What's a good going away gift?
August 22, 2007 3:47 PM   Subscribe

What's a good going-away present?

I have a fairly intense relationship that started a couple months ago. The young lady is now moving to Africa for the next 6 months to study abroad. I'd like to buy her a gift that she might be able to use (or at least would be able to take in a live-out-of-a-duffle-bag situation), but not something techy or gimmicky (already has a camera, ipod, and anything she would need to actually live). She's an avid reader, but has already appropriated a stack of books to take. She's an english/anthropology student with a bit of a French-language (but not culture) obsession.

I'm terrible at buying gifts (xmas is a nightmare) so I'm basically looking for something in the <$200 range (but down to virtually $0 if it "fits") that is sort of romantic without being over the top and sort-of useful without being meaningless.

posted by nameless.k to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some means of keeping in contact would be appropriate. A quarter would have sufficed back when pay phones were en vogue, at least if the situation were domestic. These days, however, you might want to look into phone cards or possibly facilitating Internet telephony.
posted by The Confessor at 4:44 PM on August 22, 2007

My first instinct would be to ignore the practical and go with the sentimental. Enlist a friend of hers to help pick something if you have trouble, but go for something which will have more sentimental than practical value.

Other ideas, very much depending on where she is in Africa... she may end up in situations where she could help people cheaply and easily but not have known in advance. I've been in situations where I'd have really loved to have known that I should have taken a box of cheap ballpoints to help supply kids doing schoolwork, but didn't know in advance. Depends on the area, and maybe other AskMe readers will be able to offer better suggestions on that front if you can say where she'll be, but she'll probably be fine for 6 months with what she has, and will love the chance to do something dead easy that could make a big difference.
posted by edd at 5:08 PM on August 22, 2007

I like the idea of a communication-style gift - perhaps a mobile phone with sms / email capability and a pre-paid plan for 12 months so she can keep in touch with you easily?

Also if she's an avid reader she may appreciate a good quality book light for travelling or just reading in bed. I really like my gooseneck booklight, eg - http://chicagoridge.nearbynow.com/store/bedbathbeyond/product-1931789.html
posted by katala at 6:53 PM on August 22, 2007

Buy a nice antique compass. Small and useful.
posted by cior at 7:14 PM on August 22, 2007

Buy her a book by or on Claude Levi-Strauss. It will encourage her passions.
posted by solongxenon at 7:26 PM on August 22, 2007

Maybe a bookmark for one of her books... a photo of you (or the two of you in a photo-booth?) or just a nice photo/graphic image of anything that would remind her of what she has at home awaiting her return would really be thoughtful. It may sound odd, but I really cherish my bookmarks; I have a few, some of which were gifts. If she's a reader, that's one way to hold your spot in her thoughts.
posted by heyho at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2007

a small sketch pad and water colors -- even if she has ever, ever expressed interest in creating art
posted by peace_love_hope at 8:21 PM on August 22, 2007

A nice letter writing kit, (snail mail) good quality writing paper, with matching envelopes. a couple of pens and pencils, bundled together in a small carrying case.
posted by kanemano at 10:46 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you like writing? When people I've known have gone away for long periods of time I've written them a lonely letter, which is mostly pages and pages of ramble by me and anyone else that knows the person, for them to read when lonely.

Letters seem to contain so much more of the person writing them than other forms of communication.

And don't discount the power of a well timed parcel.
posted by kjs4 at 11:45 PM on August 22, 2007

I know it's a little cliched, but classy, simple necklaces make great gifts, and can also act as a sort of talisman during difficult times. My older sister gave me a tiny silver necklace when I entered high school, and I almost never took it off. You could also go the personalized route or the whimsical route. Just as long as it's something she can tuck under her clothes if necessary and doesn't have to worry about it "matching".
posted by ethorson at 6:08 AM on August 23, 2007

Circle Journey Books are small journals that come with envelopes so that you can write an entry and send it off to your friend and then they do the same, including pictures or other keepsakes. Then you can fight over who keeps it when it's all filled up!
posted by shannonm at 7:10 AM on August 23, 2007

When a good friend was studying abroad in Africa, he wrote to describe the coffee available in his residence: instant, made with water heated in a frying pan. He and I had shared a love for good coffee, so I found the beans he liked, had them ground, and sent them along with a “travel” French press that I found at Starbucks (it was tough plastic with a carabiner-style handle, though one of those insulated mugs with built-in press would work just as well, I’d think). The young lady in question might not be a coffee fiend, but the idea is the same—some small luxury that she might not otherwise have access to, packaged in a way that makes it easy enough to be carted around.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:36 AM on August 23, 2007

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