Just a Few Things: My Holiday Gift Guide

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

As the year draws to a close, it’s important to dedicate time for reflection. As with every year, there were plenty of ups and downs for me, but here are just a few of the great things that happened this year:

  • I launched Bedtime Bulb to incredible success.
  • I got to explore the amazing cities of Tokyo, Seoul, Washington, D.C., Kyoto, Chicago, Osaka, Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona, and New York (and soon, Savannah).
  • I practiced yoga and meditation nearly every day.

No things

This year, I further embraced minimalism, and that’s why I’m asking for no things this holiday season.

It’s not that I have a negative relationship with stuff. Far from it. It’s just that I have every thing I need.

I’m fortunate enough to be alive during this time of technological process and prosperity. I really do feel I have it all.

For those who know me, I would appreciate it if you got me nothing. No clothes, no stocking stuffers, no books. Less is more. Thank you.

With that said

There are, however, a few things I really love that I thought were worth sharing. See? I do like stuff.

These may serve as great gifts to yourself or someone close. Some are cheap, some are more expensive.

Read on to find out what they are.

Note: links in this post marked with * are affiliate links, meaning I may make a small commission from purchases made after clicking them. You can learn more here. With that said, I really do think these gift ideas are worth your consideration.


Experiences > things

Travel

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

This year, I visited ten cities in six countries (so far). I largely attribute my great ideas to travel—you get to experience different ways of living that are, in many ways, inspiring.

International travel can be surprisingly affordable if you don’t need to stay in a five-star hotel, but even exploring your own city or one nearby can be enlightening.

If you are going to travel internationally, I highly recommend switching your phone plan to Google Fi*. With this service, you pay the same rate for data as you would at home in nearly all countries. This way, you can use Google Maps (or the local equivalent) to keep yourself from getting lost. Google Fi now (mostly) works with iPhones in addition to Google’s excellent Pixel devices.

Travel is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself or someone close.


Just one book

Essentialism

Essentialism is one of the few books I’ve reread multiple times. It’s an extremely clear book that demonstrates how minimalism is much more than a faddish lifestyle. Essentialism describes how to apply “less but better” to work, health, life, and much more.

This is my top book recommendation for yourself or as a gift.


Way better posture

Teeter EZ-Up Gravity Boots

I practice yoga nearly every day and get additional body work done frequently. But there’s one tool that alleviates back pain, improves posture, and leaves me feeling great more than any other: Teeter Gravity Boots.

By completely decompressing the spine for a minute or two every day, I feel physically taller and have way more energy. I also perform 15 inverted sit-ups per session, which has drastically improved my core strength.

Those who are less space-constrained than I am or are uncomfortable swinging up to a pull-up bar may consider an inversion table*.

Note: If you have any medical conditions, you will want to check with a doctor before trying inversion.


A healthy vice

Hario Filter-In Bottle

One of my biggest obsessions over the past year has been cold-brew sencha, made with a type of Japanese green tea. This cold, grassy tea is incredibly refreshing. It’s so good, I drink it like it’s water.

Paired with this purpose-built brewer, it is super easy to make and serve cold-brew sencha over just a few hours. I like to brew about 1 gram tea per 100 mL water overnight. Alternatively, you can brew over 2 hours with frequent inversions.

I recommend mid-range sencha tea—not too expensive as the tea to water ratio is quite high. Harney and Sons* is a decent loose-leaf tea brand that is widely available.


Protect your hearing

Watch my hearing loss video on YouTube.

Etymotic Research ER20XS Earplugs

Have you been to a loud concert, movie, or party lately and had your ears ring for days or weeks afterward? That ringing is potentially a sign of permanent hearing damage. Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative and irreversible with today’s technology.

You can prevent further damage and additional ringing by carrying a compact, affordable pair of earplugs with you. I used to keep this pair from Etymotic Research in my backpack and jacket, but now I keep them in my pocket so they are always on hand.

These earplugs are nearly invisible, so you can protect yourself from loud sounds without anyone noticing.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Did you know that the NYC subway could expose you to sounds louder than 100 dB? That’s enough to cause permanent hearing loss. If you need to crank your headphones up even louder to compensate, you are further contributing to hearing damage.

These Sony noise-canceling headphones are great all-around cans, and they are much healthier than earbuds in loud cities, trains, and airplanes. Bose pioneered active noise canceling and also has great options, but in my opinion, Sony has a much truer-to-the-source sound.

I had the first generation of this headset and now own the second generation, but the third has even better noise cancelation, a smaller profile, and USB-C charging.


Better sleep

Bose Sleepbuds

I think Sony makes better noise-canceling headphones than Bose. But Bose has a new product that is truly unique: Noise-Masking Sleepbuds. Meant to be worn during sleep, these do not play music or cancel noise but instead play specialized sounds that mask outside noises.

I picked up a pair of these a few months ago and have a review coming soon. While they take a bit of getting used to, I can say that they absolutely work.

One morning, there were roofers working on my building, neighbors blasting the piano on the other side of my bedroom wall, and the garbage service emptying a large dumpster. I heard none of it thanks to the Sleepbuds.

For those who struggle with sleep, especially in noisy environments, $250 is a small price to pay. I think you should give Sleepbuds a try.

Bedtime Bulb

You think I would create a gift guide without my own product in it? Please.

Bedtime Bulb is a low-blue light bulb for healthy sleep. It’s designed to be the perfect light bulb for the last few hours of the day. Bedtime Bulb reduces sleep-disturbing blue light and headache-inducing flicker.

Bedtime Bulb is priced as the perfect stocking stuffer for the health-obsessed or sleep-deprived individual in your life.


Water in, water out

Tern Smart Faucet

A fellow Philadelphia-based entrepreneur whom I know well just launched the crowdfunding campaign for the Tern Smart Faucet.

This is much more than your average Brita filter:

  • It has filters customized to the water conditions in your area.
  • New filters come automatically when the old ones expire.
  • You can see in real-time the contaminants that are being removed from your water.

And the taste totally blows Brita out of the water.

While this one won’t ship by Christmas, your support of a promising crowdfunding campaign makes this a fantastic gift.

Pair it with a Kleen Kanteen*, the refillable water bottle that has given me years of service with dents to prove it.

Toto Washlet

OK, I haven’t taken the plunge on this one yet. But the U.S. has nothing on Japan’s toilets. Nearly every toilet I used in Japan was equipped with a Toto Washlet (or equivalent), a heated-seat, butt-spraying toilet seat replacement from the future.

The jury is out on whether these are actually more hygienic than wiping with TP, but they definitely save paper, and you feel cleaner. No more smelly hands, no more dingleberries! It has a feminine mode too.

The tech-loving Japanophile in me says you have to have a Washlet in your life. If anyone wants to buy me a thing, I would not be disappointed with a Toto Washlet :)