The holidays are here, and most everyone on the planet has been poring through catalogs and websites, searching for the present that will make this year’s holiday season the best one yet for their loved ones. I’m guilty. Every time I see my son on his iPad looking at something he likes, I make a mental note to check it out and see if the purchase is doable. We all want our kids to be happy, right? But lately, I’ve been asking myself whether buying stuff is the way to go. In all the holidays to date, the best present I’ve ever received was time on the water. (Heck, it eventually led me to this career.)
I was 2 when my dad bought his wooden Downeaster and introduced our family of five to life beyond the backyard. Whenever there was free time between the kids’ activities, we were on the boat. Often we headed out, and sometimes we just hung out. But no matter how the day went, the family was together, and we lived in the moment.
These days, a lot of people look at the outside world inside through a backlit screen. For me, it’s odd to watch a video of someone doing something cool on the water.
“In all the holidays to date, the best present I’ve ever received was time on the water.”
I’m sitting in a walled-in room when there is a warm, sunny day with variable wind just outside my door. Perhaps the screen-watching feels so wrong because my brother and I often left our house early in the morning and didn’t return until dinnertime, spending our days riding bikes or going to our nearby pond to hand-line fish for sunnies and carp. I look back now and realize that mine was an enviable childhood. Sure, we had the distraction of television, and cable back then offered 37 channels of mindless stuff to watch, but it didn’t rule our existence.
For years now, I preferred to spend my on-the-water time offshore, where my phone doesn’t work, my computer is nowhere to be found, and I’m back to living in the moment. I find that these real-life respites are the happiest too. Whether it’s listening to water run across a boat’s hull or seeing a pod of porpoises pop up to say hi, my experiences are what I usually talk about with friends, more so than my stuff.
So, before you pull the trigger on that new must-have device that impedes your family’s togetherness, how about giving everyone a voucher for a day on the water? Sometimes the best present is simply being present.