There are two approaches to holiday gift selection. The first requires that you put yourself in the place of the recipient and contemplate what he or she might like. In the second, you say, "Oh, the heck with it," and buy something you want.
For me, that means travel stuff, which is often specially designed for vagabonds. Sometimes, though, the best travel accessories are ordinary all-purpose items that have important applications for travelers.
Here are some of the things I'm thinking of giving -- or is that hoping to get? -- this holiday season:
Chico's Travelers Collection black skirts ($54 to $58) and trousers ($52 to $58). Made of an acetate-Lycra blend, the items in the collection do not wrinkle, can easily be washed in the sink and have comfy elastic waistbands. My old Chico's ensemble has holes because I wear it so often when I'm traveling. The skirts are straight and calf-length, with or without a slit; the pants come slim at the ankles or flared. Coordinating tank tops are also available.
If you have the basic black bottoms, you can wear anything with them, from a bikini top on Bora-Bora to a wool blazer in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. There are numerous Chico's stores in the L.A. area, including Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Marina del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Pasadena; or you can shop the catalog. (888) 855-4986, www.chicos.com.
Goode's World Atlas, 20th edition (Rand McNally, 2000, $35.95). World atlases make great presents, especially for students.
When I asked Jim Meacham, who runs the geography lab at the University of Oregon in Eugene, which one he prefers, he cited Goode's "because of its thematic maps." The 20th edition has more than 30 of them, covering demographics, vegetation, politics and oceanography. The atlas is available at most bookstores and from online booksellers.
Paris Notes (10 issues, $39). Paris Notes, a newsletter about what's new, where to stay and eat, and what to do in the City of Light, is for the Francophile on your list. In a way it's better than a guidebook because it stays current and has an insider's point of view, although it's written for tourists.
Upcoming issues will feature stories on the star architects of Paris and the new Seine River walkway. Subscribers also get access (via a password) to the Special Guides section of the Paris Notes Web page, focusing on restaurants and hotels. Paris Notes, P.O. Box 15818, North Hollywood, CA 91615; (800) 677-9660, www.parisnotes.com.
Few items are as useful to a woman traveler as a pashmina shawl, made of soft cashmere goat wool from the Himalayas. It can be stylishly slung around the shoulders, folded and used as a pillow or spread out across the lap like a blanket. Pashminas can be expensive, especially in better department stores. You can also find them at online stores. Novica.com, an agent for more than 1,700 artisans worldwide, guarantees the authenticity of its items. With no middlemen, craftspeople in such far-flung places as Morocco, Peru, India, Ghana and Brazil earn more for their wares. Novica.com's pashminas are made by Syed Izaz Hussein and Nisar Khan, both natives of Kashmir. Prices range from $85 to $100. www.novica.com.
Silk long johns ($19.95, tops or bottoms). The long road over the Yukon or the Chilean Andes can be mighty cold, which is why savvy travelers pack long underwear, best if made of light, washable, warm silk. Murray Greenberg, founder of SilkJohns in Upper Saddle River, N.J., says the pieces of silk long underwear you see in stores and catalogs are made in the same Chinese factories. His are cheaper because he only sells two styles for women (regular weave crew neck, textured pointelle scoop neck) and one for men (regular weave crew neck). Both are available in black or natural at www.silkjohns.com.
U.S. Geological Survey Yosemite map ($7). If you love Yosemite you need a big framed map of the park on your wall to remind you that there's more to life than work, lawn maintenance and paying bills. The Yosemite Assn. sells two, created by the U.S. Geological Survey, that are suitable for framing, one with a green background and contour lines, the other with shaded relief to show you where the mountains and valleys are. These are available from the Yosemite Assn., (209) 379-2648, fax (209) 379-2486, www.yosemitestore.com, or the U.S. Geological Survey, (303) 202-4700, fax (303) 202-4693.
Don't forget the stocking stuffers: The Night Sky ($6 and $10), handy star-finding wheels that help you identify what's up there, available at REI, Amazon.com and Magellans.com (which also has retail stores in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara); Coghlan's Mosquito Coils (box of 10, $2.95), to keep pests out of your cabin or tent, available at hardware, sporting goods and outdoors stores; and MiniMaglites (two-cell AA battery size and two-cell AAA size, about $10 to $12), no bells or whistles, just lightweight reliable flashlights in the dark, available at hardware, discount and outdoors stores.