I don’t live in a fancy house, or drive a fancy car, and you’re much more likely to find me shopping in TJ Maxx than in Nordstroms, but my family is rich in something that matters much more to me than material possessions – and that is experiences.

My kids have kayaked through mangrove swamps in The Keys, climbed waterfalls in Jamaica, and ziplined through the treetops in Alaska. They’ve been to a hockey game in Montreal, a musical in London’s West End, a “session” in a Dublin pub, and a wedding in Poland – and they are still in high school! The things that we’ve seen and done together as a family, the cultures we’ve experienced and the places that we’ve explored have opened our eyes, broadened our horizons, and built a treasure trove of memories that we will share forever.

Sure, my daughter probably would have preferred to have a designer handbag (or a car, for that matter) for her sixteenth birthday, but I can guarantee that she will never forget the weekend that she and her friends spent in New York City instead. And my son would certainly have preferred to find video games under the tree this Christmas instead of a trip to London and Paris with mom and dad, but even he was struck speechless by Notre Dame.

So I will continue to invest in experiences rather than things. And to “drag” my kids along with me every chance I get. Because my time with them is short (my daughter graduates next year, and my son will be right behind her) and I know that I am giving them a gift that’s far more valuable than any possession.

Who am I kidding, though, right? My husband and I probably get more out of it than the kids do! We’re the ones who will be sitting around some day reminiscing about New Year’s Eve on the Champs Elysees, and the time we watched glaciers calve from our balcony in Alaska, while the kids are off having new adventures of their own, with their own families. And maybe THAT is the biggest gift we’ve given them – the desire to see, and do, and explore rather than to acquire.

I hope so!