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A gift of experiences

What do you give the person who has everything?

Robert Sharpe, of Out Adventures, says giving an adventure can be as simple as buying a gift card. Credit: Courtesy of Out Adventures
The holidays are all about the giving and receiving of great stuff – food, books, toys or clothes – but what about great memories? “Experiential giving” is an increasingly popular trend that sees loved ones getting a great day of new experiences instead of something that might gather dust on a shelf.
 
Life Experiences is a company that sells packages for brewery tours, wine tasting, cooking classes, Victorian high tea or even something called the Xtreme Hummer Adventure, all available at kiosks in Shoppers Drug Mart. Meanwhile, there are ever more flash sales on weekend getaways, hot-air balloon rides and more through discount sites like Groupon.
 
“Most of my friends use Groupon,” says Robert Sharp, co-founder of Out Adventures, a Toronto-based adventure tour company for gay and lesbian travellers. One of Sharp’s trips would make for an incredible experience, yes?
 
“Not to shoot myself in the foot here,” Sharp laughs, “but I think our trips might be a little big for something like that. It would be a very extravagant gift!” That said, Sharp has made up vouchers toward a dream vacation before and certainly would again. “It would be the same as getting a gift card at a store,” he says, recommending that “if you really want to go on an Out Adventure, let people know so they can all chip in perhaps.”
 
There are also one-night options, says Liz Devine, president of Rainbow High Vacations on Church St, suggesting that a New Year’s Eve night in Buenos Aires or Curaçao would make an incredible gift. One amazing experience, she says, would be a trip on the Mardi Gras drag train in March, which stops at many of the Australian locations made famous in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
 
As Sharp notes, this is all very high-end gifting, but Devine points out that while, yes, a $3,500 luxury cruise isn’t your average Christmas present, the sticker shock up front is eased by the all-inclusiveness of the package. With just one big payment up front, the rest of the trip abroad is light on the wallet.
 
Experience gifting isn’t just about getting away, however. “Give someone the gift of being a power tourist right here,” Devine says. Ways to see our city with fresh eyes could include a night in one of many terrific downtown bed and breakfasts, a luxurious spa day or, a favourite she recommends, a City Pass that grants access to the ROM, the CN Tower, the Science Centre, Casa Loma and the Metro Zoo. “Go see the gay penguins!” she laughs.
 
If this is all a bit too PG-rated, Ananda DeSilva, worker/owner at Toronto sex-superstore Come As You Are, recommends treating your loved one to a fascinating evening workshop. There’s everything from rope bondage 101 to improving your cunnilingus to anal play technique, all available online or with a gift certificate. The store also features books and card decks like “101 Nights of Great Sex” or “Passport to Pleasure,” which help you set up an at-home theme night your partner won’t soon forget.
 
Sure beats another sweater.