Inexpensive but meaningful gifts for the Holidays

If Holidays are the most wonderful time of the year why do so many of us feel incredibly stressed and overwhelmed? The advertising industry reminds us each year that we should use this time to reflect on our blessings and show appreciation to our loved ones…by buying a bunch of stuff. As if an exchange of material possessions is the only way to show love. It is one way if your bank account has a bunch of commas but for the rest of us living on a budget, there is a ton of other ways to show that we care. This holiday season if you haven’t done all your shopping just yet and are up to doing something a little different, I have a few suggestions on giving inexpensive but meaningful gifts to your loved ones.

  1. Give the gift of life, (no not a baby), a flower bulb is a wonderful way to give a gift that keeps on giving. If your friend is the busy type start with a cactus to make for an easier maintenance and to preserve its survival.
  2. Make a photo album – in today’s digital world, we take way too many pictures that are almost instantly forgotten and end up in some folder on our phone or computer hard drive. A photo album that can be touched is much more precious and is a wonderful accessory to any coffee table.
  3. Make a video clip – create a short but sweet compilation of videos for a special friend of family member.  Ask friends and relatives to share a funny memory or simply send their love. This is a gift that everyone will love and the only price you pay is the time it takes to make it.
  4. Give a voucher for a future day of fun. This doesn’t have to be an expensive outing, it can be a surprise picnic by a lake, a walk around town with a relaxing people-watching session in your favorite coffee shop or a free festival or concert.
  5. Put it in words – write an old fashioned letter where you share your warm and true feelings about the people you care about. The note can be comical (preferably not poking too much fun at the recipient), it can be emotional where you remind them just how much they mean to you or it can reminisce about a memory you two shared. There is something extra special about receiving a handwritten note. Your friends will surely love the gesture.
  6. Framed photo or inspirational quote – this simple but sweet gift will put a smile on anyone’s face. I mean who has enough inspirational quotes?
  7. Infused vodka jars – yea that’s right. This one should go to that one special friend that will appreciate it. Here are some step by step instructions
  8. Create a recipe book – there’s something old school and cool about getting a bunch of awesome recipes craftily put together in a little book. This one is great for those who love to cook.
  9. An act of service – offer your services to babysit kids, dogs, cats, fish…. or maybe a grass cutting session for your auntie or a snow cleaning for grandma. You know what your closest folks like to do the least, offer to help them with it.
  10. Last but not least tell them you love them. So many people yearn to hear these three words yet would never ask for it. Even if you come from a family that doesn’t often share their feelings, they may walk away feeling strange at first but those three words will resonate and leave an imprint on their heart whether they want it or not. You know what, they always want it. 

There is so much more to life than working and spending our hard earned money. Life is about experiences, adventures, lessons and of course love. If you come from a family of gift exchangers it may be difficult to go the minimalist route at first. Try it by explaining that either you wish to save money for a particular goal or that you don’t want to dip into your savings, maybe you would like to enjoy a simpler and more easy going holiday season for a change. If you do this you should be prepared not to receive as well. I promise this change will have lasting effects and the more you practice it, the more you will enjoy a simpler and more relaxed holiday season. After all, the Holidays are about love, peace, and unity.

Sending you love, peace, and good vibrations, this holiday season and always.


Is your relationship empowering or restraining you?

It is my great pleasure to share with you an inspiring and moving story submitted by Elliot from This narrative is about an intimate experience that propelled Elliot to question whether his relationship was empowering or restricting his destiny. Come along on a journey of personal discovery and self-realization.

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Throughout our lives we experience a number of different relationships. Almost immediately this conjures up images of friends, siblings, children, parents, and the most intimate partners in our lives.

Yet there is one relationship we all have which is often overlooked, it is the relationship we have with ourselves.
This relationship is the one that arguably needs the most nurturing because the depth of your own emotional health will determine not only your own levels of happiness, but it will also spill outwards and will impact upon the lives of those that are closest to you.
We shouldn’t expect people around us to bring us happiness that we crave because all this does is heap unfair expectations and condition-based love upon the people we are supposed to care about the most.
What we should actually aspire to become is a self-reliant being that radiates love and warmth and who is giving in nature, rather than being a negative drain who expects others to fill the gaps that exist within us.
Whether we want to accept it or not, we are the ones that are primarily responsible for our own individual happiness.
But what happens when we find ourselves on the negative end of an emotionally draining relationship? What happens when a person that we love dearly chooses to drag us down and hold us back from the person we believe ourselves to be?
Often when this happens we find ourselves trying to rationalize their behavior, and by doing so we slowly come to believe that the things they say and do both are acceptable and true. Yet if we are not careful we can be completely oblivious to the damage this does over time, and we can find ourselves ‘becoming a shell of our former selves’.
Many years ago I found myself in such a position. I was young, inexperienced, and I wanted to believe that the special lady in my life spoke from a position of love and sincerity and that she had my best interests at heart. And so when I told her of my dream to go backpacking for the very first time, she responded by telling me that I ‘could never do that’ and that I was ‘just a dreamer’.
The more I heard these words, the more I started to believe them. My dream began to slip away.
One Saturday afternoon when I was out on the town, I wandered into a bookshop and instinctively found myself walking towards the travel section. I picked up a Thailand travel guide and began to finger my way through the pages. I saw words written in Thai script, I read about different types of guesthouses, and I looked at photographs of white beaches, turquoise waters, and dramatic limestone cliffs.
The dream that I’d buried deep inside came rising back to the surface and I imagined myself wandering with a backpack through Thailand. My heart seemed to swell in my chest, glowing intensely in a bright and beautiful orange.
But no, I couldn’t do that could I. I’m just a dreamer. These were the words of a person who knew me well and who I loved dearly.
She had to be right. Didn’t she?
My heart stopped pounding and the glowing sensation disappeared, and after returning the book to the shelf I turned around and walked out of the shop.
For the whole of the following week, I felt numb and there was an empty feeling inside that I just couldn’t quite put my finger on. I sat eating dinner with my girlfriend one evening and told her once again about my desire to travel to Thailand, discovering temples in the north and hopping from island to island in the south. Once again she just laughed and told me that it wasn’t who I was.
But I was beginning to believe differently.
As a passionate music fan, I’ve always had a means of escape. Whenever I play key songs I can close my eyes and disappear to another time and another place, and no matter what my present reality is, I can always create another for myself. And so this is exactly what I began to do, and it so happened that I found one song in particular that when being played I was able to close my eyes and instantly conjure up a specific place in Thailand that I’d read about. It was a waterfall which was in the center of an island that was located in the Gulf of Thailand.
I began to listen to this song every evening and I would close my eyes and instantly be transported to those waterfalls.
For three minutes and fifty seconds of each and every day, I became a traveler. But the song would always end, drawing me back to my dreaded reality.
Several weeks later I walked past the very same bookshop and once again I felt the calling. This time I walked inside, I picked up the book, and I walked over to the counter and paid for it with a massive smile on my face.
Something was happening. Something was changing.
I was beginning to listen to myself and to my inner calling.
Still, I got called a dreamer. Still, I got told I couldn’t do it. But I kept reading that book and I kept listening to my song, every damn day.
Soon after this, my girlfriend had suddenly become an ex-girlfriend. How and why this came to an end is irrelevant, but what is relevant is that within a few months of the breakup I found myself on a plane heading east.
I touched down in Bangkok, walked out of the airport, and stood at the side of the road with my backpack leaning against my legs. My return flight was two months away and I had no plans, no destination, and no idea what I was doing.
But I was there.
I ventured north to discovered those temples; I journeyed south and hopped from island to island. One day during the fifth week of my trip I found myself on the island located in the Gulf of Thailand that had occupied my dreams for so long. I gave some money to one of the locals and he drove me out towards the center of the island on the back of his motorbike.
Half an hour later he was accompanying me up into the hills. He cleared a path using a machete, helping me avoid snakes along the way. Some time later we reached the top of the hill. I smiled at my new friend and asked him to wait for me. He smiled back and asked how much time I needed.

“About three minutes and fifty seconds,” I said.

I stepped into the running water and felt the cool and refreshing liquid wash over my feet. As I edged closer towards where the water fell gracefully from the cliff face and cascaded down onto the waiting rocks below, I sat down and pulled out a CD walkman from my bag. Adjusting my headphones into place, I looked out into the bright and beautiful late afternoon sun, and then I pressed the play button.
It was my song.
And here I was.

Only I wasn’t dreaming. And I did do it after all.

Check out where you’ll find a real mixed-bag of content. In the articles section, you’ll find everything from life thoughts and personal development, to men’s topics, travel diaries, and great places to visit. You’ll also find stories about some of my more ‘out there’ adventures. But is about much more than this, because it also very much about all the amazing people that we share this world with. I take great pride in bringing you their stories too.
Please also check out the photography and video sections, and if you like what you see and read then please do feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I also have a newsletter which you can sign up for, and it would be a pleasure to have you as part of the community.Be sure  to visit Elliot’s blog at

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Inspirational Quote of the Day

How to Live Awake

Every so often I find something so magical that I can barely contain my excitement. I know I’ve come across something good when I feel it pulsating through my soul. Like an onlooker, I watch in amazement as this new wonder unravels beautiful and stimulating ideas in my mind. When I discover something that moves me I can’t wait to share it with you. Recently, I fell in love with a podcast upon which I stumbled accidentally (although I know it was no accident at all, in fact, I am certain there is a deeper purpose behind this discovery.) For those who are not familiar with podcasts, click here to learn more.

The podcast I’ve been playing on repeat is called Live Awake. It is created and narrated by Sarah Blondin, an incredibly talented writer with a soothing and captivating voice but even more importantly a wonderful and powerful message. Sarah’s vision for Live Awake is to “help bring you back to your grounded center through reflection and meditation.” She hopes that her podcast “lends a new outlook to some of life’s hard landscapes.”

Live Awake shows us that “perspective is everything and by choosing to live awake to all that blooms in front of us we begin to live a more empowered life where joy becomes our natural state of being rather than something we occasionally stumble upon.”

I listen to Live Awake in the mornings while I get ready to face the world and at times in the evenings as I unwind from the emotional clutter of the day. Sarah’s thoughts are near and dear to my heart and her gentle encouragement helps me regain balance, clarity, and love.

I invite you to lose yourself in the wonder that is Live Awake. I promise it will change your perspective in one or multiple aspects of your life. Live Awake can be downloaded through the Podcast app on smartphones or portable audio devices. I encourage you to learn more about Sarah and Live Awake at

Sending you love, peace, and good vibrations

Sincerely, Alyana

Inspirational Quote of the Day