Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to the third and final installment of our 2016 gift guide, where we’ve curated the best in travel and travel-themed essentials  (here’s Part I & Part II). We’ve saved one of the absolute best gifts for last, so please scroll down to see how you can honor your favorite Wanderer by giving the world this holiday season.

For the Wistful Wanderer, who still talks about studying abroad back in high school, makes his host mother’s specialty all these years later, and prefers his movies with subtitles. We’ve got him covered, from bringing more of the world home to helping put it within reach of a new generation of Wanderers. 




Global Sounds via Amazon Music Unlimited, $79/year: Amazon’s new music streaming service has a world of musical possibilities on offer, from Putumayo’s Latin classics to the best in Afropop and Bhangra. Combine with the Amazon Tap Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($8.99) for a more immersive listening experience. 



V-Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the Cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking, $16.42: Two of the best chefs in the US have put their spin on global vegetarian flavors, creating dishes like Peruvian fries and vegetarian ramen that will become instant home-cooking classics.



Interwoven Ginko Quilt, $112: Sourced from fabrics from all over the globe, Interwoven’s collection of pillows, throws, and rugs put the world within everyday reach. This Ginko quilt is handmade in India, from vintage sari fabric that is machine washable and designed to age with grace and beauty. 



World Coffee Tour Gourmet Sampler, $89.99: This collection of coffee samples takes you “around the world in 80 sips,” with flavors from South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.




Make a Tribute Donation to The Wandering Scholar: Honor your favorite Wanderer with the ultimate gift this holiday season by making a tribute donation to the Wandering Scholar. Here’s what your contribution can do:

  • $2500 fully funds the trip of a lifetime for a Wandering Scholar
  • $1000 funds the cost of international airfare
  • $250 buys a camera to create a stunning documentation project
  • $100 covers the cost of a passport book (good for 10 years)
  • $50 scores a guidebook, field journal, and other essential items
  • $25 picks up gifts for a host family
  • $10 pays the entry fee for a museum or landmark

With every (fully tax-deductible) tribute donation, we will send a card commemorating your and your Wanderer’s support for our mission. read more →

Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to Part II of our gift guide (click here for Part I). We’ve curated the best in travel (and travel-themed) essentials for the Wanderers in your life. Follow the links to purchase via Amazon and your gift gives twice – with a portion of your purchase proceeds donated to The Wandering Scholar. 



For the Seasoned Wanderer, who has friends all over the world and the passport stamps (plus some amazing stories) to prove it. We’ve got her covered, from the moment she starts packing for her latest adventure until she returns home to plot the next one.




Leather Travel Wallet, $195: From Cuyana, the company that emphasizes having “fewer, better things,” comes this multi-purpose travel wallet. It holds a passport, boarding pass, credit cards, coins, notes and more. It also makes for a great evening clutch. And you can personalize it with her initials.








Bluesmart One – Smart Luggage, $414.28: This carry-on suitcase does everything. It meets TSA size requirements, has a built-in tracking device (allowing her to locate it anywhere in the world), and comes equipped with two USB hubs to charge her devices on the go. 









TOMS shoes, prices vary: This shoe brand has a variety of classic, comfortable styles for both men and women. As a bonus, when you purchase through the link your gift gives not twice but thrice – to your Seasoned Wanderer, to TWS through our affiliate program, and to a person in need thanks to TOMS “one for one” program. 








Everlane City Anorak, $98: Lightweight, water-resistant, and with a modern cut, this jacket perfectly balances utility and fashion. It’s perfect for navigating London’s rainy climates without sacrificing style. 










The Travel Book: A Journey through Every Country in The World, $31.25: This tome from Lonely Planet covers 230 countries, includes nearly 1000 photos, and will help her figure out where on the map she’ll head next.  read more →

Still looking for that perfect gift?  Welcome to our gift guide, where we’ve curated the best in travel (and travel-themed) essentials for the Wanderers in your life. Follow the links to purchase via Amazon and your gift gives twice – with a portion of your purchase proceeds donated to The Wandering Scholar.


For the First-Time Wanderer, who just got his passport and is counting down the days until he can put the inaugural stamp in it. We’ve got him covered, from the plane ride to his return stateside.




Baggu Canvas Backpack, $38: This lightweight but durable backpack will work as a carry-on, an everyday bag while on the road, and the perfect place to store souvenirs.


Infinity Pillow – Design Power Nap Pillow, Travel and Neck Pillow (Grey), $39: With economy seats getting smaller and smaller, it’s harder and harder to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. This versatile travel pillow, made of breathable bamboo fabric, can turn even the most uncomfortable middle seat into a dreamland.


Field Notes, $9.95: To record every sight, smell, sound and inspiration.

Fuji Instax Mini Camera, $99.99: For taking high-quality pictures and beautiful color prints on the spot.


Photo Credit: Everyday Ambassador

Everyday Ambassador: Make a Difference by Connecting in a Disconnected World, $11.99: This book provides a roadmap for building bridges in a disconnected world. Using four core values – empathy, patience, focus, and humility – Otto’s book helps turn ordinary people into change-making global citizens. 

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The events of the past two days have passed in as rapid of succession as the quick stream of words I struggle to follow in my host family’s conversation.
I write this as I flounder about in the viscous fluid of sleepy confusion which seems to thicken with being in an unfamiliar space. I have just woken up to the symphony of San Salvador. The infinite loop of chattering birds and their differing calls paint vibrant hues on the canvas of the mind, with the occasional growl of a motorbike hurtling forward on gravel roads, and the white noise buzz of (what sounds like to my American ears) cicadas, all accented by the proud crow of a rooster in some coop not so far from where I sit. It is gorgeously distinct and it’s poignancy hits me hard today as I prepare for my first day of service work.
On Thursday we were fortunate enough to visit the stunning paradise that was a coffee plantation in Pura Suerte. As the bus coasted by the towering, magnificent array of foliage and fog my jaw fell slack in awe. All I could do as my eyes darted about from one thing of beauty to another outside my window was mouth “Oh my God,” which is a phrase I usually like to replace with “Oh my goodness” or “Oh my gosh”, but in that moment it was if I was looking at God in a way I hadn’t before and it was very different.
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We were in a rainforest, the types of rainforests that I was so enchanted just to read about in simple textbooks in second grade. We learned about all the levels of a rainforest, the different types of plants and animals that lived there, the environment, and it was all a distant thing of mystical wonder to me. And now as a Wandering Scholar my second grade dreams are towering right above me in the vines and trees, right here in real life.
There is such an undeniable richness and vibrancy to Costa Rica in every place my eyes alight. It is as if the constant rain and humidity have made everything they touch perfectly saturated with bursting life and color.
As we hiked to the waterfall yesterday and my feet slid about in the bright red clay I gazed upon its fiery hue and wished I was an earthworm or at least a little ant, so that I could bury into it and seek reprieve in its coolness. When we passed valleys I looked at the clouds which rested atop them and wanted to be a bird, soaring freely through the dips and rises of the hills below. And when I sat on the rocks by the waterfall and looked down at my feet in the cool, crisp water, I wished I was one of the dart-like little fish shooting around from one pebble to the next. It is this sort of inspiration and dreamy beauty that has come to define my experience in Costa Rica so far, one that seems to align with those who call this gorgeous country home.
Roy and his wife showed us around his plantation, allowed us to try their delicious, fresh coffee, and even let us try milking his cow, Pulga (“flea” in Spanish)!
We rode in the bed of a truck on the way up to the waterfall from the coffee plantation, a mass of people dripping in sweat and tiredness but buzzing with excitement for what lay ahead. Roy, the owner of the paradise of a coffee plantation we stayed at, was wonderful company and conversation on our bumpy journey. In Spanish I asked him many questions, like “¿De qué países vienen las turistas a tu finca?””¿Puedes ver un comportamiento común de los americanos cada vez?” “¿Qué es tu cosa favorita de Costa Rica?” and “¿Ya está cansado de las vistas de las montañas después de tantos años?” And to all of this his kind and patient answers were “¡Todas! Francia, China, Alemania…”; “Siempre hay alguien más activo, o más tranquilo…” “La naturaleza. Es muy tranquilo.”; “Nunca.” I am so grateful that he welcomed us so warmly into his paradise with such kindness and patience.
The hike to the waterfall was horrendously difficult and, in turn, exhilaratingly fulfilling. 
The inclines and declines were almost vertical, and the rain soaked mud made it nearly impossible to find sure footing, but after much effort (which made me quite proud of my noodle legs), we finally arrived at the waterfall. 
Being at the waterfall was fantastic evidence of the fact that each and every individual has their own definition of adventure. While the rest of my group spent their time jumping into the water, swimming, laughing, and talking, I sat aside in a nest of rocks and silently gazed upon my surroundings. The lights and shadows of the layers of foliage adorned by a bright pink flower or a teal butterfly fluttering contentedly in the water-flecked breeze filled me with a sensation of utmost contentment and awe.
To sit and observe was my adventure, and it was thrilling. But this difference in experience within the same setting does not make my choice of spending my time nor my group members’ greater or lesser; I know that had I gone in with them at that moment I would not look back at my time there feeling fulfilled because that is not what felt right to me. It is a beautiful thing that each individual finds their contentment differently.
This trip is revealing to me inner truths that are so significant to the journey of self-improvement. I am so appreciative of all of the kind people and gorgeous places I have been blessed with so far, and can’t wait for what’s more.

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It is the most humbling experience to witness one’s expectations being supplanted by reality; the images blurred by ignorance that are conjured by the mind to explain the unknown are so rarely accurate and dangerously undependable, a fact that will become more and more apparent as my ideas of Costa Rica will be replaced by its realities throughout my trip.
I packed an arsenal of entertainment for my flight to Costa Rica with the expectation that I would be so dreadfully unenthused by the experience of reaching my destination that I would be entirely dependent on movies and television episodes in order to pass the grueling hours. However it turned out that being present was the very thing I would need during those long hours.
I spent a majority of my flight simply sitting. I sat with my hands folded, fully immersed in the universally agreed upon silence that every individual carried onward. Even the baby next to me seemed aware of the softened stillness so sacredly preserved in the cabin, and kept his wailing soft and rare. There was a heavy feeling of focus in the plane; maybe not focus, but fixation from every party. Hundreds of eyes glued onto the screens before them as visually pleasing images swept away the listless hours. I would occasionally observe the people around me and the entertainment they had chosen for themselves–a gun enthusiasts’ magazine, the movie Frozen, or the view out the window. It was a truly fascinating display of how humans cope with a situation in varying ways. Simply being. On my own, I was still and silent and at peace.
It became apparent that traveling to my destination was almost as instrumental a part of the experience as being there.
While in some ways I would describe myself as an independent person, in my day to day life I am quite dependent on the presence of others in the process of decision making and action taking. Most often I find myself turning to my wonderful mother for guidance, but on this trip I am not able to look at her with imploring eyes for the answers but instead at myself to find them. Getting to Costa Rica was just the beginning of a journey of me figuring out how to rely on me, and I am so excited.
 Finally I am in Costa Rica.
We spent our first night in a small hotel in Alajuela, where the people were infinitely hospitable, gracious, and warm. We had a delicious breakfast of rice and beans and eggs surrounded by the blanket of morning fog, and as I write this we are on the bus on our way to a coffee plantation.
I am so grateful for this trip every moment that I live it, and it hasn’t even been one day yet. I can’t wait for what’s to come.

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