IF, AS THE BUDDHISTS SAY, the material world is an illusion, then gift giving has been a big waste of moneyuntil now. The next time you're shopping for that special someone, skip the golf clubs and diamonds and consider the gift of adventure: rolling in a stunt plane, ripping waves with a pro surfer, or racing a Ferrari.
Get Into Gear: A NASCAR shifter
"We're not aiming to reach adrenaline junkies," says Gavin Bishop, cofounder of New Jerseybased Xperience Days, which specializes in activity-based gift packages. "We want people with adventurous spirits." His six-month-old company is one of four new American outfitters to jump on a trend that started in England more than a decade ago and soon spread to action-sports destinations like Australia and New Zealand. From blood-pumping bull rides to soul-soothing Dead Seamud treatments, the assortment of activities available from these companies can be fitted to just about anyone, at prices ranging from $25 to more than $100,000. Recipients need not have experiencein fact, says Bishop, it's probably better if they don't. The ideal is someone who's always dreamed about doing something but never actually tried.
So if you know anyone with big dreams hovering just outside their day-to-day, remember that no one has ever received a life-changing bread maker. "But you'll always remember the person who sent you shark-diving," says Colin Reid, director of the outfitter Great American Days, "whether for good or bad reasons."
(OUTSIDE THE GIFT BOX)
All of the U.S. firms specializing in experiential gifts are newthree launched within the last yearbut they already have enough adventures to satisfy anyone on your list, assuming you're not shopping for Richard Branson.
The Experience Store
Check out the Castle Road Drive: Get behind the wheel of a Mercedes E-class for a ten-day trip through the German, Swiss, and Austrian Alps. $4,800; 866-737-2670, www.theexperiencestore.com
Great American Days
Check out One-Day Bull-Riding School: A full day of bucking and yeehawin' under the watch of a professional instructor. $250; 866-987-9876, www.greatamericandays.com
Check out NASCAR Ride Along: Six hair-raising laps around a 3/4-mile track with a professional racer. $100; 866-384-2726, www.vibrantday.com
Check out the Aerobatic Biplane Flight: Loops and rolls over Sonoma, California, in an open-air biplane. $184; 866-973-7436, www.xperiencedays.com