I love the quote from George Carlin: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” And that is how I love to live my life, by finding experiences that do just that – take my breath away. You’ve heard it all before, I’m sure; experiences, not things. And this is why I have a never-ending mammoth bucket list, it is why I jump in the car and travel all over the country (and further) to take part in activities that might not last very long, but have a long lasting impact on me.
With Christmas comes an expectation and desire for giving. We can use this opportunity to bestow on our loved ones things that they need or just might like, practical things, pretty things and fun things. That’s all fine, very fine indeed, and and I do love a nice new something-or-other at Christmas-time (read my “things” gift guide for this year). But how about spending your money on experiences instead? As someone who adores receiving experience vouchers for Christmas, birthdays, or whenever possible really, I think they are a brilliant present idea.
They might look expensive on paper (or on the screen…), but assuming you have chosen your activity provider carefully, what you are getting is the chance to take part in an otherwise out-of-bounds activity with all the equipment, instruction, expertise and safety paraphernalia thrown in. A ready-made bucket list tick, an opportunity to try something new, or just a really fun day out. And the best thing about experience vouchers? You can buy two and go with your favourite person to do the activity in question! I don’t think that’s cheating…
With this in mind, and based on the wonderful adventures I’ve had here in the UK, I have compiled a list of ten experiences that would make great gift ideas for your loved ones this Christmas, or any time of year in fact. In no particular order…
An Experiences Gift Guide
01. Tank Driving
There are driving experiences and then there are driving experiences. This one is about driving a tank – an actual tank, around a muddy field, at quite some speed if you’re up for it! You start off with the hatch open, driving the 17-tonne FV432 tank around a marked track with ruts and hills and puddles, and then get to try with the hatch closed using only the periscope to navigate, which is way harder than I imagined. Serious fun.
02. ZipWorld Velocity
Face first down a mile-long cable at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour… oh yes! Did you know that Wales has the longest zip line in Europe and the fastest in the world? It really is the zip line to ruin all other zip lines, and it comes very highly recommended by me. I felt like superman whooshing down into the valley, it was definitely the biggest and best zip line I’ve ever been on.
03. Track Cycling
Track cycling is one of those sports that absolutely captures the British nation. A track taster session would make the perfect gift for anyone who loves cycling themselves or even just watching the cycling on the telly – find out what it’s really like to cycle on a banked track with no gears and no brakes on a fixed wheel bike. The track taster at Lee Valley is a fun, one-off experience where you can ride the Olympic velodrome track, what better place to make your debut?!
04. Axe Throwing
Throwing an axe is more about technique than it is about power, and so this is one for anyone. Better with a group of friends to add in a bit of competition, you learn about the axes before having plenty of time to try your hand at scoring points on the targets. Those that can make their arms and hands do exactly what they want them to will win! And yes, they have kid’s axes available 🙂
05. Supercar Driving
Driving days are possibly one of the earliest forms of experience voucher you could buy, and while they do cost a pretty penny, you do get a fabulous opportunity to drive an amazing supercar (or two, or three) around a track. Whatever car you dream of driving, there will be an experience for you. I was beaming from ear to ear when I got out of that Lambo – a childhood dream fulfilled.
My caving experience was more about facing my fears than ticking something off my bucket list, but even though I was slightly terrified and a little bit emotional, it was an amazing experience that would make the perfect present for the right person. Caving proper involves walking and crawling through narrow passageways and scrambling over rocks. And expect to come back to the surface covered in mud!
07. Indoor Skydiving
It may just look like a vertical tunnel with a fan at the bottom, but indoor skydiving is a serious adrenaline rush. You only need a couple of minutes to get hooked. Apparently you can do it with a VR headset on now too, which sounds like it would be very cool indeed.
This is possibly the funnest water sport of them all, flyboarding is basically strapping jets of water to the bottom of your feet, and using them to soar above the water and fly around. Not a particularly easy sport to get the hang of, but such amazing fun, nothing else I’ve done compares to that feeling of lifting out of the water thanks to a jet pack. The perfect present for anyone who loves water sports, but I recommend a warmer day!
09. Ice Climbing
Did you know you can try ice climbing, with full on ice axes and crampons, in Covent Garden? (And several other locations across the country.) It takes indoor climbing to a whole new level, but you don’t have to have any prior experience to give it a go. Equipment is provided and instruction is excellent. Be prepared for aching arms afterwards, though, I could barely change my t-shirt!
10. Via Ferrata
Climbing doesn’t just have to be heading straight up a wall or cliff and then abseiling back down. Via ferrata opens up the whole mountain, a step up from hiking and scrambling thanks to fixed ladders, cables, and bridges to take you on a journey. The Via Ferrata Xtreme at Honister Slate Mine is a great (and very popular) introduction, with full instruction and guidance during the experience. There is a version inside the cave system too which is perfect for when the weather outside isn’t quite as beautiful as it should be.
I have had the pleasure of doing all of the above myself, and recommend them based on my own experience. If you have any questions about one or more of them, or want the details of the company I did a particular activity with, please feel free to ask, I’m very happy to help.
And… if you have any suggestions for my ever-expanding bucket list, or know of a way I can get some of the more difficult things ticked off (you know, like get to the north pole), then please get in touch – I need to hear from you!