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Presence Over Presents

The Best Christmas Presents Don't Come Wrapped Under a Tree

Article by Peter Levinson, Levinson Realty

Photography by Provided

Originally published in OKC City Lifestyle

It was the Christmas Season of 2006. My wife, Tara, and I worked our way through local malls and other holiday shopping destinations. Amazon Shopping wasn't an easy thing yet, and one had to embrace the crowds, long lines, and awful parking to go shopping. At the day's end, our hunt to find gifts had bared no fruit, and we returned home with no presents. 

Before venturing out, we asked our two girls, who were 13 and 11 at the time, to make us a list of what they wanted for Christmas. Surprisingly we received no list that year, and they both felt like they had everything they needed, which left us at a loss.

My wife and I prefer not to buy gifts for people if they do not need them. I once received two George Foreman Grills as Christmas gifts, and they stayed in the boxes until we remodeled our kitchen years later. One day, we discovered them pushed to the back of a pantry shelf.

As we sat in our living discussing what to buy our loved ones, we came up empty. Everything we thought of just seemed pointless and a "no need" for the person in question. As I mentioned, we do not like to buy useless gifts for people. 

I asked my wife, "On average, how much do we spend on our kids every year.? She gave me a number. "And how much do we spend on gifts, in general, each year?" She gave me another number. I was more curious about how much we spent each year doing something we both do not enjoy doing, shopping. 

Tara thought, "What if we went somewhere for Christmas?" We started looking up last-minute destinations for Christmas. In 2006, it was only about $650 a person to travel to an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel, Mexico. Hurricane Wilma hit Cozumel in October of that year, and only a handful of resorts were back open. 

We told our loved ones that we were traveling for Christmas that year, gave them the details of where we were going and how much it was, and invited them to join us. That year, no one joined us, and our kids complained, and some thought we had lost the Christmas Spirit. 

We told our kids it wasn't about the gifts they received. Christmas is a season of great joy, and it is a time to celebrate God's ultimate gift: the birth of Jesus. And that does not come in a box wrapped under a tree. 

After the trip, our kids said it was the best Christmas ever. We snorkeled, saw sharks, ate delicious food, and danced the night away as other guests sang terrible karaoke. Our family and friends wished they had joined us after seeing our photos and hearing adventures.

We travel every year for Christmas. Some will join us every year, and others alternate between staying home to visit family. Tara finds a fantastic house somewhere and lets everyone know the cost per room.

We have traveled to top-rated bucket list destinations like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. We saw monkeys in our Christmas tree in Costa Rica and Christmas in Paris. We've experienced cruises, skied the Rockies, watched dolphins in Key West, drank mojitos at the Havana Club in Cuba, and so many more.

Here is my advice to you. Give the gift of presence over presents. You will find there is no better gift than the gift of being together and living life with those you love. 

Love. Work. Travel. Repeat.

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