Minimalism has become a significant part of my identity. While an obvious illustration is my packing light, it also permeates into other aspects of my life. I don’t really have knick-knacks. (One small exception: a rubber ball I found in my grandfather’s workshop that I use as a thinking tool while writing or studying.) People are attached to these little things not because of what they are - wood carvings, trinkets, ticket stubs - but because what they represent: adventure, love, people. My solution has always been to take a picture of the knick-knack, write why it’s important to me, and then let it go.

These knick-knacks, though, are the staple gifts of travelers. They’re a way of saying, “Hey, I thought of you in this market.” They are tokens of affection. I think it’s incredibly important to show people that you care about them, but buying of trinkets clashes directly with my minimalism. I found a solution when I came back from my trip from Qatar, India, Thailand, Vietnam: I gave out some “gifts” in the form of stories to a few people.

I found that to be a great exercise in both giving and reflection. In the same spirit, here is another round of “gifts” to a few people from my travels through South America:

While I enjoyed the trip immensely, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to get back to the mission, something that my brother and family ingrained in me.

I made a new friend in Peru, Jo, that made me think of a special person back home - Asha - and the importance of the creative spirit in others.

As I ran down the mountain that leads to the gates of Machu Picchu, I felt connected with my mom, a tremendous distance runner.

That same mountain - and many others - led to a reflection of where my love of mountains began: among the wild landscape of West Virginia at my grandmother’s.

The experiences of learning how to deal with uncertainty along the way brought me back to learning an important lesson from my sister in Malawi so many years ago.

Meeting new people and working to find an authentic place of companionship made me appreciate having people like Sara in my life.

One of these new people, a Chilean named Antonia, reminded me of my brother, Garrett because of their shared ability to bring together dissonant views.

In Santiago, I saw parallels between my dad’s fight for tobacco regulation and the Chilean people’s struggle for freedom and the value of committing to the long haul.