Thoughts & Ideas

Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time For Travelling Families

Christmas Without “Stuff”.

There’s a recurring theme amongst travelling families… A lack of things. I mean, it’s quite obvious that there’s only so many things you can take with you when you’re living out of anything from a backpack to a bus, either way, space is limited.

While we haven’t started travelling Australia full time just yet, it’s a family experience we’re working towards, so in recognition of that, we’re trying to reduce our “stuff”. The reality of our hoarding and overindulgence as consumers has been obvious to us for quite some time, so this year at christmas we’re reflecting on what we really need, and what is needed by travelling families.

It really comes down to presence vs presents.

As we sort through our things and choose what to sell, throw or donate, it has become quite a confronting experience, definitely something I’ll be writing more about for sure.

The Future of Christmas for Our Family Vs The Past:

It’s the 1st December today, that leaves just a few short weeks before the big red man makes his appearance here, and until this year we’ve built an expectation of quite a large number of presents under the tree for our kids. They don’t get as much as some kids, but they sure seem to get a whole lot more than many each year….. By the time we do our shopping and family added theirs, somehow it always just worked it’s way to a mountain of toys. Each Christmas Eve as I wrap the presents (yep I’m renowned for leaving things like that to the last minute!) I’d take a look and think “this is probably too much”.

So what about this year?  What do we value the most this year? What do Travelling Families DO about Christmas?

When you can’t give mountains of gifts at Christmas,  purely because you know they will just become a burden to your desire to travel, you have no choice but to recreate the meaning of what Christmas is to your family. We’re not a religious family in the sense that we go to church, and for even religious families I feel that Christmas has been over-commercialised, but beyond religion, what is it that our family, and I guess most travelling families wish to appreciate? My guess is that it’s presence.

Why I think Presence beats Presents!
  1. Memories last longer than things – Spending time together and creating a tradition will stay with your children forever. Gift experiences either as a family or individuals.
  2. Purposeful Gifts are more wonderful to recieve – I am sure most travelling families are still gift givers, but it’s more important to give useful, thoughtful gifts which are probably a world apart from gifts that they once purchased “just because” each year.
  3. It can be less expensive – Depending on how you redefine Christmas it can be much less expensive not having to buy a stack of presents to place under a tree. For some it’s not necessarily less expensive to share presence and not presents, after all if you refer back to point 1, you may do something as crazy as starting a tradition of taking a helicopter flight over gorges every christmas, or scuba diving in an exotic destination, those experiences will still cost a fair amount of money, but at least it’s not money spent on plastic “stuff” that will only be thrown away.
  4. It teaches children to be appreciative – or for that matter it teaches all to be appreciative. When a pile of toys and gadgets isn’t an automatic result of Christmas day, it’s much easier to appreciate the gifts you do recieve.
  5. Love and togetherness – is the best Present EVER!
I’m looking forward to this new chapter of life for our family. We try to raise our children to be great citizens and I really believe that by making Christmas less about “things” and more about togetherness it can only be a good thing! When families choose to leave their consumerist lives behind either for a short time or forever, they are choosing presence regardless. I truly feel that time with loved ones cannot be replaced with a gift of any value.

This post has been part of a Group Writing Project with other amazing travelling families – You can find their writings below:

Merry Christmas
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Loreena Walsh

Loreena Walsh

Loreena is Founder of Little Aussie Travellers, Australia's leading blog dedicated to family travel around the country. An avid explorer, writer, photographer, nature lover, she's dedicated to inspiring through travel and stories.


  1. […] Little Aussie Travellers: Presence vs Presents Christmas Time for Travelling Families […]

  2. […] Little Aussie Travelers – Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Travelling Families […]

  3. December 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm — Reply

    I LOVE your Christmas pic at the bottom of your post! And I wholeheartedly agree…the children do appreciate their few gifts SO much more than a heaping pile of them. We’re seen both sides and the simple gift giving is SO much better!

    • December 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm — Reply

      Thanks Susan. That picture is about 6 months old now, but I’m yet to capture another while they are all smiling. You need a miracle to photograph 3 children all looking at the camera looking natural with smiles I sometimes think :) I’m really excited for this year, the number of things they receive will be much fewer, but I’m hoping that we can open up some wonderful dialogue about gift giving and the meaning of togetherness at christmas. The kids have actually had a great time downsizing their “stuff” and I think we lose sight that excess things can be just as overwhelming for kids as it gets for us. Thanks for dropping by :)

  4. […] Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Travelling Families  […]

  5. December 2, 2011 at 3:42 am — Reply

    […] Little Aussie Travellers: Presence vs Presents Christmas Time for Travelling Families […]

  6. December 2, 2011 at 8:39 am — Reply

    Love the holiday card! Thanks for noting that travelling families to give, but usually not heaps of material goods. It’s our first year doing this, but we’re hoping it’s the most meaningful Christmas yet.

  7. December 2, 2011 at 11:51 am — Reply

    You will be amazed with how much easier it is to walk away from “Stuff” and move on. Travelling is the best thing we have ever done! Packing up and selling off everything is such a great feeling.

    Love your idea of “Presence v’s Presents” – its the idea of being with family that matters more then giving gifts.

    Love your three smiling cheeky children!


  8. […] Travelers- Gift giving while living a simpler life Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Travelling […]

  9. December 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm — Reply

    Beautiful picture and I love your idea of presence over presents! It’s amazing how much kids can appreciate very little!

  10. […] Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Travelling Families… […]

  11. December 3, 2011 at 11:15 pm — Reply

    Love and togetherness are the best! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

  12. December 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm — Reply

    […] Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Travelling Families… […]

  13. December 19, 2011 at 5:46 am — Reply

    Absolutely LOVE your 5 reasons why you think ‘Presence beats Presents’! We definitely value love and togetherness and are embracing that ourselves this year in spades.Traveling families do tend to ‘get’ the ‘less stuff’ thing more. Hope you have a great Christmas.

  14. Poverty for Christmas | The Nomadic Family
    March 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm — Reply

    […] Presence vs Presents – Christmas Time for Traveling Families  […]

  15. Janet
    August 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm — Reply

    Thanks for posting this. We will be heading your way during the holidays and I’ve been trying to figure out how we’ll handle Christmas and such esp. since my kids are still pretty young. This is all helpful and I really like the family blogs.


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