Inspirational Gifts That Keep on Giving to Connect Long Distance Family and Friends

Inspirational Gifts That Keep on Giving to Connect Long Distance Family and Friends

heart shaped necklace
A simple, heartfelt necklace | Image courtesy Etsy seller meitaltoledo

On the eve of our high school graduation, my three best friends and I knew we wanted to do something special to mark the end of an era. We would all be spreading out across the country to attend different schools—the days of watching One Tree Hill at Andrea’s after school or cheering on Lea at her volleyball games were over. But, regardless of what roads we would travel in life, we were bonded, a team. So, we came up with the idea of a “traveling necklace.”

Inspired by one of our favorite movies, The Sisterhood of the traveling Pants, we all pitched in to buy a necklace that would be shared amongst the four of us. Buying jewelry to fit four unique tastes was no easy feat, but we eventually settled on a simple gold chain with a symbolic heart. Each one of us would wear the necklace for two weeks at a time and then send it to the next person—except Pamela, who always managed to stretch her two weeks into three.

Over the years, the necklace has journeyed with us all, from my backpacking trip across Europe to Pamela’s volunteer stint at a medical center in Honduras, while Lea danced the night away at a music festival, and even Andrea’s walk down the aisle to her true love. Together or apart, the necklace connects us through all of life’s big moments. That’s the best part about meaningful, shared gifts—every time I open my mailbox to that necklace, it’s like receiving a much-needed hug from all three of my best girlfriends. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Start Your Own Traveling Tradition

As much as we loved the movie and thought our friendship was magical, my girlfriends and I knew there was no way we would all be able to share a single pair of jeans—not with Lea’s Salsa-dancing booty, Pamela’s long torso, and my extra five inches of height. But a necklace? Perfect! It’s easy to mail back and forth, and there would be no issues with fit.

Friendship journal
Friendship is forever… | Image courtesy Etsy seller CulturalBindings

To start your own tradition, you’ll need:

Once you’ve gathered your besties:

1. Introduce the idea. If your friends are anything like mine, they’ll be super excited to share a necklace and keep in touch with old-fashioned letters.

2. Buy your necklace. This might take a bit of compromise, especially if you have someone in your group like Andrea who’s allergic to certain metals or Pamela who loves statement jewelry. But if you can find a necklace that your entire group agrees on, you can do anything!

3. Write out your rules. You’ll want to have the basics written down, like a rotation schedule, how long each person will get the necklace, and some fun ones of your own. Here are a few of our special rules:

  • You may never wear silver jewelry with the gold necklace—that’s just tacky.
  • Only the wearer of the necklace may take it on or off. No help from boyfriends
  • You can’t think you look ugly while wearing the necklace.

4. Host a necklace ceremony party. This is one of my favorite parts of our tradition. Each year we get together to hold a “traveling Necklace Ceremony.” We each read a letter from the box of notes we’ve sent over the years, pulling them out randomly so we can reminisce about that boy Lea was dating back in 2012 or what test Andrea was studying for last Christmas.

Celebrate the Un-Hallmark Moments

Our necklace travels between people and places, but milestone letters travel through time. I first heard of this idea at my aunt’s baby shower. Every guest was given a blank card and assigned a different milestone for which they would write the baby a letter.

gold gift box
A modern treasure box | Image courtesy Amazon seller Wald Imports

But our version of these milestone letters is a bit different—what about the “milestones” there are no hallmark cards for? Lea came up with a great play on this classic baby shower game for her last birthday. Instead of asking us to write her letters for birthdays or a future wedding, she asked us to write her letters for those out-of-the-box moments when she would truly need our support.

Some of the milestones Lea included were:

  • When she gets her heartbroken—and couldn’t we all use a card for this one…
  • When she lands that big promotion at work
  • When she takes her first solo trip overseas
  • When she just plain misses her best friends

Lea assigned a milestone to each of us and asked us to write her a letter for that moment in her life, then she collected them in a beautiful, wooden treasure box. I loved the idea of writing a letter for my girlfriend to help her celebrate or get through a big moment in her life that I likely wouldn’t be around for. It was wonderful to think we would be contributing to her future memories regardless of where we were physically when they happened.

A Tried and Tested Cookbook Curated with Love

A traveling gift for kitchen pros or amateurs alike is a curated cookbook. Pamela, who I mentioned isn’t great at staying on top of her calendar, is great at whipping up delicious desserts in the kitchen. She inspired this idea.

First things first, gather your group of pot stirrers and ingredients choppers. For Pamela, it was her siblings. She’s in St. Maarten to attend medical school, her sister is in Vancouver studying to be a counselor, and her brother is living in Toronto—they’re perfectly spread out to appreciate a traveling gift shared amongst the family.

recipe cards
A blank cookbook, awaiting inspiration | Image courtesy Amazon seller Cooking Gifts

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A blank cookbook or recipe journal
  • Writing utensils
  • A favorite recipe
  • A group to share it with

And then the gifting begins! Pamela had the book first, so she wrote out the recipe for her heavenly Oreo cheesecake. She included the ingredient list and baking instructions, then mailed it off to her sister in Vancouver, who tried her hand at recreating Pamela’s famous dessert. After giving it a go, her sister added her own notes to the recipe, like substituting chocolate chip cookies for Oreos and not forgetting to set the oven timer. She added some photos of the finished result as well—a few snaps of her serving Pamela’s cheesecake to her midterm study group. Then, she added her own recipe for a new dish to the book before sending it on to Pamela’s brother, who would follow suit: trying out his sister’s new recipe, adding his notes, including photos of his attempt at his sister’s dish, writing down a recipe of his own, and then sending it back to Pamela to keep the circle going.

The awesome thing about a curated cookbook is that not only are you putting together a family recipe journal, but you’re taking the time to connect. How fun will it be for Pamela to get it back with two brand new recipes, her sister’s fun variation on the cheesecake, and a photo of her brother with a burnt pan because he forgot to grease it.

Gifts that travel with you through life and between family and friends are especially meaningful because they instill and inspire a connection and a bond that’s at the root of all gift giving. I’m never more excited to check my mailbox than when I know it’s my turn to receive the necklace.

And every time I catch a glimpse of that silver chain around my neck, I’m reminded of the deep bond I share with my girlfriends back home. The best gifts aren’t always the ones that cost the most money, but the ones with a personal connection—a connection I’m reminded of every time I latch a certain, special necklace around my neck.

What gift traditions do you have with your loved ones? And which one of the traveling gifts would you most want to receive? Let us know by connecting with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram.

Jeni W

Jeni W

Jeni is a music-loving, crafty boy mom of 2. When she's not crawling on the floor after her toddler, she can be found DIY-ing up a storm, coffee cup in hand—there's always a reason to party in her world.
Jeni W
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