India in the middle of the monsoon season (assuming that she's leaving sometime in the next couple of months) and then moving to Portland, something to do with rain might be a good idea. Although rain gear is hit-or-miss in India, since it's so hot and rain gear is often so stuffy. But maybe something more fun and whimsical that has to do with rain? (I am a horrible gift-giver)
posted by lunasol at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2010

I would get her something cool for traveling, like a
money belt
microfiber towel
elastic clothesline
luggage locks
beautiful pen
kit of things to give to people in India, like postcards and photos of home (without lots of expensive things in the background)
a flash drive with important travel information (?), random music, hilarious photos, recipes to try in India, and a list of quotes that inspire you and remind you of her

books: the rough guide to India, lonely planet india (or a gift card to their web site? I know you can buy things there), Wanderlust and Lipstick (I haven't read it but it looks amazing), the lonely planet hindi language pocket-size book, or one of rupert snell's hindi language books, a small book of prayers (if that's her thing) or an annotated copy of the bhagavad gita or mahabharata (hindu religious texts). the philosophy of letting go and finding your path might appeal to her right now, and the bhagavad gita has a lot of that.

I wouldn't get a Kindle, since it sounds like she likes things natural and home-made. instead of a camera, maybe she would like some kind of portable painting or drawing kit (?). I've been to India and fit into your friend's age bracket, so if you want more specific ideas, pm me...
posted by ramenopres at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2010

I can recommend the microfiber towel enough. It's a perfect gift and will be used every day.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:26 PM on June 4, 2010

I second the idea of a gift certificate for art supplies in Portland (so that even if she is low on money when she arrives there, she can immediately begin producing work if she wants to,) and maybe a travel towel in a festive color for her actual India trip.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:24 AM on June 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for such thoughtful suggestions! I love MeFi! I'll be giving her a museum membership, a gift certificate for art supplies, and/or bike maps in/around Portland. Personalized as much as I can, of course.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:13 AM on June 6, 2010

« Older Site for collecting stories about a retiring...   |   Be my guide. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.