Have a friend or family member on your gift list that's constantly hopping across the pond and back? Maybe spends a lot of time on airplanes? Is always trying to learn a new language for their next adventure? These folks are hard to buy for, I know. You don't want to get them the latest cheesy gadget or (yet another) neck pillow, so what is a good gift for world travelers? Check out this list for a few creative ideas!

1. A scratch-off world map 

These are amazing. I want one even though I already have a huge world map (and no place to hang it, currently). But if your traveler likes to keep a visual record of where they've been they can simply scratch off a layer of paint (or something) over the country from which they just returned and a colorful new depiction of that place shows up! Or, if you'd rather go the DIY route, get a big 'ol antiquey-looking world map and a box of push pins.

2. Travel journals

If your wanderer tends to notate their ramblings, wrap up a slick travel journal or a whole set of them. I tend to like the smaller ones; they fit in s tightly packed backpack or suitcase better and having one trip chronicled in a notebook instead of many keeps things organized.

3. A good backpack

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there's one item that every traveler needs (and need not skimp on) it's a quality backpack that will last for years and miles through planes, trains, luggage carousels, taxi rides, hikes across the countryside and day trips to family get-togethers. This one caught our eye because it's a brand we're pretty into (plus it comes in colors that aren't easily misplaced or mistaken for somebody else's pack) and promises to stick around as you hop from continent to continent for a very long time, but any quality pack will do.

4. Photo Books

Or rather, gift certificates for sites that sell photo books like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mixbook or Mosaic. That way after they've spent all their money abroad they can still come home and have all their memories printed in a classy book.

5. Fun luggage tags

Why would anybody want to taint their luggage with those awful paper name tags the airlines give you at check-in to identify your bags when there are so many unique and exciting tags to chose from. There are tags for snarky travelers (No, this is not your bag), witty travelers (I just love being a broad), millennial travelers (I can LOL in 10 languages) and just about everyone in between (monograms, cute animals, vintage designs, etc.). Pick one that suits the recipient and gift away!

6. A towel

Douglas Adams said it best in his famous "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" when he stated, "A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have." Of course, that goes for those of us who aren't leaving planet Earth, as well. It has infinite uses and we, for one, never leave home without one.

7. Foreign Coin Jewelry

They might have spent all their foreign currency before the flight home (or maybe they didn't, but what are they really going to do with all that spare change?), but they can always hold the memories close to their heart, quite literally, with a necklace or pendent made out of a coin from the country they visited. Take a peak on etsy.com to find pieces made out of coins from Greece, Germany, Brazil and everywhere in between. You could do the same with charms.

8. Shadow boxes

Do you know someone who just returned with half a suitcase full of memorabilia from their trip? Are they armed with ticket stubs, candy wrappers, programs, maps, and trinkets? If you're a do-it-yourselfer, pick up a shadow box, steal their stash, and organize it all in a creative display for them to hang on a wall or prop on a shelf. That way they'll be able to wax nostalgic about their excursion for years to come.

9. Map watch

Love. Love, love, love. And we're sure you will, too. If coin jewelry is a tad to feminine for the traveler you know, how about a watch instead? You should never be without one when traveling and this ones proves just how worldly you are. I can't think of anything that would make this watch cooler.

10. Language learning tools

If someone you know is in the beginning stages of planning for a trip to a country that doesn't speak English, consider the gift of language. Tools like Rosetta Stone, phrase books or audio learning tools could really come in handy when they're trying to find chopsticks in a market in China. Besides, the ability to speak another language far transcends the purposefulness of a single excursion outside the borders of the US.

Happy gifting!


Christmas is a magical time of year. With the lights, trees, gift giving, carolers (well, there aren't so many of those anymore, but they're still out there), and holiday cheer, what's not to love about December? Ok, Ok, there's plenty not to love about December (three inches of ice on your windshield, salt caked on your boots, rising credit card bills...), but we try to ignore all that until at least January 2nd. Most of us are even willing to ignore the irritating eccentricities of our families for a few extra hours just because there are Christmas cookies stacked in inordinately profound piles all over the kitchen. And there's nothing wrong with that. A little extra goodwill toward men (including interrogative mothers, annoying second cousins and overbearing in-laws) is something we could all use at any time of year.

But have you ever stopped to think about where all those traditions came from or how the rest of the world celebrates the holiday? Check out some of the interesting origins of some popular (and not so popular) holiday traditions.

Germany

Photo by Christbaumschmuck | CC BY-SA 3.0
First of all, you can thank the Germans for gingerbread houses, nutcrackers (yes, those creepy wooden dolls that your weird Aunt Wilma collects) and the holiday centerpiece, the Christmas tree. These guys did all that first. But maybe the most interesting Christmas tradition to come out of Germany involves a glass pickle. Yes, you read that right. A glass pickle ornament is hung by mom or dad somewhere on the tree after the kids go to bed. On Christmas morning the first one to find it gets to open the first present (and as we all know, this opportunity is prized above all else on Christmas morning) and maybe a special treat, too. Strange, but you better believe this is happening at my house this year.

Spain

Photo by Jordiferrer | CC BY-SA 3.0
Religion is the basis for Christmas celebrations in Spain more than many other countries. In fact, you're likely to see prominently displayed nativities just about everywhere. However, we do have Italy to thank for the origin of 3-D nativity scenes, not Spain. And yeah, you've seen a nativity, but I bet you haven't seen one with Catalan's Caganer. Maybe it's sacrilegious, maybe it's just a fun gag, but in a lot of nativity scenes in this region you're likely to find a small gnome-like figure with his pants down (um, defecating) hidden somewhere around the manger. It must be a Spanish thing because some families also have a log that children "feed" and then hope will, um, pass candy and presents instead. Don't ask. I don't know.

Finland

Photo by Sandstein | CC BY-SA 3.0
If you ask any child who lives in Finland where Santa lives, they will gladly tell you it's right here on Mount Korvatunturi. Where else would he live with all those reindeer roaming around the country? But one tradition that I personally think we should start in the US is that of the Christmas Eve rice pudding breakfast and afternoon visit to the sauna. Delicious and refreshing!

Mexico


Christmas, much like just about every other celebration in the country is yet another excuse to shower children with candy. Literally. Any excuse to break out the piñata, right? But really, who doesn't love beating a paper donkey until it's guts break open and scatter candy and cash? But really, this sounds like a great Christmas tradition to implement. Also, Poinsettias originated in Mexico before being brought to the US and made pretty much the official flower of Christmas.

England

"A Pot of Wassail" by Jeremy Tarling | CC BY-SA 2.0
Strange food is at the heart of many English Christmas traditions. Plum pudding (which has no plums in it, btw), mince pies and wassail are a few, and often enjoyed at tea time (except the wassail...that's a beverage that stands alone). Of course, you can also wassail as a verb, which is also a tradition that started in England. That's caroling, for those of you not well-versed in olde English. We can also thank the English for the first Christmas cards. Mistletoe also became popular in Victorian England, and while I love hanging the stuff in doorways around the holidays, I'm not sure how its place as a holiday staple got cemented since it's basically a plant parasite that latches onto trees and sucks the nutrient right out of the bark.

France

Photo by ABPend | CC BY-SA 2.5
The French know how to do dessert and Christmas is no exception. While the tradition of the yule log that families used to burn from Christmas Eve to New Year's day has pretty much gone out of style, a cake that looks just like it is still in vogue (and way more delicious). The kids also forgo hanging stockings and instead leave their shoes to be filled with treats and such.

Ukraine


So we're used to hanging glass bulbs, sparkly reindeer and multicolored lights on our Christmas trees, but in the Ukraine you'll also see decorative spiders and spider webs hanging from the branches. It stems from a classic Ukrainian legend, but who really needs an excuse to keep the Halloween decorations pumping?


Oh, there are definitely more, but these are our favorite. Know of some great ones we missed? Add them in the comments below!



Yeah, you can buy somebody another helmet or safety lights for their bicycle, but why not step outside the box and give them something really unique. Here's a list of the things we love as cyclists!

1. Bike tube jewelry

I realize this is shameful self promotion since this link is to my personal Etsy shop, but I can live with that. What cyclist, man or woman, wouldn't want a bracelet or pair of earrings make out of recycled bike tube? It's awesome, right? Plus it allows them to display their love of two-wheeled travel everywhere they go (even if it isn't on a bike).

2. Indoor Bike Rack

If you know a cyclist who lives in an apartment (or even a house with no garage) where it is difficult to store their ride, offer them a space saving and attractive way to stash their gear: an indoor bike rack for hanging their cycle on the wall. There are some for vertical and horizontal hanging, made of all different materials at all different price points and, heck, you could even make one yourself out of some steel pipe and a few screws, but we like this one because it offers and andy shelf for storing accessories and it folds up when not in use.


3. The Bike Owner's Handbook

Give the gift of DIY repair this year. Things go wrong with bikes as much as things go wrong with cars, but with bikes, those things are much easier to fix. Don't let your cyclist overpay when they need their chain replaced or new brake lines installed. They can do it themselves with a complete guide to everything from cleaning their bike to replacing a tube and it's small enough to take with them in their paniers. Want more? Pair it with a care kit and multi-tool from your local bike shop.


4. Solar Charger

If you know a cyclist who prefers long distance routes, hook them up with a solar charger so they never loose juice in their favorite devices. Just clip it onto the handlebars or a bag and it'll charge their phone, MP3 player, or any small device with a battery. Then they'll have no excuse to check in when they stop for lunch.

5. Fun Socks

Socks don't just come in boring ol' white and black anymore. If your athlete isn't afraid of a little color around their ankles, buy them some fun moisture wicking socks that are pretty much guaranteed to attract attention. Monster, unicorn or sriracha socks anyone?


6. Bicycle Computer

For those who don't already have one, a cycling computer that mounts to your handlebars and measures things like speed, cadence and distance, a bike computer is a must have. Not only is it helpful for those training for races or long-distance rides, it's also super fun to keep track of stats and compete with yourself every time you straddle the saddle.

7. Cell Phone Mount

Need directions? Want to keep an eye on the time? Gotta have music for the ride? A waterproof cell phone mount offers a visible place to stash your phone while you're getting where you need to go.

8. Unique Bike Bags

Stylish, casual cyclists might enjoy a twist on the traditional bike bag. Though the price tag is higher than most other gifts on this list, those with an appreciation for the quality and style of Brooks products will be duly impressed by your taste in gifts. Made out of leather, this bike bag slides over the saddle and has a little pocket on the bottom to store small necessities. When the rider dismounts at their destination, they can just slide the cover off, throw it over their shoulder, and take their phone, keys, etc. along.

9. Gear Clock

There are plenty of cycling gifts for the home, but I'm partial to clocks. How can a cyclist not want a clock made out of bike gears hanging on the wall in their living room or office?

10. A Better Water Bottle Holder

Sure a regular ol' water bottle holder works fine, but who wouldn't want one as cool as this? It's a bird for crying out loud! Seriously, this better be in my stocking this year.

Bonus: All-Natural Hydration Mix. I'm all about nice, round numbers, so instead of 11 we'll just call this one a bonus. We've all had re-hydration and recovery drinks that taste like crap. Plus they have all those unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, try this one with real sugar and natural, normal ingredients. Besides, I don't know where else you're going to get apple-cider flavored mix that you can drink hot after cool weather workouts. Yum.

Happy gifting!


People who are constantly on the move can be tough to buy for. I know because my mother tells me so every birthday and Christmas. So instead of getting them more stuff they don't need or can't fit in their car, offer a gift that promises to make their travels that much more pleasant.


1. 42 Utility Towel

It's perfect for so many occasions that a traveler might encounter on the road. Because as every Douglas Adams fan knows, when hitchhiking the galaxy you should always know where your towel is.


2. Road Trip USA Books

Maps and apps are great, but sometimes you want to plot your course on paper and browse all the fantastic sites you'll come across along the way all in one place. These road trip books from Moon are just the thing and with colorful photos and descriptions, you just can't go wrong.


3. Atlas

GPS technology has come a long way and most wanderers wouldn't head out the door without one, but there's just nothing that can replace a good ol' road atlas. We like this one with the spiral binding so you can easily leave it open to the map you want and stash it in the door or glove box when you don't need it.


4. Travelin' USA Towel

Yeah, I know, another towel. But this one is so cool! It's so very utilitarian (important when deciding what to make room for in the back seat) and creative, too! It comes with only the outline of the US which the recipients can then personalize by doodling, coloring in, painting, etc. to show off all the states they've visited. See, I told you it was cool.


5. Audible.com

Audio books are a must have for those really logging the miles from the drivers seat. There are so many titles available they are sure to find one they'll love if you include a subscription in their stocking.


6. National Parks Pass

If you know someone who can't get enough of the beauty of nature, nab them an annual pass to the National Parks. For $80 ($10 for seniors) they can get in free to any and all of them for a whole year! (For perspective it costs about $25 to get into one.) Yellowstone, here we come!

Route 66. Will Rogers Highway. Main Street America. The Mother Road.

It's one of the oldest and most famous highways in America and covers 2,448 miles between Chicago and L.A. It's gone through many realignments in it's time, isn't an official U.S. highway anymore, and isn't nearly as well-traveled as it once was, but U.S. Route 66 is still one of the most iconic cross-country routes in the nation and we were determined to check it out for ourselves.

While we didn't cover every mile of the road, leaving out the sections in Illinois and California (the end-cap states), we traveled enough of it to be amazed and intrigued by the wide open road. The lack of traffic was a definite plus, too.

The Saint Louis Gateway Arch
Steel sculpture outside of the St. Louis Zoo
We picked up Rt 66 in St. Louis after driving on I-70 from Dayton, Ohio. We figured that would be easier than going as far north as Chicago where 66 really begins. We spent two nights in St. Louis (the full post can be found HERE) at a hotel because we couldn't find a couchsurfing host (sad face), but used the alone time in the evenings to plan the next few days of our journey. We accomplished plenty during our one day in the city (the Arch, zoo, science museum, delicious vegan pizza...) and headed toward Springfield on our second morning. It took a little over 7 hours on 66 including several pit stops for photo ops, snacks and, ya know, bathroom breaks. But it didn't seem as long as driving 7 hours on the highway. More to look at, ya know.

Some sections of US 66 are marked better than others. It's best to buy a guide or print off a free version HERE.  
We took the Manchester Rd. Route out of the city and found that signage for 66 was decent and not too difficult to follow. There were a few spots we had to pull out our turn by turn directions or guess and hope we saw the next sign around the corner, but we made it without much trouble. The only attraction we stopped at along the way was the world's largest rocking chair in Cuba, MO, but we also stopped at a little local coffee shop called the Giddy Goat in Rolla and had a nice chat with the owner and a delish cup a joe to refuel. When we reached Springfield we stopped at Bass Pro Shops, the original and the biggest, before meeting our host at Pizza House for some delightful St. Louis style pizza (mine sans cheese). Love that cracker thin crust! In the morning Big Mommas coffee across the street started off our day right before we headed to Oklahoma City.

The World's Largest Rocking Chair
Bacon, jalapenõ and pineapple pizza with a St. Louis style thin crust at Pizza House.

Big Momma's Coffee in old downtown Springfield, MO
The drive there was a bit rougher. After you get out of Missouri and the 14 miles or so through Kansas, directional signage is sparse at best, leaving us to attempt to navigate using mostly non mileage specific directions to plot our course. Needless to say there were more than a few u-turns involved. Apparently Oklahoma doesn't like signs cluttering their roadways directing travelers in the right direction. In OKC we walked around town, visited the OKC memorial, and, once again, enjoyed some vegan pizza at The Wedge in Deep Deuce. And if you're in town don't miss breakfast and coffee at The Red Cup (delicious vegetarian sausage biscuits and gravy). Check out our full review of the city HERE.

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum 
Personal Pizza at The Wedge Pizzeria
The Wedge Pizzeria in OKC
The Oklahoma State Capitol Building in OKC
Amarillo was our next stop and directional signage didn't improve throughout the rest of Oklahoma, nor did it as we crossed into Texas. Needless to say there was no napping for the navigator. But we made it into town in time for an early dinner and enjoyed quality vegetarian fare and original art at 806 Cafe. But the next morning we were off again for Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, TX
Vegetarian fare at 806 Café in Amarillo, TX

An abandoned motel just inside the border of New Mexico on a now closed section of Route 66 heading west
There was lots to see on the side of the road between Amarillo and Albuquerque and we made more stops for photo ops than ever. Still, we were only on the road for 6-7 hours. We stayed in Albuquerque for two nights, but spent our one full day in Santa Fe because we heard there was more to see and do. We heard wrong. Turns out we would have just as soon stayed in Albuquerque and maybe driven up the mountain than make the hour drive to Santa Fe where we had a sub par lunch, terrible coffee and were bombarded with more southwest gift shops than were even remotely necessary. The only saving grace were a couple of good hikes outside the city and dinner with a couch surfer who invited us over even though she couldn't host us.

A street in downtown Santé Fé. Southwest gift stores as far as the eye can see.
Hiking trail just outside of downtown Santé Fé
Taking a quick bike ride in Albuquerque, New Mexico
After Albuquerque was Holbrook, just outside of Flagstaff. I don't know what possessed us to stay there instead of just heading straight into Flagstaff and getting a couchsurfing host, but so it goes. We camped for the night in this desert town where the main attractions were a local history museum in the old courthouse and a movie theater that played late-run movies at 7:00pm. Not sure what that was about. We grabbed dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Joe and Aggie's where I was offered the weeds from out back when I asked about vegetarian options. But it's OK; I can take a joke.

Joe & Aggie's Mexican Restaurant in Holbrook, AZ
Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ
The next day marked as far as we would go on 66. We thought about finishing the route after we visited Grand Canyon, but ultimately decided we were ready to call it quits on the driving, especially since our final destination was Austin, TX. But first there was Phoenix. Of course we stopped at the REI in Flagstaff to pick up some essentials for our upcoming backpacking trip into the canyon and grabbed some coffee at Theia's Cafe and enjoyed the view of Sedona on a brief detour, but we made it to our friends' place in plenty of time for dinner.

If you look closely, you can see The Church of the Holy Cross built into the cliff face | Sedona, AZ
The beautiful rocks of Sedona, AZ
We spent two weeks in Phoenix hiking and stocking up on backpacking stuff before heading to Grand Canyon National Park for five days. We camped on the rim for three nights and backpacked into the canyon where we stayed for two. It was amazing and you can read all about it HERE. But, alas, all good things must come to an end, but not before we had our last Route 66 restaurant meal of omelets, hashbrowns, toast and pancakes at Crown Railroad Cafe. Sooo good after instant oatmeal and ramen noodles for five days.

We passed through Phoenix again for just a day or two to gather our things and hit the road toward our final destination: Austin, Texas. We said good bye to our friends and drove to El Paso where we would be staying with another Couchsurfing host. The drive was about seven hours, and there were no more fun back roads through ghost towns. But the two lane highway that is I-10 was pretty empty most of the way, so it wasn't bad. From there we had another 8 hours or so on those same desolate highways to Austin (where highways are anything but).

Again friends opened their home to us and we settled right in, though I have to admit, it felt a bit weird to think we were going to be staying in one spot for more than a few days or weeks after a month on the road. I guess it'll just take some getting used to after so much glorious traveling. Hopefully we'll get to finish Route 66 at some point, but there are other adventures to be had, other roads to explore. But if you're looking for a good one, I highly recommend America's Mother Road.

Have you taken any amazing road trips? Share them in the comments below!