From flavors to smells, these presents promise to transport your loved ones to places far away.
In 2021, we saw the world of travel triumphantly begin to open back up after a year of bans, restrictions, and lockdowns. As COVID vaccines jabbed arms and travel bookings rose exponentially, people were eager to return to globetrotting. Yet despite the progress we’ve made, with the rise of new variants and limited access to the vaccine in various countries, the pandemic continues to rage on.
For the loved ones in your life who are not yet ready or comfortable to travel just yet, we’ve got the perfect gift ideas. The following presents promise to bring the traditions of China, the smells of Scandinavia, the taste of Japan, and the feel of Guatemala to your doorstep this holiday season—all without boarding a plane.
Top Picks for You
The Pantry Refresh Set by Diaspora Co.
Diaspora Co. was founded by Sana Javeri Kadri, who was born and raised in Mumbai, India. Javeri Kadri saw an opportunity to redefine India’s broken spice trade, which she saw as disadvantaging local farmers and delivering poor quality products that changed hands upwards of 10 times before reaching the consumer. In 2016, she booked a one-way flight to Mumbai and began market research and visiting over 40 local farms before starting Diaspora Co. with just one spice—the Pragati Turmeric. Today, Diaspora Co. sources over 30 single-origin spices from 150 farms across India and Sri Lanka; it prides itself on creating a fair-trade system where farmers are paid more than six times the average for their farming.
Beyond supporting local Indian and Sri Lankan farmers, Diaspora Co. delivers on its mission to bring high-quality spices to your kitchen. The Pantry Refresh Set ($65) includes single-origin cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger, pepper, and—of course—the spice that started it all, turmeric. Diaspora Co. guarantees same-year harvest spices, meaning that the cumin or coriander you ordered will have the utmost potency and freshness.
Coffee Gift Set by The Little Market
Founded by Hannah Skvarla and Lauren Conrad (yes, that Lauren Conrad of The Hills and Laguna Beach fame), The Little Market is a fair-trade marketplace that sells artisan-made products sourced globally. From handcrafted towels to hand-carved kitchen utensils, most of the products sold by The Little Market come from female artisans in countries such as Guatemala and India. The Coffee Gift Set ($100) is the perfect gift to bring the woodwork of Kenya, the coffee of Rwanda, and the craftsmanship of Morocco to your doorstep.
The New York Brunch Box by Goldbelly
For the self-proclaimed foodie in your life, look no further than Goldbelly. Whether it’s Top Chef-curated meal kits or food sent from the country’s most iconic restaurants—you really can’t go wrong with gifting someone a Goldbelly box this holiday season. For our gift guide, we decided to sample the New York Brunch box ($189), which delivers hand-rolled bagels, a homemade chocolate babka, sliced Nova salmon, roasted coffee beans, and all-natural cream cheese from the quintessential Jewish bakery: Russ & Daughters.
Russ & Daughters is a New York icon that first opened in 1914. Over 100 years later, this Jewish bakery and café are still run by members of the Russ family, who have kept the business going for four generations. To get the New York Brunch box delivered to your home is to taste the very culinary history of New York City and the Jewish cuisine that defined it. If you’re worried about the freshness of the food upon delivery, don’t be. Everything from the babka to the bagels (and yes, even the sliced salmon) arrived impossibly fresh.
INSIDER TIPPop the chocolate babka and bagels into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes to warm them up.
Airbnb Experiences Gift Card
One way to truly bring the world to your loved ones is by surprising them with an Airbnb Experiences gift card. Airbnb offers local-hosted experiences that range from a Mezcal masterclass in Mexico to meeting with a Panda nature guide in China. While you can book an in-person Airbnb Experience for countries worldwide, during the pandemic, Airbnb began offering virtual experiences to enjoy from home. Our favorites are this pasta-making class with Italian nonnas, a Harry Potter magic class in Edinburgh, and a virtual wildlife safari in South Africa. You can’t purchase an Airbnb gift card for a specific experience, but the cards can be used for any available in-person, or online experience, as well as an Airbnb stay.
INSIDER TIPAirbnb gift cards are digital-only, but you’ll find physical cards sold at stores like Target, CVS, Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Walmart, and Walgreens.
Daily Ritual Set by The Qi
The Qi (or Chi, meaning energy) is a woman-founded company specializing in selling whole-dried flowers sourced from China. For founder Lisa Li—who is originally from Beijing and transitioned from a burnt-out New Yorker working in the fashion industry to the founder of a wellness company—The Qi honors the Eastern holistic tradition and healing powers of drinking flowers.
Each of the organically grown and ethically-sourced flowers is hand-picked in China and individually packaged. When added to a cup of hot water, the flowers blossom to release a delicate tea flavor. From easing sore throats with the Chrysanthemum flower to boosting immunity with the Blue Lotus, drinking flowers is as beautiful as it is healthy. The Daily Ritual Set ($60) comes with a tasting box that includes the Shangri-La rose, Blue Lotus, and Royal Chrysanthemum tea. The set also includes a glass teacup and matching saucer (so you can see the flowers blossom in the water) as well as a bamboo tong (to keep the flowers submerged in the tea).
INSIDER TIPFor other ideas of how to use the flowers, check out the various recipes on The Qi, such as the Blue Lotus mooncakes or Rose jam.
Tis the Season(ing) Box by Fly By Jing
Fly By Jing is a woman-founded company that brings the flavors of Chengdu (the capital of China’s Sichuan province) to your kitchen. The “fly” of Fly By Jing gives a nod to the hole-in-the-wall eateries that are so popular in Chengdu they “attract people like flies,” while the “Jing” comes from the founder’s name, Jing Gao. For Gao—who was born in Chengdu, raised in Europe, and is now based in Los Angeles—Fly By Jing is personal. Having gone by Jenny most of her life in an effort to assimilate, Fly By Jing is Gao’s way of reclaiming the vibrancy of her heritage.
The Tis the Season(ing) Box ($120) brings Sichuan flavors to your doorstep. It includes a Zhong sauce, Mala spice mix, preserved black beans, 10-year aged black vinegar, 3-year aged Doubanjiang, Erjingtiao Chili, Tribute pepper, and Sichuan Chili crisp. While everything in the Tis the Season(ing) Box is phenomenal, the Sichuan Chili crisp is by far our favorite. This all-natural Sichuan chili sauce is crafted in Chengdu and brings a certain spicy crispiness to whatever it is you’re eating.
INSIDER TIPIf you want to try your hand at cooking traditional Sichuan cuisine, the Fly By Jing website shares recipes that are worth trying.
Destination-Inspired Candles by Skandinavisk and Bohéme
Because scent is the strongest tie to memory, gifting a destination-inspired candle is a special way to evoke the feel of a favorite country or place. The natural beauty of Scandinavia inspires the Explore Gift Set by Skandinvasik ($65). Apple and pear blossoms blend with orchard fruits and red currants to capture the smells of Scandinavia’s Fjords in the spring. Heather, thyme, ground berries, and tree sap mix transport your olfactory glands to the Swedish highlands. Crabapple, water mosses, green leaves, and dog rose evoke the smells of the many uninhabited islands that surround Norway.
While Skandinavisk’s candles transport you to the wilds of Scandinavia, Bohéme’s Wanderlust Collection candles ($49 each) are inspired by countries around the world. Notes of Earl Grey, honeysuckle, rose, black currant, and bergamot are present in the Notting Hill candle, reminiscent of a thriving market day in London’s popular neighborhood, capturing the smells of the local fare and flowers. The scent of agave, cactus blossom, amber, patchouli, and incense in the Joshua Tree candle, capture the artistic spirituality of this California desert haunt. In the Arabia candle, saffron, sandalwood, cypress, and cassis notes seek to embrace the luxury and richness of the Arabian Peninsula’s vibrant souks.
The Cozy Box by Globein
Globein is a monthly subscription box that delivers a curated mix of artisan-made products to your door. Each box includes four to six items tied together by a theme, such as self-care, or entertaining guests. All items are ethically-sourced and verified by the Fair-Trade Association to ensure that artisans are fairly compensated for their work. While you can gift your loved ones an ongoing subscription to Globein, another option is to purchase a single artisan box from their online marketplace. Our favorite is the Cozy Box ($62), which just so happens to be Globein’s best-selling box. With the Cozy Box, which comes in a handwoven basket from Mexico, your loved one can snuggle up in a 100% cotton scarf from Thailand and sip rich hot cocoa from Ghana in a hand-painted mug from Morocco.
Wanderful is an expansive women’s travel community that connects female travelers through on and offline events, such as the Women in Travel Summit, chapters across 50+ cities, an online portal, and Wanderfest (the first women’s outdoor travel festival). A Wanderful membership ($29.99/month) gives the traveler in your life access to the exclusive member app, Wanderful dream board, daily virtual events, chapter gatherings, community deals, and more.
During the pandemic, Wanderful’s online community expanded to include over 3,000 members who come together to discuss their mutual love of globetrotting, offer invaluable travel advice, and stay abreast of industry changes. Whether your loved one has plans to travel or simply wants to connect with other like-minded travelers, a Wanderful membership is a perfect gift.
Tippsy Sake Box
Chances are you’ve heard of sake and may have even heard it referred to as Japanese wine. In fact, this traditional Japanese beverage couldn’t be more different from wine as it is made from rice, with the starch of the rice converted into sugars and then fermented in alcohol.
Sake is a dynamic drink that is a product of the region it hails from; it can be enjoyed at warm or cold temperatures and complement various foods (based on the type of sake you’re drinking). To bring this traditional Japanese flavor home, Tippsy is a subscription box that delivers six curated bottles of sake. Each box contains 10-oz bottles of sake with cards that share the story behind them, tips on drinking (such as whether it’s best served hot or cold), and suggested food pairings. You can surprise loved ones with a reoccurring monthly membership (starting at $99 every three months) or an individual Tippsy box ($109).
INSIDER TIPEnjoy the sake samples alongside experts by watching Tippsy’s virtual tasting videos.
The Leather Bag from Casa Flor Ixcaco
Located in Guatemala, Casa Flor Ixcaco was founded in 1996 when Teresa Ujpan Perez formed an artisan group of female weavers. With a mission to uphold the art of traditional Mayan backstrap weaving, Casa Flor Ixcaco sells handmade products that earn a sustainable income for the local weavers (80% of all profits go to the artists’ family and the remaining 20% go towards supporting the artisan group). Notably, Casa Flor Ixcaco uses naturally-derived dyes (made from local plants and fruits like guava, beets, and cherries) and organic cotton grown from plants in their very own community.
To buy a handwoven bag or scarf from Casa Flor Ixcaco is to support women and Indigenous Mayan artisans’ work, which can often be mass-produced and sold in souvenir shops for a fraction of the cost. We love the leather bag ($112) from Casa Flor Ixcaco, which comes in various natural colors. Every item from Casa Flor Ixcaco includes a tag with a photo of the woman who made it, how long it took her to craft the item, and the various fruits and plants used to create the natural dyes for its coloring.